After a real fight between four teams, League One’s automatic promotion picture has been settled.
Sunderland and Portsmouth both failed to win in midweek, meaning their automatic hopes are over. Luton Town and Barnsley can now celebrate promotion, though will be fighting it out for the title this weekend.
Barnsley return to the Championship at the first time of asking, but for Luton, it’s the latest step in a remarkable rise. Ten years ago, they were bottom of the Football League and relegated to the Conference.
After a couple of near misses in the playoffs, the Hatters were back in the Football League for the 2014-15 season. Last term, Nathan Jones led them to promotion from League Two, before leaving for Stoke City in January of this year despite being top of League One.
Mick Harford has kept Luton moving forward, and now has them in the Championship, sealing successive promotions. Graeme Jones has today been confirmed as their new permanent manager, with Harford stepping aside.
Jones and the Hatters will now look to recruit for the Championship, with survival the immediate focus. In fact, their transfer hopes may well factor in North End’s Louis Moult.
The Sun’s Alan Nixon claimed in January that Luton wanted Moult, but were eyeing him up for the summer. The summer window is nearly here, and Luton’s promotions means North End should be braced for a bid.
Moult, 26, is in a tricky spot at North End. As a person, he’s loved by most fans, he’s just won Preston’s Community Player of the Year Award. The Big PNE Sleepout at Deepdale later this year is also backed by Moult.
As a player, Moult has started just eight league games this season. He’s scored just one in those games, but notched three goals in 15 substitute appearances. Right now, he’s North End’s third-choice striker behind Jayden Stockley and Seani Maguire.
Is that really enough for Moult? He’s clearly got some quality, he’s a hard worker and he appears to have bulked up lately too. Moult has a role, but it’s starting to look like it may not be with Preston.
North End may need a little more pace in attack, but with one striker needing to go, Moult would be the main candidate. Luton are set to lose loanees Jason Cummings and Aaron Connolly too, so a move makes sense.
Allowing Moult to go wouldn’t be an easy decision, especially given his ties to the community. Yet if he can play regular first-team football at Kenilworth Road, he may well be tempted to join the newly-promoted Hatters, and a summer bid seems likely given the January interest.