How Luton Town fell far and rose high again

By Mike Simmonds, @LutonNews_LTFC 28 May 2023

Luton reporter Mike Simmonds charts the Hatters' turbulent history

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Luton reporter Mike Simmonds charts the club's history as they complete a remarkable rise to the Premier League.

Luton Town

Once Luton Town dropped out of the old First Division in 1992, having voted for the creation of the Premier League, they never really threatened a comeback until the last two seasons.

The Hatters fell as low as the fourth tier of English football in the early 2000s, but did start to look like they could feature in the higher levels once more when under Joe Kinnear they won promotion to Division Two in 2002.

With Mike Newell at the helm they won League One in 2005 to reach the Championship and got to 10th in their first season back.

However, with the club badly run at boardroom level, it all started to unravel. Financial difficulties led to Luton plummeting out of the Championship and straight through the League One trapdoor too.

Falling out of the league

To add further salt to the wounds, they were met with an incredibly hard 30-point deduction from The FA at the start of the 2008/09 campaign, a punishment the Luton fans will never forgive, or forget.

It meant they had no real chance of survival, dropping into non-league and ending a proud 89-year stay in the Football League.

Following relegation, it took a good few years to get it right in the Conference too. 
John Still was eventually appointed to lead them back in 2014, as he romped to the title, with over 100 points.

A few so-so seasons in League Two followed before Nathan Jones took over in January 2016 and the club began to climb once more.

Luton Town Nathan Jones
Nathan Jones had two successful spells at Luton before leaving each time in hope of bigger things

A heart-breaking League Two playoff semi-final defeat by Blackpool in 2016/17 didn't have a lasting effect, as Luton finished second the next season to go up and were then crowned League One champions in 2018/19.

That was done despite Jones controversially leaving the club for Stoke City in January, club legend Mick Harford taking over as interim boss to spearhead Town to the title.

For Harford, a former Luton striker in the First Division, it was a personal redemption after being in charge when the club fell out of the Football League, although no supporter would ever hold that against him.

Luton Town Mick Harford celebrates promotion to the Championship
Mick Harford is a hero at Luton

Under Graeme Jones, it looked like Luton’s second tier stint would be a short one. They were bottom of the Championship and favourites to go down when the pandemic struck.

Graeme Jones departed during lockdown, with Nathan Jones returning to lead Luton to the "Great Escape" on the final day with a 3-2 win over Blackburn Rovers.

Keen to establish the club in the Championship, Luton did that the next year and then reached the playoffs last season when an injury-hit side were beaten by Huddersfield Town, despite being arguably the better team over both legs.

No Jones, no problem

Although Nathan Jones left once more this season, tempted away by the bright lights of the Premier League and the opportunity to join Southampton for an ill-fated three-month stay, Luton showed they can go on again.

Rob Edwards came in, shortly after being sacked by Luton’s local rivals Watford, and has steered them to the top flight.

For the community of Luton, the riches that come with hosting top-flight football will prove an incredibly valuable lifeline to the town.

Supporters would also love seeing Luton back on the map in a football sense, giving them a sense of pride in going up against some of the best teams in the world.

Luton Town Kenilworth Road away entrance
The staircase to the away end at Kenilworth Road

The Luton board have plans for a new stadium, with their intended completion date now set as 2026. The £100million or so that comes from winning the richest match in club football on Saturday would mean all the funding they need to complete the project would be in place. 

But for now Kenilworth Road hosting top-flight football once more would be massive too, as the stadium is the type of venue most Premier League footballers will have only experienced in cup football.

Luton Town Kenilworth Road dugouts
The dugouts at Kenilworth Road

The thought of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Erik ten Hag all having to make their way across the pitch to the dugouts would be one to marvel at, with players like Erling Haaland, Jack Grealish and Mohamed Salah all greeted by what would be a ferocious atmosphere, the likes of which they have probably never witnessed before.

Luton News sports editor Mike Simmonds has covered the club home and away for over a decade. @LutonNews_LTFC

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