Why Luton Town's Premier League promotion is arguably football's greatest renaissance story

Luton Town's players celebrate promotion to the Premier League.
Luton Town's players celebrate promotion to the Premier League. Credit: PA

Looking back at the history of the beautiful game in England, there's been some incredible stories.

From Nottingham Forest winning back-to-back European Cups in the 1980s, to Leicester City defying the odds to lift the Premier League trophy in 2016 - we all love an underdog.

But has anything quite matched the remarkable rise that Luton Town have just pulled off? 

National League to Premier League. It's unheard of. An achievement so unique that it's hard to believe it will ever be repeated again, although I'm sure Wrexham will have something to say about that. 

This is a club that might well have disappeared altogether when they were relegated from the Football League in 2009.

Luton Town during their debut season in the Conference in 2009. Credit: PA

That relegation came off the back of an unprecedented 30-point deduction for financial irregularities committed by previous owners - a punishment still unmatched to this day.

They never stood a chance.

However, this is a club that never gives up. Even in that darkest of seasons, there were moments of light - most notably winning the EFL Trophy in front of 40,000 of their fans at Wembley.

There was more heartache to come though. The club had to endure three failed play-off campaigns before a return to the Football League was finally confirmed in 2014, but once they were back, there was no stopping them.

Back-to-back promotions from League Two to the Championship were secured by 2019, and despite their lack of financial firepower, Luton have continued to flourish under the stewardship of the '2020 group' - a consortium of lifelong fans.

Luton Town were crowned champions of League One in 2019, with Mick Harford in charge. Credit: PA

Every season, they have improved their position in the second tier - culminating in today's nail-biting, nerve-shredding final. In true Luton style, it was never going to be easy.

This is a team that’s been assembled on a shoestring budget - largely consisting of free transfers and players discarded by other clubs.No one epitomises Luton’s journey more than midfielder Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu who’s become the first player to go from non-league to the Premier League with the same club.As an Arsenal fan, he can now look forward to fulfilling his dream when he takes to the pitch at the Emirates next season.

Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu made history at Wembley. Credit: PA

Others have been with them every step of the way as well, including club legend Mick Harford who steered them to promotion when then-boss Nathan Jones jumped ship to join Stoke City in 2019.

In fact, he's done pretty much every job going at Kenilworth Road and now heads up the recruitment. This win is for him.

But even more than that, this win is for the fans.

Those fans who were there on that fateful day relegation to the Conference was confirmed on 13 April 2009. Those fans who filled away ends at places like Hyde United and Braintree Town. Those fans who have never stopped believing.

Having spent time in the town in the lead-up to today’s date with destiny, it’s hard not to feel pleased for them.

I’m not afraid to admit I almost shed a tear when a bunch of children at Stopsley Primary School sang their hearts out in assembly on Friday morning to show their support to their heroes. It really was a beautiful moment.

Luton is a town that sometimes gets a bad rap, but this promotion will be life-changing for so many connected with the club - and will also have a wider impact.

Premier League football will bring with it a huge economic boost to local businesses who struggled so much during the Covid pandemic, and now the world will get to see Luton for the diverse and vibrant place that it is.

As for the club, there’ll be challenges, most notably a race against time to rebuild one of their stands ahead of the new top flight season, as well as building a squad worthy of being able to compete in the best league in the world. 

Kenilworth Road will be a culture shock for many Premier League players and fans. Credit: PA

But, these are challenges chief executive Gary Sweet and his staff will be more than happy to embrace.

The injection of Premier League cash will go a long way to securing the club’s future, including helping to fund the construction of a much-needed new stadium at Power Court. 

The bookies of course will almost certainly have the Hatters as favourites to go straight back down, but whatever happens, this is a footballing fairytale that will give others hope.

Luton’s rags-to-riches story is one that shows that sometimes the good guys do still win.

And if that’s not something to celebrate, then I don’t know what is.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know