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15 May 2013

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Midfielder's promotion dream after penning new deal

In November 2010 Alex Lawless became a Luton Town player. In his first interview in front of the Hatters Players camera the midfielder spoke of his ambition to help the Hatters win promotion back to the Football League.

They say time flies when you’re having fun. But for Lawless, fast forward two-and-half-years and the script hasn’t gone quite to plan. 

Two successive heartbreaking play-off final defeats hasn’t helped. Neither was last summer’s period of uncertainty when the Welshman considered his future at Kenilworth Road.

So why did the Player of the Year decide to stay in the Conference? The answer is simple enough: “I came here to get promoted,” says Lawless. “I have a burning desire to get promoted with this club.” Admit it, that sounds good to hear, doesn’t it?

It’s not just the potential of winning the Football Conference in 2013/14 that interests the former Fulham trainee, though.

Impressed with new manager John Still’s philosophy, Lawless believes there’s no reason why the Hatters cannot return to those halcyon Football League days.

“Since I’ve been at this club there’s been a determination about the place to get back into the League and go onwards and upwards from there,” he says. “As I grew up as a boy and a young footballer I was aware of the history and tradition of Luton Town. 

“We were once a club riding high in the top two divisions, and with the fanbase and players and management we’ve got in place I certainly think we can get back there.

“It’s unfortunate that in the past four seasons promotion hasn’t been achieved but this time I can see it – I can feel it – I’m hugely positive about next season and beyond. Over the years I’ve come to feel a part of this club and I want to help it get promoted.”

Disappointments had dogged Lawless’ time at Kenilworth Road prior to what he admits was his best campaign as Luton player in the season just gone.

A penalty miss in the shootout in the play-off final against AFC Wimbledon at Manchester in his first season was followed by an incident at his former club York that saw him fracture a broken hand in 2011/12.

This time last year he even could have been out of the door completely had a clause in his contract not triggered an automatic one-year extension. It came at a time when he the 28-year-old was questioning his decision to head to Bedfordshire in the first place.

But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – and Lawless battled through the problems to enjoy a fine season in the Town midfield, scoring five goals, including crucial strikes against Wolves in the FA Cup and a goal-of-the-season contender against Nuneaton.

“The 2011/12 was definitely the hardest time of my career,” admits Lawless. “To be at such a big club and for it not to be going right was not nice. It didn’t make me feel good when people had a different opinion of you.

“I believed that I could change people’s opinions and I’m proud that I was able to do that this season. That in itself has brought my confidence to a new level. I’ve broken that particular barrier and from a personal point of view it was nice to prove myself right because I knew I could overcome the negativity.

“Everyone has ups and downs in football. We endured the extreme low of losing in two play-off finals and, after this season’s failure to make the play-offs, it makes you realise how hard you have to work if you want to be successful.

“The confidence I’ve taken from this last season, despite the fact we finished way below expectations, will only help me further my potential because I feel I’ve got a lot more to give.

“We’ve had a few years of disappointments but now I think it’s the time for celebrations.”

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