RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Friday, September 1

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: LUTON TOWN FC

{Luton Town securing promotion off a missed penalty by Coventry City at Wembley}

[25-Man Metaphysical Rosters are divined using a football metaphysics methodology where minutes played over the past 100 competitive club matches determines which 25 players constitute the strongest psychic influence over a club’s current psychic trajectory. Intuitive analysis is then added, done in English by an American, but with a decidedly anti-English un-American foundation. Football metaphysics believes in the beautiful game, not the modern corporate spectacle. We have more of a love for Maradona in Mexico than Messi in Miami. One Premier League club is done each month, as it’s the top domestic league in an English-speaking nation (the language we were born with). This is now a solo project again by Raven Mack, but used to be a small group effort, so it bears saying, Rest In Peace Neil.]

Returning to our once a month Premier League metaphysical coverage, after beginning the relaunch with arguably the most prominent current club in Manchester City, it only makes sense to balance that out with the least prominent club currently, in last season’s playoff promotion winner Luton Town FC. They’re run at the end of the Championship season last one was not expected, and them gaining promotion to the Premier League finally was a major piece of metaphysical recovery, as they had been in the First Division of English football throughout the ‘80s, and then were relegated in the final season before the First Division was re-branded as the Premier League in 1992. Their plummet saw them drop all the way to the Conference Premier (5th tier) before beginning their claw back up the footballing pyramid in 2013-14 season. It’s been a constant progression two, with four seasons in League Two, then a single one in League One, before a four season journey back up the Championship standings. That being said, it’s kind of like the football club version of a dude who begins a workout regimen, and becomes obsessive about it, so keeps getting bigger and bigger. In fact, Luton Town quite literally outgrew their clothes, as Kenilworth Road lacked the media facilities required by Premier League bylaws or whatever the fuck, so upon gaining promotion, they had to undergo a massive renovation. Their first home match was postponed because this construction was not done, and pics circulated of Kenilworth Road online, showing how one back wall of the stadium butts up against regular folks junky-looking back yards. But that’s a big part of the beauty of the English football system (and most football leagues worldwide) in that any club can get infused with a money mark who hires the right minds to run things, and have an epic run over the course of a decade that will be remembered for generations.
Unfortunately, another aspect of outgrowing yourself through the tiers is personnel has to be constantly upgraded as well. And in that “ambitious Championship club” phase Luton Town was in, their squad was full of Premier League players on loan, tweeners who might be excellent in Championship but struggle in the Premier League, as well as whatever else they might get their hands on. That has meant that, as Luton Town hopes this isn’t a one-and-done season. The club that wins the playoff route towards promotion has had difficulty remaining in the Premier League historically, although Brentford and Nottingham Forest (the previous two) have both done a good job of surviving that first season, then attempting to establish themselves better that second season. So for Luton Town, this off-season has been a matter of scrabbling together parts enough to try and do just that… survive this first Premier League season in the club’s history. Heading into their home opener at Kenilworth Road though, they’d not gotten a point yet, and been outscored 7 to 1. But you don’t have to be amazing to survive that first season in the Premier League, as Forest showed so clearly last season. All you have to do is not be as bad as three other clubs. The Manchester Cities of the world can shoot for winning the league and going onto continental glory, but for a club like Nottingham Forest last season or Luton Town this one, you’re shooting for a mid-table finish, to get the boys motivated to not finish in the bottom three. That’s all you’re going for. I mean, you don’t say that publicly, because you have to maintain kayfabe and pretend you’re gonna win the Club World Cup in two years time. But realistically, Luton Town is gonna be ecstatic with a 16th place finish this season, and ensure a second one at the top level of English football.
So with all that personnel turnover in mind, here’s the 25 men who have occupied the most minutes on-pitch over the course of their past 100 competitive matches, thus comprising Luton Town’s metaphysical squad hovering over their hopes for this 2023-24 season like both active presences and ghosts that have dissipated off to elsewhere (through August 29, 2023)…

#1: AMARI’I BELL – Bell is Luton’s Jamaican national left back, who has been a Championship/League One tweener of sorts himself through most of his career, initially as a youth product of Birmingham City, and he spent time at Blackburn Rovers in rotation before landing at Luton Town the summer of 2021 and becoming key part of their back line. After over 150 matches in the Championship, Bell finally got a taste of Premier League life this season. He remains part of their survival squad, which is always nice to see, when a few players who scrapped it out with the club over the past few years also get to enjoy a little of that global spotlight. Bell has also become regular player for the Jamaican national team, despite having been born and raised in England, through his grandparents. That’s always gotta be neat to be able to reconnect to where your family is from by going back for matches a few times a year, getting a taste of the Caribbean proper.

