Luton Town Have Bounced Back From The Brink To Become The EFL's Model Club

The Hatters are taking on the European champions in the FA Cup last 16
12:07, 02 Mar 2022

Something magical is happening at Kenilworth Road. Luton Town are once again revitalised by their pragmatic boss Nathan Jones and as they welcome European and world champions Chelsea to their humble abode in the FA Cup fifth round this evening. It is truly remarkable to see how far this historic club has come after years of suffering.

It was only 13 years ago that the Hatters fell out of the Football League after already having been deflated by back-to-back relegations from the Championship to League Two, but that wasn’t the worst of their hardship. A period in administration followed by a 30-point deduction made survival near-impossible. It is quite hard to fathom the position they are in now as their meteoric rise back to the second tier came seemingly as quickly as their fall.

It may have taken them five years to return to the Football League as John Still guided them to promotion as Conference (National League) champions in 2014-15 - and the Hatters have only ever looked up since.

Luton Town is a club that is viewed differently depending on when you were born. The younger generation may only see them as a lower league club who have had a fairytale story like AFC Bournemouth, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The older generation will know the history that Luton was blessed with, as the oldest professional football club in the south of England with a rich heritage that would always remain, regardless of the dark days that followed. The club seemed to be shrouded in darkness for a long time but the sun did shine once again over Kenilworth Road.

To assure that those mistakes of the past don’t return, the club is now in the hands of the Luton Town Football Club 2020, a fan-backed consortium with 50,000 shares in the hands of the Luton Town Supporters’ Trust and the club is led by chief executive Gary Sweet, who has overseen the rebuild since 2008. 

In recent years the Hatters have gone from strength to strength and it has resulted from a carefully constructed plan which started with the club appointing former player Jones as manager, after pinching him from Brighton & Hove Albion’s coaching set-up in 2016. The appointment paid off instantly as in the Welshman’s first full campaign he led the Hatters to promotion to League One in 2nd before setting them up for a return to the Championship in 2018-19 as they won the title. 

However, he can’t take full credit for that promotion as Jones had departed for Stoke City in January - and we all know how a forgettable spell that was as he was sacked 10 months into the job. 

He returned to Luton in May 2020, and the project has carried on as if he never left. His work has been comparable to that of Newcastle boss Eddie Howe at Bournemouth, where the environment, the style of play and group of players come together in perfect harmony. Jones has also worked on a much tighter budget than Howe at Luton and yet the Hatters are also looking at reaching the Premier League. 

Luton have now spent the last three seasons in the Championship and they have continued to strengthen their position with a 19th-placed finish in 2019-20, in which they managed to stay up with odds stacked against them. 

The Hatters were 23rd when Jones returned and he was able to sprinkle his magic on the team and achieve a feat that still can’t be explained. He then built on that with a comfortable 12-placed finish last year and the fans were hopeful this season would result in more improvement. It has so far gone extremely well as they sit in sixth position, occupying a play-off position. 

Their team spirit and results are a testament of the great things that can still be achieved in the Championship without the need of significant investment. They prove that all you need is the right structure in place on the field and behind the scenes, and the Hatters are formulating a plan for success. 

Their rejuvenation is an inspiration to all clubs in the Football League, even those that have stagnated in recent years. With Jones at the helm, they have made themselves the model to follow as they set their sights on the Premier League.

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