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Club News

Conference champions 10 years on | Alex Lawless

28 September 2023

Club News

Conference champions 10 years on | Alex Lawless

28 September 2023

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Non-league to Premier League in the space of a decade?

Yeahthat’s us. We’re proud of our story since 1885 but the past ten years have been special. 

This season we’re celebrating the first of our four promotions with the first – and probably most important – one: the 2013/14 season when, ten years ago, a team led by a lovable London boy got back to the Football League. 

In this series we talk to those heroes who made it all happen and first up is midfielder Alex Lawless. 

MAIN PHOTO P1144 Alex Lawless is about to score the third.jpg

After a broken hand – yes we had to ask – not one but two consecutive play-off final defeats (yes that too) and being the target of supporters’ frustration, you could have excused Alex Lawless for throwing in the towel after a succession of set-backs in his Luton Town career. 

Yet, as we know, the Welshman is not a man to give up easily. After winning Player of the Year in 2012/13, all of those disappointments and frustrations of the past were soon forgotten as the Town stormed to the title and returned to the Football League with Lawless at the heart of it. 

“There were a lot of things that just happened,” he says, looking back at his time with us philosophically. “But the ups and downs just made me want to succeed more, it never once put me off. No matter what happened in the hard times I never let my head drop or give up in training. 

“Even when there’s that feeling that the fans don’t want you and the confidence is down, you just try to get your head down and overcome it and that’s what happened. 

“I felt the season before we won the league I was on a good trajectory; I was player of the year and played well even though the team wasn’t getting the right results. At the start of the season I knew John Still wanted me, and that gave me confidence. Plus the fans were showing me more love, so it kind of snowballed and it became everything I ever wanted from the beginning. 

“Winning promotion – and not through the play-offs – came at a time when everything came together. I lived in the town with my wife, and she lived through these times with me too. 

“So when we went up it was the justification of why we came down to Luton, why we moved, because I’d come here to win the league with Luton. After all we went through, it was just perfect.” 

The season itself only took off after a 2-0 defeat at Wrexham had seen the Town win just twice in their opening eight games. 

It would be a 3-0 win over Dartford, on Lawless’ first start of the campaign, which would kick-start a run that would all but crown promotion and our long-awaited return to the Football League. 

“We didn’t start great but I remember pre-season being really good. The fact we didn’t have an extended season the year before with no play-offs, was probably a blessing in disguise in some weird way.  

“It was all perfect timing. With John Still, and the players we brought in, we had come from a low point in the club’s history and John brought everything together. Even though we didn’t start well we knew amongst the squad that we had the opportunity to have a great season and once we started winning there was no looking back.” 

That unbeaten run was almost ended by Dartford at Princes Park in April 2014. 1-0 down with 10 minutes left the Town turned things around late on thanks to goals from Andre Gray and a certain Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu. 

And it’s that win that sticks out more than anything for Lawless as the three points further cemented their place at the top of the table with time – and games – running out for Town’s rivals. 

“For me that’s a game that really stands out. It was a stage of the season where everyone wanted to beat us, especially at their place, but it was a really tough game and it wasn’t going great.  

“It epitomised that season – everyone remembers us blitzing teams 6-0 or 7-0 and dominating teams but it was games like this, where we’d grind out a win, which were massive and it felt massive on the pitch. There was this huge relief and for Pelly to be involved in that and to still be doing what he’s doing now, it’s just golden. 

“By that stage you’re in the mode where you don’t' feel like you’re going to lose, and the opposition feel as though they won’t beat you – and that kind of snowballs. As a squad we developed relationships in all areas of the pitch, had a stable team and we were able to really find our feet. There was plenty of competition – John Still made sure of that – and everyone was pushing each other. There were lots of factors behind our success but the momentum we got just kept us going. 

“Of course the dressing room was really strong and full of great characters, strong characters – arguably the strongest dressing room I’d witnessed. If one of two players were down or lacking confidence, there was always someone there to lift someone else and that was constant. And if it wasn’t a player, then it would be John or the coaching staff, they were fabulous.” 

P1144 Alex Lawless surveying the pitch.jpg

They say a week’s a long time in football yet for the Town the past decade has flown by. Lawless, now 38 and lead coach for the Under-18s, realises how far the club has come in such a short space of time. 

“In the world of football you just don’t see this kind of thing happening. But in terms of the people at the club and what they want then I’m not surprised. I was as excited as anyone, especially watching us now on Match of the Day. 

“Now, when it comes to my pathway, I always knew I wanted to go into coaching and never wanted to leave the club. For that to come to fruition, especially at a time when there’s such a great vibe at the club, and to have a boss who I respected so much as a teammate in Paul Benson, it’s dreamland.”  


Alex Lawless was signed from York City, initially on-loan in 2010 and went onto make 203 appearances for the Hatters, scoring 22 goals. After spells with Yeovil, Leyton Orient and Ebbsfleet, he returned to Kenilworth Road as Assistant Professional Development Phase Coach last year before taking over control as Lead Under-18s Coach this summer. 

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