A fairytale almost realistic as Luton Town now a game away from Premier League

Luton Town are heading to the Premier League

FOOTBALL A fairytale almost realistic as Luton Town now a game away from Premier League

Mark Kinyanjui 12:04 - 17.05.2023

Luton beat Sunderland 2-0 to book a place in the Wembley promotion play-off final against Middlesborough or Coventry City.

Luton Town is now just one game away from making history to become a Premier League club for the first time ever after being relegated in the 1991-1992 season. 

This spirited little club has come so close in recent times, falling short at the last hurdle. Now, they are just 90 minutes away from making their long-awaited return to the elite which rebranded to the Premier League at the start of the 1992-1993 season. 

When head coach, Rob Edwards became just another casualty of the customary Watford guillotine of sacking managers, most would never have imagined he is the same manager who would have guided Luton to the brink of promotion just six months later.

Set-pieces were the chip Luton maximized last night as they were integral in scoring decisive first-half goals to deflate Sunderland.

Centre-backs Gabriel Osho and Tom Lockyer both took advantage of poor set-piece defending by Sunderland. The first goal came in the 10th minute when a ball whipped in by Jordan Clark caused confusion in the box before Osho found the final touch.

The second was delivered by Alfie Doughty which Loyker got on the end of to seal the tie 3-2 on aggregate.

The home team might have scored more without last-ditch clearances off the line and it was only that failing that presented the late opportunity for nerves to be frayed. Luton, though, need not have worried.

Luton have created kind of a fairy tale run. In just six seasons, they have gone from the National League to the Championship and could now make it a fourth promotion in a fortnight’s time.

Should they win the playoff final between Coventry City or Middlesbrough the Premier League will have to send out an invite to its most unlikely guest yet.

“We’re one game away from the Premier League,” said Luton boss Rob Edwards. “That sounds surreal but we are. It’s a fact.”

Last night’s 2-0 victory over Sunderland in an anxious play-off semi-final second leg at Kenilworth Road was a fitting projection of what Luton have become.

They trampled over their guests, pressing them into gradual submission. There was physicality, intensity, and a zeal that Sunderland could not match for a second time in four days. The narrow advantage that Tony Mowbray’s side had earned in a 2-1 win at the Stadium of Light was ruthlessly stripped back by Luton’s will.

The eventual victory was deserved and a route to Wembley was raucously celebrated. Luton have not tasted top-flight football since 1992.

The pitch became a sea of fans at full-time to revel in one of the club’s great nights. There was pandamonium everywhere.

A banner displayed in the main stand is another nod to their recent history of financial ruin. “Football belongs to the fans, NOT sheikhs, oligarchs, chancers, and bank£rs.”

That banner clearly sent a clear message that does not need much sophistication to decipher. The club is an astutely run operation not reliant on the wealth of its benefactors.

Inject this into your veins. Luton’s Kenilworth Road Stadium could soon play host to clubs like Manchester City, Arsenal, and Liverpool.

An estimated £10 million will need to be spent just to bring Kenilworth Road’s facilities up to a level the Premier League deem adequate for broadcasters.

Just over 10,000 spectators were packed in the stadium yet Kenilworth Road was hostile in the extreme. They bayed for the blood of Sunderland. Luton’s relentless pressing drew roars of appreciation.

Do not take anything away from Sunderland’s run. They surpassed all expectations by coming this far considering they earned promotion to the Championship last season. For all their travails since relegation from the Premier League in 2017, their fans deserved more.

Having beaten Luton in the first leg, they came so close. The Black Cats skipped into the lion’s den like kittens considering their injury record. They came out bruised, ruined, and ripped to shreds by the lions.

Sunderland can build on that by taking a leaf from Luton. They themselves are the ones who were hurting after missing out on promotion last year in the semi-finals, and now here we are.