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How Luton Town Gained Sweet Revenge On Southampton In A Tale Of Two Welsh Managers

By David Parsons

Luton Town’s promotion bid hit a speed bump when Southampton prised away their beloved Welsh manager Nathan Jones earlier this season, but they have now returned the favour by taking the south-coast club’s place in the Premier League.

Jones had led Luton to automatic promotion from League Two and even a Championship playoff semi-final in two spells but left in November when they were ninth, leaving Luton in a predicament.

Enter another Welshman, Rob Edwards, the latest victim of Watford’s managerial revolving door policy, and Luton had no qualms in handing the man who coached their rivals a three-and-a-half-year contract.

“Let’s be honest … if we avoided everyone with a connection to our adversaries our choice would be somewhat more limited,” club CEO Gary Sweet said at the time.

The rest is history as Luton finished third in the Championship and qualified for the playoffs on the back of a 14-match unbeaten run.

They saw off Sunderland in the semi-finals after losing the first leg before beating Coventry City on penalties in a nerve-shredding final at Wembley to return to the top flight after 31 years.

“We (thought we) are in trouble because when we were taking some in practice we were rubbish,” Carlton Morris, Luton’s top scorer this season, said.

“It’s nice for all the boys to step up today. I said in our huddle that it is time to be men and step up. We scored six out of six penalties in a high-pressure situation.”


Survival in the top flight would lead to a financial windfall of £290m according to Deloitte but Edwards is keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground, saying they will be ‘sensible’.

“We’re not going to go mental. We have to play to our strengths,” Edwards said.

“We realise it’s going to be the biggest challenge ever. It’s the best league with the best managers, the best players. We know how tough it is going to be.

“The fans have seen some dark, dark times. It’s great that we can give them a smile.”

Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu has seen it all since he joined the club in 2014, training on a dog’s field when he first arrived before the money came in through promotions and new facilities were built.

With 367 appearances for Luton, the 29-year-old is now the first man to go from non-league to the Premier League with one club.

“I’ve completed football, I’ll retire this summer,” he joked. “It’s been a journey, through the highs and lows but you’ve got to believe in yourself.

“Here I am, a Premier League player.”


Kenilworth Road will be the smallest stadium in the top flight with a capacity of just over 10,300 – acceptable for when they were in the fifth tier a decade ago but not when competing with the Premier League’s riches.

The club will be spending 10 million pounds on improvements before the new season kicks off in August but the ground that is cosily nestled in the midst of terraced homes has its own charm and could even be a potent weapon.

With Luton back in the big time, they will now ready themselves to play at the biggest stadiums in the country but defender Dan Potts said trips to Old Trafford and Emirates Stadium can wait.

“Vegas first,” he said grinning. “We’re going to enjoy this moment first and then preparation will start.

Edwards was appointed Luton Town manager on a minimum three-and-a-half year contract on 17th November 2022.

The 39-year-old, who started his managerial career with hometown club AFC Telford United, arrived at Kenilworth Road as one of the EFL’s most coveted young coaches after winning the Sky Bet League Two title with Forest Green Rovers in 2021-22.

Widely respected for developing young players as Under-18s and then 23s coach at Wolverhampton Wanderers – who he led to promotion to Premier League 2’s top-flight – Edwards had left his dual role as England U16 head coach and U20 assistant to join Rovers in June 2021.

He quickly earned a reputation for playing front-footed, pressing, aggressive football, with his side the second highest scorers in the division, best counter-attacking statistics, best expected goals data, as well as keeping 19 clean sheets while winning 24 of his 53 matches in charge.

That success earned the former Wales international the League Two Manager of the Year award, as well as a summer move to the Championship, where he had spent most of his playing career with the likes of Blackpool, Norwich City, Barnsley and Wolves after starting out in the Premier League with Aston Villa.

Edwards’ stay at Watford proved harshly short-lived, but with his team only a point outside the play-off positions after ten matches, his name remained as highly regarded as previously, and linked to other vacancies in the second tier.

Less than two months on, he returned to football management with the Hatters as successor to Jones, – and now he is in the Premier League.

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