Where are the Hatters that secured our Championship survival in the 2019/20 season?
Just look at how far we have come in such a short space of time. At the end of the 2019/20 after project restart, Luton Town had just 10 games to secure survival in the Championship, and the odds were very much against us, with Charlton manager Lee Bowyer stating, that two relegation places were taken by Barnsley and Luton with only one left to determine. Since this nervy final day, Luton Town have gone from strength to strength, finishing 12th and then 6th, and at the time of writing, currently 4th in the Championship. All this progress without compromising on our budgetary principles. It makes all Luton Town fans proud. This article looks at the line up and bench that claimed that 3-2 victory over Blackburn Rovers on the 22nd July 2020 to secure another season in the Championship.
On that evening, this is how we lined up:
Firstly, you can see how the team has evolved since this last gasp relegation survival. The only remaining squad members are; Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu (obviously - he will be turning out for Luton Town until he's 50), Luke Berry, Sonny Bradley, James Shea and Glen Rea, who is due to go out on loan to Cheltenham to get back up to speed. What are the rest of these relegation escape artists up to these days? Simon Sluga The Croatian stopper arrived at Luton Town with a lot of fanfare considering he was at that point our record signing (breaking a 30 year record set by Lars Elstrup in 1988). Sluga had a mixed time at Luton Town, being a cult hero, but at the same time making a lot of high profile errors, with his best performances certainly coming in the behind closed door season in 20/21. In 2021/22, our playoff season, he was quietly shuffled out the door to Ludogrets Razgrad, and replaced by Jed Steer. He has played a total of 5 games in his two seasons in Bulgaria, primarily warming the bench. Martin Cranie
Cranie is currently unattached, with his last season being the 20/21 season. In total he played 50 games for Luton Town scoring 2 goals, one on his debut against Middlesbrough and a corker against Brentford. It's hard to imagine at 36 that he would be making a comeback into the professional game. Cranie was a great pro who would go down as one of Graeme Jones better signings from his brief stint as Luton Town boss.
Cameron Carter-Vickers A great leaving gift from Graeme Jones, as the big American was exactly what our defence needed at that point. Luton Town were yet another stop on his journey while Tottenham were busy shipping him out on loan. He had already been at Stoke City playing 15 times under Nathan Jones there, before pitching up at Luton Town, playing a further 16 games, and finishing the season again under Nathan Jones! CCV has now found a permanent home in Glasgow, after initial joining on yet another loan, but joined permanently the next season, he has played 75 games for Celtic, and is a big fan favourite. James Bree Sure Bree didn't play his best football under Graeme Jones, but under Nathan Jones he flourished into the player that got the move to Southampton in the last transfer window for a cut price fee with his contract running out. Initially joining us on loan at the beginning of the season, he was often played at left back to accommodate Luke Bolton, who had decided he wanted to leave before the final 10 games, returning to Man City, how did that work out for you Luke?? Bree played 42 games whilst on loan, but played a further 101 after joining permanently from Aston Villa. Since joining Nathan Jones at Southampton, and playing three matches, Jones has been sacked, and last match Bree was not found on the teamsheet. Harry Cornick
The Corndog joined Luton Town before the 2017/18 season, as part of Nathan Jones' restructuring after missing out in the playoffs to Blackpool. He was a great servant for the Hatters after being signed from Bournemouth, notching 38 goals in 235 games. In his first season, he played 37 games scoring 5 and providing 3 assists, moving up to League 1, he scored 6 assisting 3 times and he improved massively when Luton Town made it to the Championship, notching; 9 goals, with 3 assists in his first season, 1 goal and 7 assists in his second season, 12 goals and 4 assists in his third season. Prior to leaving us for Bristol City during the January transfer window he notched 2 goals and 3 assists in all competitions. He was always a willing runner, and played a big part in our climb up the leagues.
Elliot Lee Although Lee played quite a big role in our movement through the leagues, and our survival (with his goal against Huddersfield) in the 19/20 season, he was deemed surplus to requirements by Graeme Jones, and then was looking for a way out in the 20/21 season with Nathan Jones unable to promise him gametime. Luton Town fans got a taste of what Elliot Lee was about when he joined us on loan from West Ham for the second half of the 14/15 season. He eventually joined us permanently after it didn't work out for him at Barnsley. In his second stint at the Town, he played 112 games scoring 27 goals, before joining Oxford and Charlton both on loans, before leaving at the end of his contract. He has since joined Wrexham in the National League to embark on another project to shoot a club up the leagues. This season he has played 38 games scoring 7 goals.
