(Originally posted November 27th 2013)
When Luton Town started Conference life in the 2009-10 season, they were expected to get Promoted at the first time of asking, and every year since, but in 2013-14, they still find themselves in Tier 5 of the English Football Pyramid. Why?
The Hatters arrived in the Conference following a series of horrible seasons from 2007-2009 which took them from one League below the Premier League to outside the Football League altogether following financial difficulty. Luton were not helped with having numerous points deductions during this time, a 10 point penalty in their League 1 campaign was followed by a whopping 30 point deduction the following year as they were Relegated from League 2.
Luton started Non League life reasonably well, securing 88 points in a season that would see them finish 2nd and in a Play off spot with Stevenage winning the league by a comfortable 11 points clear of Luton, with 99. Luton would go onto lose the Play off Semi Final 2-0 to York who were then defeated by Oxford in the Wembley Final.
The following campaign would see a familiar story. Although Luton finished 3rd this time, losing out to a simply magnificent Crawley Town, helped of course by their funding, winning the league with a record 105 points and also shone in the FA Cup, reaching round 5. They beat 3 teams in higher divisions in the process (Swindon Town, Derby County and Torquay) before losing out to a single goal away to Manchester United. AFC Wimbledon were Luton’s other hurdle during this campaign, a side also in the Blue Square Premier due to off the field events and it was them who would beat Luton at Wembley thanks to a Penalty Shootout.
Third time lucky? Far from it. Luton again scuppered by a side with great financial backing, this time Fleetwood who romped to the title with 103 points. Luton would only finish 5th, reaching the Play offs by a measly 5 points. Luton got to the final again though, this time beating Wrexham in the Semis. York would break Hatters Hearts at Wembley again however with a 2-1 win.
Last Season though was Luton’s worst by far. They didn’t even make the Play offs under Manager Paul Buckle, who took Torquay to the League 2 play offs two Years previous, he was sacked in Febuary and replaced by John Still by he couldn’t guide Luton to where they need to be. Mansfield winning the league with Newport overcoming Wrexham in the Play offs this time out.
So, can Luton Town make it this season?
They have all the makings of a side that can make League 2 and beyond. They have a Manager, John Still, who, in 9 Years in charge of Dagenham and Redbridge brought in highly unknown players from the lower leagues and turned them into starts. Most notable additions include Craig Mackail-Smith (now at Bright0n), Sam Saunders (Brentford) and Paul Benson who won promotion from League 2 with both Dagenham and Paolo Di Canio’s Swindon with a stint at then League 1 Charlton in-between. Benson is now back at Luton with Still and his reputation of being in the right place at the right time will prove invaluable come the end of the season (he has 5 in 13 at the time of writing). Still also knows how to get a side Promoted, taking Dagenham from the lower ebbs of the Conference to League 1 while he was there before leaving for Luton.
Luton also have a side full of experienced players who know how to get Promoted. Players such as Jon Smith (Swindon), Steve McNulty (Fleetwood) and the aforementioned Paul Benson amongst others.
As it stands Luton are on course for a successful season. They currently lie in 2nd with 41 points from 21 games and are unbeaten in 13. League leaders Cambridge have 45 points and have played a game less.