Operation Premier League is a go at Luton Town, but do not expect them to follow in the footsteps of last year’s most romantic promotion story Nottingham Forest this summer – in fact, they’ll go one better.
“Neymar’s available, isn’t he?” joked Luton boss Rob Edwards, adding that with increased inebriation at their celebrations on Saturday, “I might start asking for stupid things”.
“I think there’s been there’s obviously been a lot of work going on. I’ve not really allowed myself to focus on the Premier League targets,” he added.
“We’re not going to go wild. We want to make sure that we are sustainable, and that’s important to us.
“We’re never going into those dark times that we’ve had in the recent past, so we’ve got to be sensible. We’ve got to plan really quickly and plan for what is going to be a hell of a challenge.”
The size of the task is not lost on Edwards, with Luton back in the top tier for the first time in 31 years – and while the windfall that comes with promotion will aid their cause, there is the potential to be savvy in the transfer market if the Hatters look in the right places.
Make loans permanent
Loan deals are so often the difference for clubs either chasing promotion to or looking to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
And Luton certainly benefited from the arrivals of Cody Drameh and Marvelous Nakamba in the second half of the 2022-23 campaign.
Drameh joined on loan from Leeds, Nakamba from Aston Villa, with the pair slotting straight into Edwards’ starting XI. Drameh was an ideal replacement for James Bree, who left Luton for Southampton in January – a £750k move which backfired after just three starts and relegation with the Saints.
Reports suggest Luton are eager to sign Drameh permanently, although Burnley could rival them for the right-back’s signature. The Yorkshire Evening Post also claims the player is open to staying at Leeds.
Meanwhile, Nakamba is likely to depart Villa this summer with his contract expiring next year, and at the promotion party in Luton on Monday he gave a one-word answer that prompted cheers from their supporters: “Hopefully.”
Nakamba then told Birmingham Live later on Monday: “Only God knows the future, hopefully it’s for the best. I still have a contract there [at Villa], I will just see. Now is the time to celebrate, but I will wait for the phone call, or an email, from my agent or from Aston Villa.
“Wherever I am next season, God only knows, but I will just keep doing my best.”
Tempt relegated and Championship players
Carlton Morris’ 20 Championship goals were crucial to Luton’s promotion, and they could turn to another striker with impressive numbers in the second tier as they look to bolster their squad.
Joel Piroe scored 19 times for Swansea last season, but with one year remaining on his contract, head coach Russell Martin admitted the club may have to sell the 23-year-old.
“I’m sure there will be [clubs looking at him]. Well, I know there is,” said Martin. “If it was down to me [Piroe’s contract] would have been sorted a long time ago, but it’s not.
“While it’s frustrating that you may end up losing players of Joel’s ilk… we have to accept that may be a possibility.”
Luton may well look to Leicester, Leeds and Southampton for players eager to remain in the Premier League.
Competing for players the calibre of James Maddison, James Ward-Prowse and Rodrigo is arguably beyond Luton, but more realistic options could include Leicester’s Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall.
The 24-year-old spent the 2020-21 season on loan at Luton, making 40 appearances, and the central midfielder could fancy a return – particularly if Leicester are looking to sell to recoup funds this summer.
Attract free agents
They may not replicate them financially, but Luton could well look to last year’s play-off winners Nottingham Forest for players given Steve Cooper’s squad will certainly need trimming this summer.
Forest ended up signing 30 players in 2022-23, a gamble which ultimately paid off, and the last to arrive was Andre Ayew in February, the striker joining as a free agent until the end of the season.
The 33-year-old barely featured for Forest, though, racking up just 305 Premier League minutes with one start and 12 appearances off the bench. Given he is a free agent once more, his track record in the top tier could help Luton up front – albeit as a back-up option.
More than 70 Premier League players are listed as free agents come July and there are certainly some names that could appeal to Luton beyond Forest, where Jesse Lingard and Serge Aurier are also out of contract.
Fulham’s Shane Duffy has been linked with Norwich but could replace Luton’s outgoing captain Sonny Bradley at centre-back, while Manchester United’s Phil Jones, Crystal Palace’s James Tomkins and West Ham’s Angelo Ogbonna are other defenders that can be snapped up for free this summer.
Wages could of course prove an obstacle, particularly in the case of high-profile players like Jones, who ends his 12-year association at United this summer in search of regular football.
Far-fetched or not, the potential is there to strengthen without spending millions, and you can expect more concrete names to surface in the coming weeks.