#2: TOM LOCKYER – Welsh center back who wears the captain’s armband, and has been with Luton Town now since 2020. His appearances with the squad has grown over each of the past three seasons, until he was a mainstay last season, with 46 appearances across all competitions, and a solid 5 goals too (not bad from a center back). Despite still only being 28, has that classic dirt dog Welsh look of an eternal 40-year-old. Also famously got stretchered off in the early stages of their playoff final against Coventry City at Wembley Stadium a few months ago, to where nobody knew if he was okay or what. When Luton Town won the penalty shootout, fellow players paraded around with Lockyer’s jersey. The club didn’t even know if dude was okay, so manager Rob Edwards was low-key in post-match interviews, happy they won but not wanting to be too happy because they didn’t know Lockyer’s health status. He had a fibrillation of the heart, and was cleared to return to football, renewed his contract with Luton Town, and is the heart (no pun intended) of their defense.

#3: ELIJAH ADEBAYO – English-born striker of Nigerian descent, who had been contracted to Fulham for many years, but never catching on there. He played for Walsall and dominated League Two for two seasons, which led to Luton Town bringing him on board at the very end of the winter transfer window in 2021. He’s been a solid contributor for The Hatters throughout his time, with 28 goals at the Championship level the past two-and-a-half seasons.

#4: ETHAN HORVATH – Horvath continues America’s one solid tradition in English football… being a GK. He was born and raised in the US, but has made his professional career in Europe, in Norway and Belgium, and actually has a Hungarian passport through his father. He’s been the secondary GK for Nottingham Forest the past few years, occupying a double US GK set-up this season behind Matt Turner. But last season, he got a season-long loan spell with Luton Town, and was instrumental in their run, playing in 51 matches and getting 20 clean sheets. At 28, at this point he’s sort of settled into that role of secondary GK (which itself is a very certain mindset and metaphysical squad necessity). Luton Town had the option to sign Horvath after the loan, and chose not to, I guess agreeing with Nottingham Forest that Horvath wasn’t quite ready to play in the Premier League. And yet, all they did otherwise was poach Thomas Kaminshi from Blackburn Rovers, who has never had any Premier League experience before this season himself.

#5: ALLAN CAMPBELL – Campbell was a midfielder and Scottish international who played regularly for The Hatters the past two seasons, but was deemed perhaps not Premier League ready, and has been loaned to Millwall for the entirety of this season, which is a tight “hedge your bets” move for a lowly Premier League newbie, who might want ol’ boy back next season if they get immediately knocked back down to the second tier.

#6: CARLTON MORRIS – Another Championship/League One tweener caliber player, who was on Norwich City’s squad for two Premier League seasons previously, but never got a minute at that level. He has, however, scored Luton’s only goal in their first two matches upon returning to the Premier League. He’s been a workhorse for them this past season, and is expected to continue to carry a load, at a higher level than he’s ever done in his career thus far.

#7: JORDAN CLARK – English midfielder that has three eras to his career thus far. The first was contracted to Barnsley but not good enough for the Championship, so loaned out every year. Then he had a League Two/League One period of kicking people’s asses, both for Shrewsbury Town and Accrington Stanley. That landed him a transfer to Luton Town in the summer of 2020, and he’s been a steady contributor in those second tier years, despite never being the same dominant force he was at lower levels (understandably). The jump to the Premier League is likely to be a tough one for him, but he’ll get his minutes, and his shot at proving himself worthy at the age of 29.

