Coventry and Luton earned League Two promotion in 2018 – now £300m Premier League prize is on the line
Coventry against Luton in the Championship play-off final may not be the big-name encounter that many hoped for, but there are few sides who deserve their spot more.
In a second tier that boasted names such as Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Blackburn, West Brom, Watford, Norwich, QPR and others with a history in the Premier League, the two finalists weren’t expected to be among the frontrunners for promotion.
But few can argue with the journey that they’ve been on.
The winning team in Saturday’s play-off final at Wembley Stadium will receive at least £170m across the next three seasons, according to analysis by Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.
That figure could rise to more than £290m if the successful club avoids relegation after the first season in the Premier League.
For Coventry and Luton, those sorts of sums are equivalent to a lottery and Euromillion win rolled into one, particularly given the financial struggles that have followed each side during the last 15 years.
It was only five years ago in 2018 when Luton and Coventry were facing each other in League Two, a campaign that saw both sides securing promotion to the third tier as they continued their respective journeys from the abyss.
Luton’s plight started back in 2008 when the club were handed a 30-point deduction for matters involving player transfers.
The biggest points deduction ever given in EFL history, the Hatters were given no option to appeal the punishment and therefore started the 2008/09 campaign on -30 points, leading to their inevitable relegation from the EFL.
Luton then spent five seasons in non-league football, before ending their Football League hiatus in 2014.
For Coventry, their woes started in 2012 when the club were relegated from the Championship and forced to groundshare with Northampton Town due to legal issues around unpaid rent at the Ricoh Arena from ownership group, Sisu.
This led to the club going into liquidation in 2013 but being bought back by Sisu, who pledged to buy a new stadium for Coventry – a plan that was abandoned after just a few months.
The next four years were fraught with off-field legal battles, before the Sky Blues suffered relegation to League Two in 2017.
Mark Robins took charge of Coventry that year and masterminded their journey back to League One in 2018, before getting them promoted to the Championship again in 2020.
It was there that they met Luton once again, who were back in the second tier themselves having won back-to-back promotions in 2018 and 2019 to send them from League Two back to the Championship.
Coventry boss Robins summed up the occasion perfectly: “People talk about journeys, where we’ve come from. It’s one for the romantics.
“Luton have come from the National League. I remember it well; Mick Harford in charge, 30-point deductions, it’s been a tough road for them but it’s been a tough road for us and we’ve got our own tales of woe from over a number of years.
“Hopefully we can build into a game and have a really good go at getting back into the Premier League. We’re one game away, they’re one game away. To be part of that game is fantastic.”
The Wembley showpiece will be the perfect opportunity to put their past woe firmly behind them and look to the future.
And, for one team, that future is in the Premier League.
Coventry vs Luton will be exclusively live from Wembley Stadium on talkSPORT this Saturday at 4:45pm, with commentary from Sam Matterface, Dean Ashton and Ian Holloway.
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