Luton Town have reached the promised land, leaving Preston North End fans feeling half inspired, half frustrated.

The Hatters beat Coventry City on penalties in the Championship playoff final on Saturday evening.

Rob Edwards’ side have clinched promotion to the Premier League, capping off a miraculous few years.

A 30-point deduction in 2009 meant Luton were relegated out of the Football League and they had to battle in non-league for five years.

Why Chelsea FINALLY Turned A Corner.

As PNE finished two points outside the Championship playoffs in 2018, Luton were just winning promotion from League Two.

Back-to-back promotions meant Luton were suddenly alongside North End in the 2019-20 Championship season.

Fast forward three years and Luton have bypassed PNE to reach the top flight, and deservedly so after a third-placed finish.

On the one hand, this sums up the frustration at Deepdale; on the other, Luton are a shining example for PNE moving forward.

North End could have kicked on from that seventh-placed finish in 2018 and really become a promotion-chasing side.

It just hasn’t happened though and that team has been gradually picked apart with the exits of Darnell Fisher, Ben Davies and Ben Pearson in recent times.

North End haven’t made any progress in those five years, so much so that Luton have been able to accelerate beyond PNE and into the Premier League.

How on earth has that happened? It’s made even worse when you realise that Luton’s playoff final opponents Coventry City also came up from League Two in 2018.

Luton haven’t had a wealthy benefactor pumping cash in for a promotion charge, nor have they received parachute payments to help them.

The Hatters have done this organically and must now be a source of inspiration for North End in the coming years.

Look at the starting lineup from Luton’s playoff final win.

Four players in that starting XI joined Luton for free.

Amari’i Bell didn’t pull up any trees at Blackburn Rovers but has excelled at Kenilworth Road.

Jordan Clark was a solid contributor just down the road from PNE at Accrington Stanley whilst Gabriel Osho was a developmental prospect at Reading.

Tom Lockyer had impressed at Charlton Athletic and a relegation clause allowed him to join Luton for free as the Hatters struck a cunning move.

None of those signings exactly smack of promotion but Luton have got the absolute most out of all three, going to show the potential in the free agent market.

Coventry City v Luton Town: Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final
Photo by Stephanie Meek – CameraSport via Getty Images

Three starters were loanees from the Premier League with Ethan Horvath, Marvelous Nakamba and Cody Drameh all starting.

PNE have used the loan market frequently of late but Horvath and Nakamba are experienced international players with the USA and Zimbabwe respectively, having also featured prominently around Europe.

Those aren’t really the players PNE go for, though they did have an interest in taking Drameh from Leeds in January.

All three players key roles for Luton and have summed up the loan market well; top talents to supplement a solid first-team squad, not the sole recruitment focus.

Four starters were cash buys, including midfielder Pelly Ruddock who joined back in their non-league days.

Striker Elijah Adebayo joined from Walsall for £250,000 in 2021 having shown promising signs as a target man in League Two.

Left wing back Alfie Doughty arrived for £500,000 last summer whilst the club record was smashed with a £2million deal for striker Carlton Morris.

The Hatters paid up for a premium position by signing Morris in his prime years and it was no surprise to see him score 20 goals this season.

Whilst PNE continue to scrap around for left wing backs, Doughty contributed two goals and five assists in that position for Luton.

They understood how important wing backs were to the 3-5-2 system and paid up a decent fee for one in Doughty – a move which really paid off.

Luton have shown that you can do it with free agents, quality loans and playing 3-5-2 – all question marks that have been raised about PNE.

Coventry City v Luton Town: Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final
Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images

The key part here is to have a plan and to put real effort into uncovering gems that maybe slip under the radar a little.

Luton have built themselves up brilliantly over the last five years and have now reached where PNE fans want to go.

PNE director Peter Ridsdale was there at Wembley to see Luton reach the Premier League, handing out the medals to ecstatic Hatters players as part of his duties on the EFL board.

Those images angered some North End fans but they should live in the minds of Ridsdale, Craig Hemmings and co for a while.

North End have seen Luton go right past them and into the Premier League and this can’t keep happening; fans are sick of seeing clubs bypass PNE.

Ridsdale must be inspired by Luton’s approach and will surely want the same for PNE – and it can’t happen with just 12-month deals and hoping that everyone just works out in a miracle season.

It may take a few years to really build that kind of side but many PNE fans won’t accept excuses anymore after seeing Luton’s rise.

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