Football News

Luton Town finally get to play in the Premier League they helped create

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 20:30, 27 May 2023

Luton Town became the 51st different Premier League club after winning the richest game in world football.

Rob Edwards’ men needed penalties (6-5), after the game ended 1-1, to claim success in today’s Championship play-off final subsequently guaranteeing The Hatters at least £170m even if they finish bottom of England’s top-flight next season.

More importantly, they’ve ended a 31-year absence from the big time, which takes on newer meaning as Luton were in the room when the vote was put to establish the competition in 1992, but they were unable to experience the untold fortunes that followed as they were relegated from the First Division, to say it’s been a long journey would be an understatement.

They can now look forward to rubbing shoulders with the likes of Erling Haaland, Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford.

An evenly matched contest saw Luton dominate the opening half before Coventry took control. Jordan Clark gave his side a dream start though Gustavo Hamer would level proceedings just after the hour mark. Clark’s effort came moments after worrying scenes at the home of English football.

His skipper Tom Lockyer was stretched off after falling down unchallenged as he ran back in the 12th minute. Medical staff were immediately on site and Lockyer was conscious as he left the field wearing an oxygen mask. After receiving treatment in the stadium’s medical room, where his parents joined him, the Welsh international — said to be ‘responsive and talking’ — was driven to a specialist hospital in North London where further tests are set to be carried out.

Luton tweeted: “We are able to report that after collapsing on the pitch, Tom Lockyer has been taken to hospital for further tests. He is responsive and talking to his family, who are with him. We are all with you, Locks.”

Such a disheartening sight was unable to break Luton who should have put the game beyond Coventry at half-time. Hamer, the liveliest player in sky blue, equalised through a stunning finish. Ninety minutes couldn’t separate two sides cut from the same cloth but extra-time substitute Joe Taylor thought he’d won it for Luton with minutes to spare.

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The cruelty of a penalty competition followed. A method, since the first Championship play-offs in 1987, that had decided three winners before today (Charlton Athletic 1998, Birmingham City 2002 and Huddersfield Town 2017).

“It’s tough to decide this on penalties after both teams have put so much into it. I do think it’s an unfair ending but it’s the only way to separate these two teams,” former Luton defender Leon Barnett told BBC Three Counties Radio.

With unbelievable riches on the line, and the spot-kicks taking place in front of the Luton supporters, it came down to who could keep their nerve and cope with this pressure. The first 10 kicks were flawless, which meant jeopardy, Dan Potts — on as a late sub for Luton and wearing the armband — slotted it home. Fankaty Dabo could only put his penalty over.

Luton have now climbed from non-league to the Premier League in just nine years — the joint-fastest a team has gone from the fifth tier to the top-flight along with Wimbledon between 1977 and 1986 — with Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu, the first player to represent the same club from non-league to Premier League, there every step of the way.

“I’ve completed football! I’ll retire this summer! It’s been a journey, through the highs and lows but you’ve got to believe in yourself. Here I am, a Premier League player,” he told Sky Sports after the game.