Championship play-off final: Elevators Coventry and Luton seek final stage of Premier League bid
As recently in 2018, Coventry v Luton was a League Two game. Tomorrow the teams will face off in the most lucrative fixture in English football, worth over £100million for the winner.
The teams punched well above their weight to reach the play-off final at Wembley.
Luton overcame Sunderland in the semi-finals to put themselves on the brink of a return to the top flight just nine years after escaping non-League football by winning the Conference Premier.
Coventry were bottom of the Championship table as recently as October 18, having been forced to postpone four home games at the start of the season as the CBS Arena hosted judo, wrestling and rugby sevens at the Commonwealth Games of 2022.
Ongoing games were piling up for Mark Robins’ side and their play-off tilt had yet to take off. In December, the stadium’s last owner, a certain Mike Ashley, threatened the club with an eviction notice, eventually extending his lease to five years last month.
Less than 20 years ago, Luton fell as far and as fast as English football has seen them: from second to fifth between 2007 and 2009.
Much of their success has come since during Nathan Jones’ two terms in charge. The Welshman looked superb at Luton, and it was thanks to his success with the Hatters that he was offered the Southampton job.
A new Welshman stands in the technical area these days, and it was with much hilarity for Luton fans that their new boss Rob Edwards guided them to a play-off final in the same season where he was sacked by local rivals Watford.
Edwards’ Luton had a better record on the road this season than everyone else in the Championship except runaway winners Burnley.
Luton also struggled with stadium issues. It’s no secret that the Hatters have wanted to move out of their 10,300 seater home in Kenilworth Road for years. Their new Power Court stadium is expected to hold 19,500 fans, but is unlikely to be ready before 2026. As such, Luton must shell out £10m this summer to ensure Kenilworth Road meets the requirements of the Premier League.
The magnitude of what Luton has achieved is epitomized by experienced midfielder Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, who would become the first ever player to represent the same team in all leagues from fifth tier to first if Luton win and he figure next season.
A play-off final will be equally surreal for Coventry fans, who have not seen their side finish in the top six in any division in the 47 years between 1971 and 2018.
One of these teams will host Manchester City and Arsenal and visit Old Trafford and Anfield next season. For the other club, unfortunately, it will be the cruellest heartbreak of all.