FEATURE: Not many Luton Town players will ever be like Super Danny Hylton

The Luton News pays tribute to the popular striker who ended his six year stint at Kenilworth Road this week

By Mike Simmonds
Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 2:08 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd June 2022, 4:09 pm
Danny Hylton celebrates scoring the winner against Derby County this season
Danny Hylton celebrates scoring the winner against Derby County this season

Not many players would be clapped off having been sent off for throwing a litter picker in the linesman’s direction.

Not many players would be applauded from the field when getting conveniently dismissed to be available for a play-off semi-final, or in a dead rubber with their team already promoted.

Not many players would get booked for knee-sliding a goalkeeper after a team-mate has lobbed them to score from inside his own half.

Not many players can wind up an opposition team, management staff and an entire stadium too.

But then not many players are like Super Danny Hylton.

The word legend is bandied around far too easily these days, but not for Hylton, who is deserving of the tag for his six years of service at Kenilworth Road.

Stats of 62 goals, the 18th most in the club’s lengthy history, 170 appearances, 42 yellow cards and five red ones don’t really tell the full story of his time in Bedfordshire.

Signed by Nathan Jones on a free transfer from Oxford United in the summer of 2016, there was the feeling that the Town chief had finally landed the kind of forward that Luton had been missing since they returned to the Football League, unable to ever really replace Andre Gray.

A different player of course, Hylton was that leader of the line, an instant fans favourite who could do no wrong, and an absolute nuisance to opposition players, just ask Mansfield stopper Jake Keen, who couldn’t resist tripping him following a successful Panenka penalty by the Town forward, or referees for that matter.

His pantomime villain antics would even often infuriate Jones himself, leaving the Town boss tearing his hair out in frustration on the sidelines due to a needless booking, sometimes having to take his star striker off before he got himself sent off.

Yeovil away in his second season was a case in point, hooked before half time, and that with the hosts down to nine men, Luton 3-0 up, an already cautioned Hylton netting twice, but seemingly unable to help himself getting involved in matters he shouldn’t.

Danny Hylton leads the Luton faithful in song after winning promotion

However, such was the fondness that which Jones spoke of his attacker, you always knew he wouldn’t have changed him for the world, as it made the whole package that was Hylton, and Hatters supporters certainly lapped it up.

He could even make a baby famous for a few days for goodness sake too, hugging eight month old Beatrix in front of the Sky cameras when ending a goal drought against Barnet at the Kenny.

There were other gestures too, facetiming a teenage Town follower who had cerebral palsy and idolised Luton’s number nine, even declaring he was better than Lionel Messi, something the striker didn’t necessarily concur with.

On the pitch and in full flight though, there was little better than an on-song Hylton, with his trademark nutmeg bamboozling defenders from the fourth right up to the second tier.

Danny Hylton is substituted against Yeovil Town

Jones time and time again declared he was a Championship striker playing in League Two, and there was no better example of that when Luton went to Newcastle United in the FA Cup back in January 2018.

Trailing 3-0 at the break and looking out of the tie, a Hylton-inspired second 45 minutes saw the forward scare the life out of the Premier League side’s back-line.

Scoring once, he then had a second disallowed for an incredibly dubious offside flag, which still to this day looks wrong, as had the linesman not raised his arm, it would have surely led to a different story.

With Hylton in the side it meant goals though, 50 of them in fact in his first two seasons at Kenilworth Road.

Coming from 90 appearances, it was easily the most prolific time of his career as the Hatters finally gained automatic promotion.

League One offered a slightly tougher scenario, Hylton going almost five months without scoring at one stage, before he finally ended his drought against Rochdale in March.

Danny Hylton celebrates scoring one of his 62 goals for the Hatters

Back to back strikes later that month looked like he was back to his old self, but then came the injury problems that unfortunately blighted the second half of his time at Luton, going off against Doncaster in March 2019, ending his season prematurely.

By the time he was fit, Hatters found themselves in the Championship, although struggling to make sure that would be so come May, finding it increasingly tough going.

When available, the forward just couldn’t get a chance under new manager Graeme Jones though, used sparingly to say the very least, just 24 minutes in fact.

