Luton and Notts County: The clubs that missed the Premier League by a matter of months

Luton and Notts County drew 1-1 last weekend. The two clubs now sit first and second in League Two, approaching the halfway point of the season. Chasing promotion to League Two, however, isn’t the only thing the two clubs have in common. They were both relegated from top flight the season before they Premier League was born and, sadly for their fans, never made it back.

In May 1992 both clubs were relegated from the old First Division, and missed out on the first season of the Premier League in the process. Luton finished 20th out of 22 that season and were only two points away from making it into English Football’s new era. Notts County finished two points further behind with West Ham bottom. The Hammers were able to bounce back immediately, but the other two gradually slipped down the leagues. The Hatters and The Magpies, however, have had eventful journeys since they missed out on the riches of The Premier League.

What happened to Luton Town?

The lower leagues are full of hard luck stories, but Luton’s is one of the most compelling. The Hatters had been in the top flight for 10 years but missed the Premier League by two points. They bounced around the football league until 2007 when they were then relegated into the third tier. They incurred a 10 point penalty the following season for going into administration.  In 2008 they were relegated again and received a further 30 point penalty for financial irregularities. The club were powerless in the face of the largest single season points deduction in English football history and fell out of the Football League.

The club began to recover in step one of non-league football and contested the Conference Premier promotion play-offs in three of the four seasons they spent out of the league. They eventually won the division and returned to the Football League in 2014. Luton knocked Norwich City out of the FA Cup in 2013, becoming the first non-league side to beat at top flight club in the Premier League era.

Luton have started this season in great form. They’ve scored seven at home on two occasions already and also put eight past Yeovil. Unsurprisingly, they currently hold top spot in League Two by goal difference. Their GD is 15 goals better than Notts County, which effectively gives them an extra point. The future looks bright and The Hatters are also looking to build a brand new stadium. A plot of land near the station has already been identified. The biggest challenge for the Bedfordshire club in the next few years will be keeping hold of its talent. Nathan Jones, their highly rated manager, and several star players have already been linked with clubs in higher leagues.

What happened to Notts County?

Notts County, recognised as the oldest football team in the World currently playing at a professional level, never threatened to return to the top flight. This was despite having a series of managers who went on to be well known in the Premier League. Neil Warnock oversaw their relegation into the second tier and was succeeded by Mike Walker and then Sam Allardyce.

Big Sam left just before the dawn of the new Millennium and the club had significant debt. Their very survival was only possible thanks to local businesses and the work of the club’s supporters. In 2004 they slipped into the bottom tier of the Football League. In similar circumstances to their relegation from the top tier a rebrand meant they were now in League Two. In 12 years the club had gone from Division One to League Two, but technically they had fallen four levels.

In the last 10 years the club have been taken over several times and survived two winding up petitions from HM Revenue and Customs. In 2010 they won promotion to League One and remained there for five years. The former FA Cup winners are now back in League Two and, just like Luton, they’re hoping not to stay there for too long. The latest regime has installed West Ham old boy Kevin Nolan as manager and he has made a great start to life in Nottingham.

An end of season showdown

The 1-1 draw between the two sides at Kenilworth Road was their first meeting of the season. Their next encounter will be on the last day of the season, and it could be a dramatic final day if both sides build on their excellent first halves of the season. The top three in League Two will go up automatically this season and The Hatters and Magpies currently have a six point cushion between themselves and fourth place. They are looking like strong favourites for promotion and both will eventually want to push towards their first tastes of Premier League football.

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featured image credit Nottingham Post