Wilkinson: Promotion is a must if Hatters want to compete

Former Luton Town forward Isaac Vassell
Former Luton Town forward Isaac Vassell

Luton Town vice chairman David Wilkinson has admitted that promotion simply must be achieved this season if the club want to keep hold of their star players in the future.

The Hatters saw midfielder Cameron McGeehan leave the club during the summer to head to Championship outfit Barnsley, and he was followed just last week by striker Isaac Vassell, snapped up by Birmingham City.

The financial gap between the divisions is getting wider and because of that it is becoming more difficult to compete.

David Wilkinson

Although Luton have always insisted they are not a selling club, Wilkinson knows they made to make progress up the footballing echelon to ensure that remains the case.

Writing in his programme notes for the clash with Colchester at the weekend, he said: “The importance of promotion cannot be overstated.

“The financial gap between the divisions is getting wider and because of that it is becoming more difficult to compete and, as has been seen in the recent saga over Isaac Vassell, harder to hold on to our better players.

“Not only do Championship clubs receive ten times more than us from the Premier League, but a growing number of them are benefitting from both parachute payments on relegation and wealthy owners risking their fortunes to get on to the Premier League gravy train.

“The inevitable result is that clubs at that level can afford transfer fees and to offer salary packages way beyond what would be sensible in League Two.

“Our philosophy is to find and develop players for the long-term benefit of the club. Hopefully they will grow with us and stay with us, but there will be times when either they will leave us behind or we will leave them behind, and in those circumstances we will seek not to stand in their way or alternatively try to help them find a suitable club.”

Luton had tried their utmost to keep hold of Vassell until it was known a contract wasn’t going to be signed by the former Truro City frontman as Wilkinson admitted it had caused quite a distraction at the club.

He continued: “In the normal course of events the process works. Find a replacement and plan for departure, but sometimes as seems to be the case with Isaac, the player develops more quickly than expected, attracts unwanted attention and results in what can be unwarranted disruption.

“The time and effort absorbed in trying to persuade Isaac to allow the club to complete, as we saw it, his development and, having failed, in finding and negotiating the right deal for him and the club, was quite extraordinary.

“Quite literally months and months of Gary (Sweet), Nathan (Jones) and Mick’s (Harford) time not made easier by having to deal through agents and representatives.

“Some will say, but it’s OK because you got a decent fee and can go and spend it on replacements. The trouble is that just as at the very top, the more you’ve got the more it costs.

“Every time the money from Sky to the Premier League goes up, wages and transfer fees go up. It’s no different here. It’s a vicious circle.

“Our philosophy generally works, but occasionally there will be surprises as there were here.

“We need to limit that by making sure, as best we can, that we are covered where needed.”

However, despite the spiralling finances involved in football these days, Wilkinson insisted that Luton won’t ever put themselves in trouble again, as he added: “We have continued to invest in youth development and bringing in young players, which provides part of the answer, but only so long as we have some say in when and where they move.

“We are part of the modern game and the higher we are up the pyramid the safer we will be, but not at the cost of our principles.”