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Club News

Conference champions 10 years on | Mark Tyler

5 January 2024

Club News

Conference champions 10 years on | Mark Tyler

5 January 2024

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

Yeah, that’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.

Watch past episodes:

Alex Lawless | Paul Benson | Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu | Scott Griffiths |
Jake Howells | Matt Robinson


“I’m not being horrible,” Mark Tyler says, honestly, seriously, “but I didn’t want to come the season the club had points deductions.”

To be fair, who could blame him? The Hatters, unjustly on their way out of the league, were not the most appetising of propositions in the summer of 2008.

However, a year passed. Still out of favour at boyhood club Peterborough – where he was given his debut by a certain John Still at the age of 17 – the lure of Luton was eventually too hard to turn down once Mick Harford (there’s a legendary theme here already) picked up the phone again 12 months later.

It was at that point that the love affair started. 297 appearances across the best part of seven years and, in 2013/14, that success that everybody connected with the club craved: promotion back to Football League.

As we all know, from the point Tyler signed to finally achieving that aim… took a little time, let’s say. There were highs, lows, missed penalties and offside goals. Life for the goalkeeper at Kenilworth Road was never straightforward.

“I’d always been a number one and that’s the main reason why I came to Luton,” says Tyler, who left Peterborough as goalkeeping coach this summer and is now helping a friend’s landscape gardening business. It’s the first time in 30 years he’s had his weekends free. “It’s nice,” he says.

“Yes, Luton were in the Conference,” he continues. “But they were a big club in that league, and we expected to come straight back up that year. The squad we had was a great one and we underachieved.

“The main reason now for joining was the atmosphere, though. Playing at the Kenny most weeks in front of the crowd was amazing. The crowd were right on top of you, it was a small pitch, as an away player it was always noisy for just 10,000; it was intimidating, it was the main reason for joining to experience that as a home player.

“I expected us to go up with the squad we had, but football’s a funny old game. We were a big fish in that league and everyone wanted to beat us. The York semi-final in that first season was a killer.”

P1144 Alex Lawless looks to start an attacking move_0.jpg

The next two seasons saw the Town suffer back-to-back heartache in the finals, losing firstly to AFC Wimbledon and then to old foes York again.

However, despite the agony. Tyler wasn’t going anywhere.

“The Wimbledon final was frustrating because we played them three times and didn’t concede a goal. We had chances in the game and we played okay. But it was gut-wrenching. We took a lot of fans, as always, but I didn’t watch them lift the trophy, I was straight into the dressing room. I was like ‘get me out of here’.

“I still wanted to be there, I wanted to get Luton back into the Football League.

“As for York… This is where you need VAR! It was such a clear offside. I think for games like this, for such a big game, you should have a Football League referee. It was annoying because we started so well. Andre scored after three minutes and they scored a good goal. I don’t know what they couldn’t see it. He was four yards in front of me. We all went to the linesman but he said, ‘no, it’s onside’. But that’s football – you have to deal with these situations.

“But I absolutely had no intention of leaving after that. The great thing about that game was coming out of the tunnel, it was a sea of orange, the fans were unreal. It was heartbreaking to lose again but the 30,000 fans were immense… why would you want to leave?

“I always played with my heart on my sleeve. I’m not big headed with what I’ve done in my career. Yes, I’ve had some good games, I don’t boast. My job was to keep the ball out the net. I had seven great years and wouldn’t change it for the world. I probably played my best football there, I loved it.”

P1120 Mark Tyler makes a vital save during the second half.jpg

The 2012/13 season saw the Hatters record their worst-ever finish in non-league, however, for Tyler the history-making victory over Norwich will live long in the memory with his family and friends there to witness the 1-0 win.

Manager Paul Buckle’s tenure would come to an end only a few months after that epic triumph, and it would be that man Still who would pick up the reins. It was an appointment that would go on to become a significant part of turning around the club’s fortunes.

“John gave me my debut at Peterborough; he’d won the Conference so many times, he knew how to do it,” says. “Fans perhaps didn’t like his style early on, but it was effective. Andre Gray didn’t start the first 10 games but still got 30 goals. It was an incredible season. We knew we were going to win every game, and never looked like losing.

P1120 Mark Tyler watches through a crowd of players.jpg

“The stand out for me was Hereford away, we drew 0-0. It wasn’t great, but Andre cleared two off the line. He did his job. It was little things like that. For me it was relaxing, we knew we’d score goals and we knew we could keep clean sheets. Steve McNulty was the best centre-back I’d ever played with. Ronnie Henry, the captain, the Barnet game will always stick out. It was the coldest game ever.

“The thing we were missing in previous seasons was consistency. Once we got on a roll there was no stopping us. John Still did such a good job to get us together as a unit but he gave us the feeling we weren’t going to lose. After the first 15 games we got into our stride, we got on our roll, and taking draws like we did at Hereford, kept us going and believing.”

The Town kept a record 23 clean sheets that season – exactly half of the season – with the

final one coming on the last day of the campaign at Hyde.

“John came to me, Macca and Scotty [Griffiths]. We were the three players that had played every game that season and asked us if we wanted to play in the last one.

“He knew what I was like. I wanted to play last game. Keep a clean sheet and break the record which we did and it was a proud moment.

“But that season was great. I was loving it. Some of the games, I’d come home and Cindy, my wife, would ask ‘how did you get on?’ I was like ‘I didn’t have much to do, but I watched a really nice game of football!’

“Everyone asked me whether or not I enjoyed being busy but it was a pleasure to watch the guys that season – some of the goals we scored were unreal.”

Having played every minute of the season as the Town went up as champions, he played 31 times in the Football League the following campaign but after 27 games in 2015/16, Tyler’s time at Kenilworth Road came to an end.

P1120 Mark Tyler is called into action.jpg

“Unfortunately I got injured in Nathan Jones’ first match in charge and then I knew at that time that Peterborough wanted me back as a player/coach and it was the right decision at the time,” he says

“I didn’t want to keep playing and getting injured. Nathan then took the club to a different level, got them promoted, then he left and Mick took over and now Rob’s come in and done a great job and hopefully everyone will stick together and help the club stay in the Premier League.”

Nine years after being a part of the Town side that won the first, arguably hardest, promotion, Tyler watched on proudly as the Hatters were promoted to the top-flight at Wembley last May.

“I remember watching the play-off final and when Joe Taylor scored, thinking ‘wow’ – then for him to step up in the shootout was brilliant. But I was so pleased for the directors, Gary, David, Mike, they had been through the mill and stuck with it and got their rewards.

“It’s brilliant. It’s great seeing them in the Premier League.

“The greatest news is Pelly. It’s great to see, we knew he had quality, he was too good for each league.

“He got brought down a peg or two when he came in but he’s full of life, he’s an enthusiastic person, a great footballer and he deserves every success and long may it continue.”

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