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Luton Town’s Great Ascent up the Football Pyramid


Luton Town’s Great Ascent up the Football Pyramid

Luton Town’s penalty win over Coventry in the Championship Play-off Final this year sealed The Hatters’ promotion to the Premier League and acted as the finale of the fairytale story of Luton’s climb up the football pyramid.

The Hatters’ Fall From Grace

The 2006/07 season was one to forget for The Hatters. Luton finished 23rd in the Championship with their ten wins, ten draws and 26 losses equating to 40 points, nine points adrift from safety and condemned to League One. A key moment of this season was the shock stroke suffered by Sol Davis, which shook an impressive Luton up to this point. Relegation from the Championship started Luton’s downward spiral down the leagues.

In 2007/08, Luton suffered yet another relegation, this time to League Two. The Hatters finished rock bottom of League One with just 33 points from their 11 wins, ten draws and 25 losses. This season saw the true chaos at Luton with the FA investigating Luton chairman David Pinkney due to “transfer irregularities” and deducting ten points from Luton, however, these ten points still wouldn’t have saved The Hatters.

Under a new administration, Luton’s 2008/09 season couldn’t have begun any worse as before any football had even been played, The Hatters were handed a 30-point deduction by the FA - 10 for their transfer irregularities and 20 for breaking the rules surrounding exiting an administration. This point deduction meant that despite their 13 wins, 17 draws and 16 losses (nine less than the other relegated side, Chester City), Luton suffered another back-to-back relegation in a season that should’ve seen them survive.

Luton’s Journey From Non-League Football

This relegation began a five-year stint in the Conference Premier (also known as the National League), Luton’s first time in the National League and their first time outside of the Football League since 1920. Their first season saw them finish second, 11 points adrift of winners Stevenage, missing out on promotion back to the Football League after losing 2 - 0 on aggregate to York City.

The 2010/11 season saw Luton finish third, though reaching the Play-off Final this time. The Hatters thrashed Wrexham 5 - 1 on aggregate in the Play-off Semi-finals but lost 4 - 3 on penalties against Wimbledon in the Final. Their third year in the National League gave The Hatters their worst finish in the league so far, finishing fifth, still managing to clinch a Play-off place. After a 2 - 2 aggregate draw, Luton defeated Wrexham 3 - 2 on penalties to go on to lose 2 - 1 in the Final against York City.

For the first time in their National League career, Luton finished outside the top six, only managing seventh, meaning no chance of promotion back to the Football League for the 2012/13 season. However, after this disappointing campaign, the 2013/14 season finally saw Luton win promotion outright, finishing top of the National League, and beginning their climb back up the football pyramid.

Luton’s Impressive Journey Through the Football League

Luton almost secured the chance to play for back-to-back promotions when they finished eighth in the 2014/15 League Two season. The Hatters were immediately back in the fold, falling just three points outside of the Play-off places, but their immediate impact in League Two was a sign of the things to come.

The 2015/16 season was a little more challenging, Luton falling to 11th in League Two in a tight midtable, where eighth and 15th were separated by just seven points. The Hatters had a particularly turbulent season when it came to managers, John Still, Andy Awford and Nathan Jones all holding the manager role at Kenilworth Road that season.

The following season saw Luton finally in real contention for promotion from League Two. The Hatters finished fourth in the league, where in the Play-offs they drew Blackpool. This Play-off Semi-final was an 11-goal thriller. Luton lost the first leg at Blackpool and battled for a 3 - 3 draw at home. Though this ended their promotion hopes for another season, it showed they were a force within League Two.

The 2017/18 season saw The Hatters finally return to League One after their 88-point season helped Luton finish second and secure automatic promotion. This seemed to kick Luton into gear as they secured a back-to-back promotion, outright winning League One, three points ahead of second-place Barnsley.

The Championship proved a tough battle-ground for Luton. Their first season back, the 2019/20 season saw them finish 19th, just three points above the relegation zone - a close call, but The Hatters lived to see another season in the second tier. Luton improved the next season, though their 12th-place finish was still far from their promotion dreams.

The Hatters’ first outing in the Championship Play-offs came in the 2021/22 season where their sixth-place finish booked them a ticket to the Semi-final against Huddersfield. The 1 - 1 draw in the first leg meant everything was to play for in the second leg. However, Huddersfield managed a 1 - 0 win and condemned Luton to another Play-off heartbreak.

Nathan Jones departed mid-2022/23 season, but The Hatters under the leadership of Rob Edwards pushed on. Luton clinched Play-offs with a third-place finish, unable to keep up with Burnley and Sheffield United. The first leg against Sunderland ended in defeat for Luton, The Hatters going into the second leg 2 - 1 down. A 2 - 0 win in the second leg secured Luton’s trip to Wembley where they’d face Coventry.

A 1 - 1 draw after extra time led to a penalty shootout. Both Luton and Coventry provided an impressive first five penalties, all five finding the back of the net in particularly impressive fashion. However, a Coventry miss gave Luton the ticket back to the top flight.

This battle back up the English football pyramid has shown Luton as one of the ones to watch in the Premier League as they battle to stay in the Premier League.