#8: PELLY RUDDOCK MPANZU – Being fascinated with African football in general has led me to a particular fascination with DR Congolese players, because that country is so chaotically large, along a giant river, and features a continental powerhouse in TP Mazembe. Like DR Congo itself has the eastern affluent part towards the end of the Congo River at Kinshasa, which has pretty incredible musical history as well. But DR Congo is HUGE, and TP Mazembe is actually in Lubumbashi, pretty much right in the middle of Africa’s dangling appendage half, in the southeastern part of DR Congo, near Zambia. Mineral money there has created wealthy oligarchs, and one of them has channeled that money into creating a continentally dominant club. Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu has nothing to do with that, and in fact like most DR Congolese players seen in Europe, was born and raised far away from Africa, the result of so much displacement due to the political instability of the behemoth nation. Many of these guys flow through Belgium, which had been the colonial master of DR Congo historically, but Mpanzu was born in the Greater London area, and spent some time in his early adult years signed with West Ham. He only got one appearance in three seasons, thus was sold off to Luton Town when they were in the 5th tier of English football, back in November of 2013, on loan at first, but with the move being made permanent. And Mpanzu has remained with the club ever since, part and parcel of their climb from the Conference Premier, up through Leagues Two and One, and featuring prominently for them throughout their four-season stint in the Championship. Thus his appearances in the Premier League already for The Hatters are personal triumph as well, almost a decade after West Ham deemed him not good enough to play at that level. A bit injury-prone at times, but when he’s fit, he’s got that high-energy style from end-to-end that helps a lowly club over achieve, because that type of energy is infectious. Definite catalyst and good piece of Luton Town’s soul at this point, even if he’s too non-English (despite having lived his entire life in England) to wear the captain’s armband.

#9: ALFIE DOUGHTY – I’m a big fan of all dudes named Alfie to be honest. That’s perhaps a common nickname in the UK, but you don’t see no Alfies in America, thus it conjures up certain stereotypes of fun-loving shitheads. Doughty is a midfielder, and metaphysically speaking, you’d much rather have your fun-loving shitheads be on defense, or a defensive midfielder. Doughty is only 23, and he’s gotten smatterings of Championship experience the past few seasons, but has yet to become an every match player, much less somebody who looks Premier League-ready. Nonetheless, always good to have an Alfie male on the squad.

#10: JAMES BREE – Right back who’d been key member of their defense for nearly three seasons, but Southampton came and scooped him up last winter transfer window, as part of their hopes of surviving relegation. The Saints and Bree got the drop, and The Hatters were promoted, so Bree remains in the Championship, where he’ll likely cross 200 appearances in that second tier this season.

#11: GABRIEL OSHO – Young defender who gets regular time but isn’t an every match starter, by any means. Will likely be fighting even more for playing time, although at only 25, there’s still time for a potential breakout.

#12: REECE BURKE – As a youngster, Reece Burke was a West Ham youth academy hopeful, who actually got 5 appearances in the Premier League for the Hammers way back in 2014-15. Then began his wander through League One and Championship, where he firmly established himself as too good for League One, but rotational in the Championship. He started their match at Chelsea, thus getting his sixth Premier League appearance, with over 8 years between numbers 5 and 6. Also a plus that one of Luton Town’s big acquisitions for this season (and who won’t make this list because he’s only been there for a couple matches) is Ross Barkley, and Reece Burke/Ross Barkley have a nice phonetic combo to make things difficult for drunken supporters to explain what exactly had happened to cost Luton Town a match as the season goes on.

#13: MARVELOUS NAKAMBA – I’m a big fan of African names like Marvelous. I’m also a big fan of players who are African-born and make their way to the Premier League in a roundabout journey that takes them through their home continent, not European-born African heritage players who are put in major club academies early on. African football is beautifully chaotic, both at club and national team levels, and it’s one of my great joys to watch. Nakamba made the jump to France at 18, so he didn’t have long as a professional in Zimbabwe, but he spent time on Bantu Rovers before going to Europe. He’d already been in the Premier League, having been on Aston Villa’s squad beginning in 2019, and with 68 appearances for them across all competitions. Last season, he had become expendable, and was loaned to Luton Town, who did sign him on a permanent deal this past July.

#14: DAN POTTS – Dan Potts is the son of former West Ham captain Steve Potts, and thus was a West Ham youth product, and spent the first part of his professional career with The Hammers, but never could catch on. In 2015, he was sold to Luton Town, when they were still in League Two, and he’s been part of their squad ever since, also being along for the ride through the English football pyramid. It’s hard not to be happy for dudes like that, especially a guy like Potts, who probably had all this outsized pressure on him to be as great as his father. You have to assume this home opener at Kenilworth Road hosting The Hammers is gonna mean more to him than most everybody else out there.

