This article featured in the official Luton Town matchday programme for the game against Middlesbrough (2/11/21), in the 'Dylan's Diary' column.
"Right now, we sit fifth in the Championship table. Potentially, we’re staring entry to the top table of world football, that could happen as early as next year.”
“If that happens, and by the way it will happen, I can’t promise it will be this season, but when that happens it will bring huge prosperity and positivity to our town, to everybody.”
That’s what Hatters CEO Gary Sweet said at Wednesday night’s Luton Borough Council development management committee meeting as the Town’s revised proposals excluding the Power Court Stadium were unanimously approved.
The Premier League. It’s previously been the subject of hazy dreams at Kenilworth Road, but now Sweet and Nathan Jones are giving those hazy dreams a sense of reality.
At the time of Sweet’s bold statement that Luton ‘will’ enter the promised land of the top tier of English football, the Hatter’s sat pretty in the Championship play-off spots, albeit level on points with 11th placed Blackpool, after a 1-0 home victory over Hull City.
In my last column, I wrote about the importance of the individual actions of those in the present providing the central basis to long-term plans, but the consistent progress that Luton Town has made both on and off the pitch over the past decade shows the importance of these long-term plans – the Hatters have bettered their previous season’s league finish every year since 2015. What makes that statistic even more impressive is the fact that Luton have played in three different divisions in that time.
The Town have showed a tremendous propensity to build, consolidate and show ambition in the long-term whilst being competitive and believing in what they do on a game-by-game basis.
They built a squad in League Two that overcame a heart-breaking play-off defeat – which led to CEO Gary Sweet, in a similar vein to his comments last Wednesday, to declare that ‘we’re getting promoted, whether it’s this year or next year’ – to go on and win back-to-back promotions and then pull of the Championship great escape in the midst of a global pandemic.
Last season’s mid-table finish provided the basis for the recruitment of players ready to compete in the long-term, and last week Luton found themselves 5th in the Championship after almost a third of the season, a remarkable feat given a decade ago they failed to qualify for the Conference Premier play-offs.
There’s an amazing feeling around Kenilworth Road right now. Not just because of the progress and results on the pitch, but the growth that’s occurring off it.
Sometimes rising expectations can backfire and lead to a sense of disappointment, which, objectively, should never have been classed as that. But as Nathan Jones said in his pre-match press conference before Saturday’s clash with Preston North End, that external expectation ‘doesn’t add any pressure to the pressure we put on ourselves anyway’.
Enjoy every step of the journey, because it’s the journey that makes reaching the destination worth it.