Coventry City boss Mark Robbins has described this year’s Championship play-off final as “a romantic match”.
But will it be the Blues or the Hatters who will enjoy a fairytale ending at Wembley?
Two teams with a more illustrious past, each winning the Wembley Cup final within a year – Coventry lifting the FA Cup in 1987, Luton the League Cup final in 1988 – both Trying to return to the top flight after five years. Join League Two together.
Coventry are bottom of the league at the start of the season alone and had to postpone four games because they damaged the pitchwhile Luton had to derive from their Manager Nathan Jones has left them the second time, become Served by Rob Edwardswho at the start of the season Sacked by local rivals Watford After just 10 league games.
But one of them will return to M1 on Saturday, locking in a windfall worth at least £170m over the next three seasons, according to Deloitte estimates.
Both clubs are clearly affected. But who suffers the most?
Luton – “a lot of hard work by some amazing people”
Victory at Wembley would spell a dramatic change in fortunes for Luton, who quit the Football League in 2009 before returning in 2014 under John Steele for five seasons On the field – he remains a very popular figure among the fans.
They took the next two steps under Jones, who won back-to-back promotions in 2018 and 2019 before his move to Stoke.
Jones returned for a second time, establishing the Hatters as Championship promotion contenders, before leaving again in November, this time to Southampton.
Edwards took over and went 16-5 in 31 games in charge, taking the team to third place and now, via Sunderland defeated Sunderland in two legs in the semi-finals, to Wembley.
But Edwards was quick to credit the likes of chief executive Gary Witt and long-time fan favorite Mick Harford, who has played in many roles at Luton – striker, manager, coach, caretaker boss and current Chief Recruitment Officer.
“Gary and the board deserve credit for pulling the club back from the brink,” Edwards told BBC Three Counties radio. “Then there was Mick Harford and the character he played, the recruiting team, the various managers – John Steele, Nathan and others.
“It’s all thanks to the hard work of so many people and the fans. They deserve it. They’re amazing.”
After recovering from the brink of reckoning, promotion to the Premier League would change the club’s fortunes.
For starters, it will help to finance construction of new stadium This is at the heart of Luton’s plans and is seen as key to securing their future.
“It means a lot to everyone. We know it’s a big occasion,” Edwards added. “I realized what it could do for the club. From a financial point of view, it could keep the club safe for a long time and put it on really solid ground. So I knew it meant a lot .
“It’s something we have to try to embrace and hope it brings out the best in us on the pitch.”
Luton were relegated from the top flight in 1992, the year the Premier League began, and it would cost an estimated £10m to bring their aging Kenilworth Road home ground up to Premier League standards – and even then it would be of minimal capacity.
But despite the high stakes, Edwards is confident his players will be able to stay calm.
“Whenever we’ve had big games and big occasions this season, the lads have stepped up and done well,” he said. “I don’t think they’re going to be intimidated by it. It brings out the best in them.”
Coventry have their own ‘sad story’ – Robbins
“People talk about the journey, where we all come from,” said Coventry boss Robbins. “It’s a romantic.
“Luton came from the National League. I remember that well. It was a tough road for them.
“They were out of the league when I started my coaching career,” said Robbins, whose Rotherham United side were penalized 17 points for breaching league rules in the 2008-09 season, a year when Lu Dayton was deducted 30 points and relegated to the fifth echelon.
“But it’s been a tough road for us as well,” added Robbins, who Back to Coventry for a second spell in charge In March 2017, they were ready for their second relegation in five years.
“We have our own tragic stories. But we’re one game away from the Premier League. It’s fantastic to be involved. One game away from realizing a dream and changing the club’s future very quickly.
“The change of ownership moved us five years ahead of our five-year plan. We had to work hard to get it done, but to be able to do that was unbelievable in itself.
“In terms of our start and all the issues that are documented, the season has been fantastic.
“The fact of the matter is I stayed in the post and nobody else did. Being last in the league in October is usually not acceptable.
“But we managed to get through a very difficult period and come out on the other side. The supporters understand the situation and are really behind it, without them it wouldn’t have happened.
“That’s why it’s so special because for me, the biggest achievement since I came in is the reconnection I have with the players and the supporters.”
Who can handle the pressure at Wembley?
Coventry captain Liam Kelly was part of the Sky Blues side who beat Exeter City Won the 2018 League Two play-off final.
“I just remember it going so fast,” he told BBC CWR. “It’s an occasion but you have to play. As soon as the whistle blows that’s our main focus. We just have to run and perform and keep our heads in the right moment.”
“Everyone knows what a big game it is. People didn’t expect us to be in this position. But we’re in great form and we can take confidence from that.”
The other side of the coin was the experience of Luton striker Carlton Morris, who was beaten 2-1 by Rotherham United at Shrewsbury Town a day earlier 2018 League One League Final.
He was taken off on a stretcher just eight minutes after Shrewsbury had leveled. The Millers went on to win in overtime.
“At Wembley, the worst has happened to me so I have nothing to fear,” Morris told BBC Three County Radio. “Unfortunately, I had an ACL and we lost, so it was a double whammy. But any experience can be turned into a positive, and that’s true for me.”
Now he finds himself the top scorer in a double-forward Luton front line with 20 goals, Ilya Adebayor with 10, and with assists, two-thirds of Hart’s goals this season – 46 57 goals in league games, one less than Coventry’s total of 58.
It’s no different combined with Coventry partners Viktor Gyokeres (the tournament’s second-scorer with 21 assists and 11 assists) and Gus Hamer (10 goals and 10 assists).
Matt Godden also scored five goals for Coventry after returning to fitness after a three-month absence to make up for what looked at the time a crucial Boxing Day defeat Playmaker Callum O’Hare.
The only Luton senior absent is striker Callie Woodrow, who is still recovering from a knee injury.
Coventry have not beaten Luton in their last nine meetings as The Sky Blues won 3-0 at Kenilworth Road in October 2017 – In a season in which both teams have risen from League Two.
Both games this season have ended in draws – with Coventry leading both games.
Luton City 2 (Morris 4, 15) Coventry City 2 (Joe Keres 11, Hammer 61)
Coventry City 1 (Gordon Pen 45) Luton Town 1 (Locke 1)
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