James Collins Collo was a talismanic striker for Luton Town, he picked up the slack when Danny Hylton was out the squad with long term injury problems, Collo was especially prolific during our League 1 title winning campaign, forming a special relationship with Jack Stacey, whereby the ball was played in exactly where Collo would be to tuck it into the net, he notched 25 goals that season. In his first season in the Championship Collo performed well, scoring 14 goals, including a penalty in the Blackburn game, which secured our survival. However, in his second championship season goals were harder to come by, other than a hattrick scored in front of fans, in a rare game where a limited amount were allowed in, he was very streaky and eventually replaced in the lineup by new signing Elijah Adebayo, who was able to offer more athleticism to the front line. Collo moved on to Cardiff for a free transfer, before being released from his contract there, signing for Derby County to help them make it back to the Championship, he currently has 9 goals in 22 games.
Kazenga LuaLua Kaz is currently playing his football in Greece for Levadiakos, he was previously playing in Turkey for Genclerbirligi. During his time at the Hatters, Kaz played 87 times scoring 8 goals, and we all remember those backflips, and are very grateful for that vital goal against Hull, which essentially sent them down, and was a massive three points in our survival.
Danny Hylton A talismanic figure for Luton Town during our playoff push in League 2, with 22 league goals, before striking up a partnership with James Collins the next season, where he notched 21 goals. Unfortunately injuries prevented him from playing too much of a role during the League 1 campaign and most of the 19/20 championship campaign, although Nathan Jones brought him back in to the fold. It took him three seasons to score his first championship goal, but then he finished the season with 4 goals. These were 4 vital goals that got us points in our quest to finish in the Championship playoffs. Danny left luton upon the expiry of his contract, moving to Northampton, where he has played 20 games, but currently has more red cards than goals. Classic Hylts.
Matty was a rock at the back during our League 1 title winning season. He was a defender that left absolutely everything out on the pitch, and showed that in every single game he played for Luton Town. In total he played 136 games, scoring 10 goals after signing from Barnsley. Upon expiry of his contract he wanted to move back up north to be closer to his family. He was a vital component of the Huddersfield team that made it into the playoffs in the 21/22 season, although he got injured towards the end of the season, therefore missing out on the match up with Luton and the playoff final. He has continued to have injury issues this season. So far he has played 48 games for Huddersfield scoring 5 goals.
Callum McManaman This signing raised a lot of eyebrows amongst the Luton fanbase. Mostly because we remembered his performance in the 2012 FA Cup final, where he single handedly dismantled Man City, leading Wigan to victory. However, he hadn't exactly done much in the 8 years following that, as well as well documented fitness issues. I like Callum though, he scored a vital goal during project restart, an equaliser in the first game back against Preston, which ensured that we started this 10 game make or break stretch with a point on the board. After leaving Luton Town following 26 games and 4 goals (another important goal being the equaliser against Millwall), he moved to Australia with Melbourne Victory, before moving back to England where he played 33 games for Tranmere in the 21/22 season. He is currently unattached, maybe he has another season in the tank considering he's only 31.
George Moncur After signing from Barnsley, where he impressed during a 3-2 victory during our League 1 title winning season. Moncs came into the Luton Town team during the January transfer window, and scored vital goals on the way to the title. Namely that freekick against Portsmouth in the snow, which was vital to get us to the top of the table. In total Moncs played 59 games scoring 11 goals for the Town. He is currently tearing it up in League 2 with runaway leaders Leyton Orient, having played 32 games, scoring 5 goals, I've had the pleasure of going down to Brisbane Road occasionally this season, and Orient play some real eye catching football, with Moncs the orchestrator.
Shinniesta originally joined us on loan from Birmingham City when we were back in League 2. After signing permanently for us in our League 1 season he became the master of the pre assist, feeding balls down the touchline for Stacey to scamper after. In both stints, Shinniesta played 106 games for Luton Town scoring 10 goals. After agreeing a mutual termination he moved to Charlton, before leaving to join Livingston in the Scottish Premier League. He's played 64 games for Livingston so far, and exudes class as he moves around the pitch.
Jacob Butterfield I remember the clamour from Luton Town fans for Butterfield to start, he certainly gave us that defensive shield whenever he played, but for some reason Graeme Jones just never fancied playing him even though he was the one that brought Butterfield to the club. He was signed on a free transfer from Derby County, he played 17 games, scoring 1 goal (a ripsnorter against Barnsley). He then left Luton on a free transfer, joining up with Callum McManaman at Melbourne Victory, before moving to St Johnstone and ending up at Scunthorpe in the National League, who are currently doing a great job of going for back to back relegations.
Peter Kioso Another player who led to so much clamour from the Hatters faithful as to why he wasn't starting every game, obviously not during the 2019/20 season though, as we had only just signed him from Hartlepool United. Kioso had very good loans away from the club that really showed his athleticism, defensive abilities and passion for the game. Scunthorpe, Northampton and MK fans all waxed lyrical about how good he was, and Luton Town fans only got to see him turn out 22 times in total for the club, with 3 appearances coming during project restart. Kioso now plays for Rotherham, but has had many injury issues which have limited his appearances this season, therefore only making 9 appearances so far this season.