Ex-Hatter Chris Coyne felt Luton could have reached the Premier League

Former Luton defender Chris CoyneFormer Luton defender Chris Coyne
Former Luton defender Chris Coyne
Defender thought Town could have pushed on after promotion to the Championship

Former Luton defender Chris Coyne felt that the Hatters could have gone close to winning promotion to the Premier League during his time at Kenilworth Road had the squad not been broken up as a result of the club going into administration.

The Aussie centre half, who joined Town in 2001 from Dundee, was part of a hugely successful Luton side who won the League One title back on April 23, 2005, as they defeated Wrexham 2-1, Coyne netting the winner.

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They then lifted the championship after beating Brentford 4-2 at Kenilworth Road 15 years ago today, courtesy of goals from Ahmet Brkovic, Kevin Nicholls, Enoch Showunmi and Steve Robinson.

The following season saw Luton finish a hugely creditable 10th in the Championship, but just three years later, with a number of players sold and points deductions handed out by the FA, the Hatters had plummeted down to the Conference.

Coyne said: “When the financial things that happened for various reasons, that’s when we started losing that group.

“Curtis (Davies) left, Stevie Howard left, Viney (Rowan Vine) left, and I don’t blame them, but I don’t think it was the players fault though.

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“I just think the club were in such a pickle financially, they had to cash in and do what they could do.

“But if we kept that group together, then I think we would have gone close to pushing on, that’s my opinion.

“I honestly think if we kept that group together, Markus Heikkinen came in, Carlos Edwards was in there, we’re talking top, top quality players.

“It was a great group just to be a part of, but these things happen for a reason and it is what it is.”

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Town had reached the Championship after a stunning campaign in League One, romping to the title, as they finished 12 points above nearest rivals Hull City.

The Hatters hadn’t even been that highly fancied during pre-season, but Coyne felt the squad all hit form just at the right time.

He continued: “When you see some of the money that other clubs spent, the players they brought in, we would definitely have been looking at eighth or ninth again, like we had the year before.

“But then Kevin Foley was coming into his own, Curtis came into his own, we got Rowan Vine and people like that who were hitting their straps and getting into form.

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“Sol Davis was immense as well, so I think the knock on effect when we had brought in that young, hungry group and once we got Curtis and a few of the younger boys coming through, it gave us that energy.

“Whether it was Joe Kinner as manager and Mick Harford, or Newelly (Mike Newell) and Mick Harford, I just think the culture of the club was sound.

“Everyone from the office staff to the whole way through the club was pulling in the right direction.

“We had respect with each other, we went through some tough times as well with the admin, but I think that galvanised us and made us appreciate each other and appreciate what we were doing.”

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Coyne himself played 40 times as Town reached the summit that term, part of a solid back-line which started the majority of matches.

He said: “By that point I had built up a bit of experience, it was a few campaigns in for me at the club.

“Then Sol has earned his stripes, we had got the two whippersnappers in Curt and Kev, they were tremendous players, their careers speak volumes.

"You chuck the weirdo in, Marlon (Beresford), he was superb, his experience was second to none.

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“So a lot of credit has got to go to the coaching staff as well, Marv Johnson, people that brought them through the club, to identify those younger boys and get them through, because they slotted in straight away.

“We had no weak links, that was probably the biggest thing, all over the pitch we were just a strong, strong outfit, we could fight but we could play football as well.”

Asked at which stage in the season did he think promotion was on the cards, Coyne said: “There was so many great games that year, but we were just consistently good.

“Over the Christmas, new year period, we knew at that point.

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“We didn’t say it to each other, but I think we knew, when we came through that crazy time.”

At the helm for the Hatters that season was Newell, who had almost four years in the hot seat at Kenilworth Road and was a manager Coyne had huge respect for.

He added: “Mike Newell was a legend, I absolutely loved playing for him.

“Just the way he went about it, the way he coached the boys.

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“Newelly was great because he said ‘there’s a piece of rope, go and hang yourselves with it.’

“He gave you the respect, as long as you showed the club and his coaching staff, your team-mates respect, he let you crack on and get on with.

“So if that meant having a day off now and again, or saying, ‘we’re knackered,’ and he would go ‘yes.’

"Then he’d come in and you’d think you were having the day off and he’d run the socks off you, but his man management, the way he went about it was superb.”