27 January 2013

Luton Town: where were they before?

Scott Rendell (right) secures a historic win for Luton Town.

The magic of the FA Cup - it'll never go away.

Luton Town have made history in Round 4 by becoming the first non-league team since 1989 to knock a top-flight side out of the competition.

Their 1-0 victory at Norwich City, thanks to an 80th-minute goal by Scott Rendell, matches the achievement of Sutton United, who 24 years ago stunned a Coventry City side who had lifted the FA Cup just two years previously. In fact, the last time a non-league team managed to do this away from home was in 1986, when Altrincham put Birmingham City to the sword.

The 1980s was a glorious era for Luton. There was 1983, when Raddy Antic scored to keep the Hatters in the top flight, prompting manager David Pleat to perform a jig on the Maine Road pitch. There was 1987, when they finished 7th in the old Division 1. Then, a year later, came their finest achievement to date - trailing 2-1 to Arsenal in the League Cup Final, they fought back with two goals in the final ten minutes to win their only major silverware to date.

Since then, times have been tough for Luton. Just when they were looking on course to win promotion to the Premier League, they ran into choppy financial waters and suffered three successive relegations from 2006/2007 to 2008/2009, ending the last of those campaigns with an excessive 30-point deduction. Having been relegated from the Football League after 89 years as a member, Luton have failed to regain their place, despite being perennial favourites to win the Conference Premier.

So that's what happened to Luton in the years before the now momentous day of 26 January 2013. What about the players?

In a different take on the many "Where are they now?" pieces written up by the football media, The Daily Transfer Request today asks: what happened to the 14 Luton heroes BEFORE the mad Hatters became the Canary killers?

Mark Tyler (Goalkeeper)
Championship Manager fans will remember Tyler as a solid signing for any Football League club, and in real life, he managed to carve out a lengthy pro career at Peterborough United. After being released by Norwich City as a teenager, he moved to London Road, making 483 appearances for the Posh from 1994 to 2009, when he signed for Luton. He is 35 years old - the same age as Bradford City's own cup hero custodian Matt Duke.
Lathaniel Rowe-Turner (Defender)
Centre-back Rowe-Turner started off at his hometown club Leicester City but then joined Torquay United after being released by the Foxes in 2010. At the start of this season, the youngster was reunited with his former Torquay boss Paul Buckle when he moved to Kenilworth Road.
Greg Taylor (Defender)
Taylor was born in Bedford, not far from Luton, but he started his senior career at Kettering Town following his release by Northampton Town. From there, the left-back moved to Darlington before signing for Luton when the Quakers' financial problems worsened. The 23-year-old has been capped for England's C team.
János Kovács (Defender)
Hungarian centre-half Kovács has been in English football for eight seasons. The former MTK man, 27, has previously turned out for the likes of Chesterfield, Lincoln City and Hereford United. This is in fact his second spell at Luton, and he was named the Hatters' Player of the Year upon his return last season.
Jake Howells (Midfielder)
The 21-year-old left-flanker is a product of Luton's youth setup, and has played over 150 league games for the Hatters since his first-team breakthrough. Howells has previously been capped five times by Wales Under-21s, despite actually being born in Hemel Hempstead.
Ronnie Henry (Defender)
Henry is an experienced defender who spent seven years at Stevenage before making the switch to Kenilworth Road last summer. The former Tottenham Hotspur trainee featured well over 300 times for Boro, but the former captain at Broadhall Way then made a somewhat surprising decision to drop down to the Conference Premier and skipper Luton for this season.
Alex Lawless (Midfielder)
The Welsh midfielder used to be on Fulham's books, but then moved to Torquay United before spending three years at Forest Green Rovers between 2006 and 2009. Ater a short spell at York City, he arrived at Kenilworth Road in 2010, originally on loan, and quickly established himself as a key man for the Hatters. Whenever Lawless is sent off, Jeff Stelling is always quick to make a quip about it on Soccer Saturday!
Arnaud Mendy (Midfielder)
The French-born midfielder, who has two international caps for Guinea-Bissau, he came to this country in 2008 when he signed for Derby County but made little impact at Pride Park. He spent last season at Macclesfield Town, and hit the headlines when he scored a stunning goal in the FA Cup against Bolton Wanderers. The 22-year-old signed a two-year contract with Luton in October.
Jonathan Smith (Midfielder)
Former Forest Green Rovers midfielder Smith is so new to Luton that he doesn't yet have a player profile on the club website! The 26-year-old initially moved to the Bedfordshire club from York on a loan deal but signed permanently earlier this month. Yesterday was only his 10th match for Luton.
Jon Shaw (Forward)
Sheffield-born Shaw moved across the north of England earlier in his career. Fondly remembered by Burton Albion and Halifax Town fans in particular, his most impressive performances came at Gateshead between 2010 and 2012 when he incredibly scored 56 goals in just 97 games! This summer, he came down south for the first time with Luton and continues to bang in the goals regularly.
Andre Gray (Forward)
The 21-year-old Midlander caught the eye of Luton last year thanks to his fine scoring record for Conference North side Hinckley United. Former Shrewsbury Town trainee Gray has taken that form to the Conference Premier, and he's currently scoring at a rate of roughly one goal in every three games.
JJ O'Donnell (Midfielder, substitute for Mendy)
Aged 21, O'Donnell has been at Luton since signing from St Albans City in 2010 and has spent most of his time at Kenilworth Road out on loan. However, he made his mark yesterday with a decisive cross to Rendell ten minutes from time. The midfielder is the only one of yesterday's heroes not to have a Wikipedia article.
Scott Rendell (Forward, substitute for Shaw)
The man of the moment, the hero of the hour, the one whose name will still be held in high regard by Luton fans long after he has retired. 26-year-old Rendell has had more clubs than Rory McIlroy, turning out for Crawley Town, Cambridge United, Peterborough United and Torquay United amongst others. This is his first season with Luton and already he is a club legend.
Stuart Fleetwood (Forward, substitute for Gray)
Former Wales Under-21s star Fleetwood has had an incredible career so far. In 2005, he and several other Cardiff City trainees were seriously hurt in a car crash, but Fleetwood managed to continue his career at Hereford United and Forest Green Rovers, and secured a shock FA Cup win with the latter against Rotherham United in 2007. The prolific striker signed for Town in summer 2011 and is their top scorer in the Conference Premier so far this season.

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