Although he clearly didn't have the manager’s backing, his popularity never waned on the terraces, with strains of his ‘Super Danny Hylton’ song clearly heard just when warming up on the sidelines.

Once Nathan returned and the campaign resumed following its suspension due to Covid, it was a different story entirely.

Back in the reckoning, he played a part in all of the last nine games as Town dramatically stayed up on the final day when beating Blackburn Rovers 3-2.

A new two year deal was to follow that summer, but with no fans the following season due to the pandemic, something that the forward had thrived on to bring the best of him, he couldn’t quite find that second tier goal he so craved, injuries again rearing their head once more.

Just when there were doubts it might never happen for Hylton, with Luton now established and looking at home in their surroundings, the moment finally arrived in September of last year.

Brought on midway through the second half at Bristol City with Luton trailing 1-0, who was it who popped up in added time to tap home Carlos Mendes Gomes’ cross for a equaliser? That’s right. Daniel Thomas Hylton.

True he couldn’t have missed, but the unbridled and genuine joy on Hylton’s face, plus his team-mates, manager and the fans who had made the trip to Ashton Gate was there for all to see, easily one the of stand-out moments of what was a memorable campaign.

Afterwards, Jones declared he couldn’t have been more prouder than if his own daughter had scored, further showing the bond that existed between the two.

Used sparingly as a starter and often playing deeper, but still showing his predatory instincts when getting into the box, Hylton went on to have a purple patch in the new year, netting first at Stoke as Jones won at his former club.

The only thing missing was a goal in front of the Kenilworth Road faithful who had adored him over the years, and had also made some easy money in recent times when betting on him to be booked, usually along with Henri Lansbury, in whatever Championship match he was starting.

That too finally happened, the forward coming on against Derby and this time taking Cameron Jerome's flick in his strike, before angling his shot into the bottom corner for the winner and what was without doubt one of the most popular net-ripplers in recent times

His 62nd and last strike was another excellent finish at Peterborough from Fred Onyedinma’s cross, as despite featuring in both play-off matches with Huddersfield, Hylton couldn't quite win a third promotion in just under six years, Luton going out 2-1 on aggregate.

With his deal up in the summer, there was always a sense of inevitability the time would be right for both club and player to part company.

A number had been sniffing round the forward for the last few seasons, but they were always turned down, Hylton often saying he never wanted to leave Luton, refusing the chance to do so on more than one occasion, as his undoubted affinity with the club and its supporters was there for all to see.

All good things must come to an end though, and on Monday this week, Hylton took to social medial to reveal that time was now, tweeting: “What a journey! What a club!

"If you have been part of my journey over the past 6 years from the bottom of my heart I cannot thank you enough.

"Good luck hatter for life!!!

The outpouring of messages from supporters eager to pick their favourite moment of Hylton’s time at Kenilworth Road, most mentioning that now infamous David Forde celebration, showed just what a high regard he is and no doubt always will be kept in.

Popular with the press too, in the same vein as ex-skipper Alan Sheehan, you always knew you would get an entertaining and honest interview from the striker, especially if he thought a goal has been wrongly taken away from him, and even if that was a consolation in a 3-1 defeat at Peterborough, eager to get the mistake rectified first rather than dwell on the scoreline.

The manner of Jones’ leaving speech showed just how tough a decision it was for him as well, stating: “Danny has been my best-ever signing as a manager and I am going to miss him every single day.

“Every day he came in and trained like a lunatic.

"He was a talisman, the player the fans related to, and it’s the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in allowing him to leave the football club.

"It’s like letting your kid go.

“There will be a gaping hole now Danny Hylton has left, but I thank him for everything he has done for us, and I thank him for just being Danny Hylton every single day.”

As luck may have it, he will get the chance to say his farewells on the pitch earlier than he might have expected, with Town heading to Sixfields for a pre-season friendly next month.

It would be just be typical Hylton to spend however many minutes he is given, winding up his former team-mates, being booked, scoring, and then unfurling a knee-slide right in front of Jones, yet still be applauded off by however many Luton fans are in attendance.

Because not many players are like Super Danny Hylton.

Danny Hylton wheels away after scoring at Stoke this season
Danny Hylton rejoices after finding the net at Newcastle United in the FA Cup