Luton Town will play in the Premier League for the first time after beating Coventry City on penalties in Saturday’s Championship playoff final at Wembley Stadium, earning a return to England’s top flight after a 31-year absence.
Luton completed the fairytale journey to the Premier League after securing a fourth promotion in 10 seasons, winning 6-5 in the shootout following a 1-1 draw.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
The Hatters will join Burnley and Sheffield United, who won automatic promotion as Championship winners and runners-up, in the next season of the first tier of the English football league system.
Their club’s stadium, Kenilworth Road, will host top-flight football for the first time since 1992, when they were relegated from the Football League First Division.
Financial experts have estimated promotion to world football’s most watched league to be worth about $210m for a club that have been through turmoil since they last played in the top flight.
Some of that cash will go to upgrading the club’s stadium, which with a capacity just more than 10,000 and set among rows of terraced houses, will be hosting the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool next season.
Luton had to recover from an early shock when captain Tom Lockyer collapsed on the field.
Lockyer was taken to hospital for tests early in the first half. The centre back, 28, fell to the ground with no player around him and was treated by medical staff before being carried off on a stretcher.
“He is responsive and talking to his family, who are with him,” the club said.
Lockyer had played his part when Luton had the ball in the net after just five minutes when Gabriel Osho was flagged offside as he forced the ball in from close range.
But a bright start from Rob Edwards’ men was rewarded on 23 minutes when Elijah Adebayo’s good work down the left teed up Jordan Clark to smash home at the near post.
Adebayo had a second Luton goal ruled out before half-time for handball.
Coventry looked like a side that had stage fright in front of 85,000 people in the first half.
But Mark Robins’s team have grown used to thriving in adversity.
For years, Coventry have been forced out of their home city to Northampton and Birmingham due to financial issues in leasing their stadium.
Even when restored to Coventry, they began the season at the foot of the Championship table after being unable to host home games due to the state of their pitch, which had been used for rugby at the Commonwealth Games.
Coventry were much improved after the break and got their reward 24 minutes from time when Viktor Gyokeres teed up Gustavo Hamer to fire into the far corner.
The Sky Blues nearly turned the tie around fully within minutes but Matt Godden blazed a big chance over.
Tired legs and tension took over in extra-time, but Coventry had a massive let-off four minutes from time.
Luton substitute Joe Taylor slotted home after charging down Jonathan Panzo’s clearance, but the goal was ruled out as the ball struck the Luton man’s hand.
All of the first 11 penalties were then scored as the takers showed incredible poise under the most extreme pressure.
But when Fankaty Dabo’s effort sailed over the bar, Luton’s dreams came true.