When some teams are promoted from the Championship they are regarded as Premier League-ready. Usually it is those who have been relegated recently, but sometimes a club like Brighton and Hove Albion go up with their houses entirely in order, all of the necessary preparation work already taken care of.
It is not a phrase you will be hearing frequently about Luton Town, with their lovable throwback of a stadium which houses just over 10,000. From Monday, Luton have 75 days to bring Kenilworth Road up to code with an estimated £10 million of work planned, mainly on broadcasting facilities. Last month chief executive Gary Sweet called it “more of a gargantuan task than getting a new stadium ready.”
A new ground is their long-term aim and they hope to move within the next three years. But in the hours following their penalties victory over Coventry City in the Championship play-off final the priority was celebrating. Manager Rob Edwards was asked about his plans for the evening, and raised a bottle of Budweiser which had been handed to him during his press conference. He said one word. “Beer.”
Imagine the Power...
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— Luton Town FC (@LutonTown) May 25, 2023
There was a little more detail. “I’ll see my family, but we’ve got to try and enjoy this moment because it doesn’t happen often.
"I just felt very numb. I still do. I just made sure I shook Mark's [Robins, Coventry manager] hand and his staff. I don't want to be that guy that just starts running off and celebrating before I've seen the other manager.
"It hasn't sunk in quite yet. It might take a few days, but it's great. It does feel good.”
The appearance of Luton on next season’s Match of the Day opening titles will certainly be surprising to some, but the club has been planning for promotion for some time. Work is expected to begin this week on the necessary upgrades to the ground they have occupied since 1905.
The bulk of it relates to the temporary gantry for TV cameras above the executive boxes that span the length of a touchline at Kenilworth Road.
“I’ve got some diggers ready to go into Kenilworth Road to start doing some work there tonight,” Sweet said on Talksport on Sunday. “It is going to start pretty soon."
A planning application for the necessary work was submitted a week before Luton’s play-off semi-final first leg against Huddersfield last season, and approved in July 2022. Plans show an expanded gantry of 105.6m, to allow more covered space for cameras and the media.
There will be plenty more to attend to, including floodlights which need an upgrade. Securing Aston Villa loanee Marvelous Nakamba for at least another season would also be helpful. He dominated midfield against Coventry as he has in so many games during Luton’s season.
One area in which they are in no need of maintenance is the manager’s office. Edwards was impressively eloquent after the biggest moment of his managerial career, which only began six years ago with AFC Telford United in the National League North.
He made sure to recognise the work of his predecessor Nathan Jones, who left Luton in November for a chastening experience at Southampton. Just how much credit did Jones deserve? “Loads” said Edwards. “The position he left the club in, after league 21 games, we were in the mix. He’s a huge part of the club’s success over the past few years.”
Luton will certainly not be getting carried away. “We’re not going to go mental,” said Edwards. “I've not really allowed myself to focus on Premier League targets.”
This is a wise approach. Managed sensibly, the financial benefits of a trip to the Premier League secures Luton’s future for a generation, even if it is only to be a one season visit. But if Kenilworth Road is ready in time, leveraging its unique charms could be their not-so-secret weapon.