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Championship promotion final review: Luton face big decisions; a great moment for Harford; from Still to Edwards

Harford, Sweet and Mpanzu. Carra and Neville at the Kenny. And football's positive side came together for Tom Lockyer. It was an incredible day at Wembley as Luton defeated Coventry in the promotion playoff final. Here examine all the drama of the day and what lies ahead the Hatters in the Premier League...


Luton Town

The incredible rise is complete and Luton Town are in the Premier League! It's a story that will be told over and again but it's all the more worth it now we have this incredible latest chapter to add. There were two administrations, back to back relegation and then three play-off defeats down in non-league. Since then the reset has been staggering, starting with promotion under John Still from the Conference Premier League and finished by Rob Edwards at Wembley with promotion to the Premier League.

Midfielder Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu did the whole journey and so did club legend Mick Harford and CEO Gary Sweet. Nathan Jones didn't do the whole journey leaving in League 1 for Stoke City and then in the Championship for Southampton. Some may reasonably question his loyalty for the second departure but surely nobody can question his fantastic work and its part in Luton's meteoric rise.

The performance at Wembley was pure Luton, brave and energetic to get themselves in front during the first half. Stoic and resolute when Coventry came back at them and then ruthlessly efficient in the penalty shoot out that got them over the line. It's a story that will become folklore and the legend of football trivia, I saw Luton go from non-League all the way to Premier League.


Tom Lockyer (Luton Town)

The play-off final weekend saw its fair share of talismanic players not able to see their side through to the finish line. Sheffield Wednesday's brilliant captain Barry Bannan limped out of the League 1 final in extra time and Coventry hero Gus Hamer departed ten minutes from the end of normal time. Perhaps the biggest and most shocking exit was that of Luton captain Tom Lockyer just twelve minutes into Luton's date with destiny. From inside the stadium it was hard to see what had happened to Locker, one minute the game was going on and the next he was on the deck receiving lengthy treatment from the Luton doctors.

It was a concerning moment for all in attendance with Lockyer receiving oxygen and then being taken straight off to hospital. The important news is that Lockyer is ok and stable in hospital, I'm sure in due course exactly the cause of his collapse will be revealed to the public.

The Luton captain was uppermost in manager Rob Edwards thoughts in his post game interviews and perhaps all the emotions of a momentous day were being processed as Edwards struggled to keep it together when talking about the welfare of the man he labelled as his 'best player this season'. The world of football twitter can sometimes be a veritable sewer of unpleasantness, but on this occasion it was used for good as Lockyer was seen celebrating Luton's winning penalty and then watching his teammates victory parade from his hospital room.

While of course health comes before football it shouldn't be understated that Luton lost their captain in a fairly traumatic fashion very early in the game and had the focus to continue on to glory.


The Oak Road Away Entrance!

It's very easy to be snobby in life, after all 'if you know you know'. If you read this column then you're about as likely to be wowed by tales of Luton's away end as a seasoned wedding musician would be upon seeing a bride in a white dress. EFL fans have been there and done it for years and for Luton fans it's just home sweet home, but prepare yourself now for a mainstream football media obsession with Kenilworth Road. I'm sure our friends at Sky TV will be planning a very early August live match from the Kenny and we'll be seeing Carragher and Neville touring the Oak Road away entrance like they did at the infamous Brentford bus stop.

As I said it's sometimes too easy to be snobby, so as long as the coverage isn't patronising then I guess I'm happy to get used to the elite treating Luton like some kind of football zoo. I find Kenilworth Road a pretty classic English football stadium and although I like the comfort and views of one of the new build grounds that has sprung up over the past couple of decades, they can't touch Luton for character.

I must confess that I've spent a few trips trialing various seats in the main stand to find a nice view through the posts and always sit in the same spot now. The Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal fans won't have that luxury, they'll be in the Oak Road End rammed in behind the goal. Many will expect to turn up and roll Luton over and some will be successful, none will forget their trip down to the Kenny though!


The Wembley Trio

Without fail, every single Championship season, promoted teams go up with important loan players in their ranks. This season's Champions Burnley's best player was arguably Nathan Tella on loan from Southampton and one can't underestimate the value to runners up Sheffield United of the borrowed Man City pair of McAtee and Doyle. Luton are no different in some clever loan deals and three players who started at Wembley were on loan at the club.

In goal Ethan Horvath has been a massively consistent presence. Horvath is on loan from last year's play-off winners Nottingham Forest, who have just survived the Premier League and have a wealth of options ahead of him in their speedily assembled 22/23 squad. At right wingback Cody Drameh has done an excellent job of replacing James Bree, who followed manager Nathan Jones to Southampton mid season. Drameh is on loan from Leeds who will be a ship passing Luton in the night as they were relegated back to the Championship the day after the Hatters won at Wembley. Finally is midfielder Marvellous Nakamba, who arrived with Drameh in the January window to help with Luton's run to the line. Nakamba was brought to parent club Aston Villa for the type of fee that would break Luton's transfer record by a multiple of five or six, but the beauty of the loan system gives us this type of scenario.

Can Luton get any of the three back next season? Well surely Nottingham Forest won't need Horvath and a conversation can be had there. Once Leeds have sorted a new manager they'll probably want to have a look at Cody Drameh, but with Luke Ayling holding down that spot perhaps they'd be willing to cash in. For Nakamba to return a big compromise would need to be made on the fee or another loan deal done. All three players would I'm sure be welcomed with open arms as Luton will set out to continue their excellent recruitment record.

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Benjamin Bloom

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