#15: CODY DRAMEH – Young fullback owned by Leeds United who didn’t get much playing time on the senior squad, so has been getting loaned out to Championship squads, to Cardiff City two seasons ago and then to Luton Town this season. Somehow, even with Leeds United getting relegated, he’s still not good enough, because they loaned him out this season to Birmingham City rather than have him be part of their effort to regain promotion.

#16: SONNY BRADLEY – Grizzled old vet of the lower professional tiers, who fell out of starting favor as Luton Town’s trajectory got higher, though he came onto the squad in their League One days. Deemed expendable after promotion, he signed on with Derby County as part of their hopes of escaping League One wilderness and getting back to the second tier. Wayne Rooney did a real good job there. Luckily for me, he’s doing just as bad as manager for DC United here in America, where his name value will allow him to suck for a long time before getting sacked. Kinda telling he’s already managing in the US instead of toughing it out in League One with his childhood love Derby County. God I hate a Wayne Rooney.

#17: HARRY CORNICK – Not the famous light jazz musician, and in fact, not even with Luton Town anymore. After a long stint with the club, with 235 appearances across all competitions (and three tiers of English football), Cornick moved to Bristol City this past January, thus remains firmly entrenched in that English Championship existence. Also strange personal link, as I played Havant & Waterlooville in my FM2015 game a lot over the years, and Cornick was actually on that squad. He was only on loan, and would get really mad that I’d brought in all these other high profile players to replace him, so stupid ass AFC Bournemouth would recall him.

#18: FRED ONYEDINMA – High-speed Nigerian winger/forward whose toiled amongst various Championship clubs over the years, with both Millwall and Wycombe Wanderers at that level before joining Luton Town in 2021. Luton Town was a harder squad for him to find playing time on than Wycombe, and that became even more apparent last season, where he struggled to find minutes. Thus, with promotion to the Premier League, he too has been loaned back to the Championship, playing for Rotherham United this season, but with the open-ended possibility of coming back to Luton Town should they suffer the immediate drop back down.

#19: CAULEY WOODROW – Having football culturally really changes the opportunities of people. If you’d been born “Cauley Woodrow” in America, he’d have to be a lacrosse player at a private school, and if he’s lucky, get a Division III lacrosse scholarship somewhere where he’d rush a frat, live it up for four years in some small town college, then move into working in his dad’s insurance agency. But with the presence of footballing culture in England, this particular IRL Cauley Woodrow likely barely even had to pretend at school. He’s another one with previous Premier League experience, having been a squad member of Fulham from 2011-19, as they bounced up and down (as Fulham does), getting 6 appearances in 2013-14, including a singular goal in their match against Crystal Palace in May of 2014.

#20: LUKE BERRY – Berry has been a sporadic sub off the bench for Luton Town for a number of years, and has navigated four tiers of English football with the club. Thus, you kinda gotta love a dude like this finally getting Premier League minutes, as Berry has this season already. One of The Hatters longest-tenured players as well.

#21: KAL NAISMITH – Naismith had been a utility defender for The Hatters, who could play on either side of the defense, and in 18 months, accumulated 69 appearances across all competitions. He moved to Bristol City before last season, but the immensity of his minutes before that means he still shows up on this list, even after having been gone an entire year. That’s how the metaphysical list works. You put in an incredible amount of time on a club, and it takes a while for all that work to be cleansed from the club’s psyche.

#22: HENRI LANSBURY – Lansbury spent the past two seasons as a Luton Town midfielder who previously had 13 Premier League appearances under his belt (3 with Arsenal in his younger days, then 10 while with Aston Villa in 2019-20). He played sporadically last season, and officially retired a few weeks ago.

#23: LUKE FREEMAN – A former wonderkid who, while with Gillingham, became the youngest player to ever play in an FA Cup tie, subbing on at 15 years and 233 days. Got scooped up by Arsenal after that notable moment, but never once got an appearance for the Gunners, and has wandered the top three tiers of English football, mostly in the Championship, for the past 12 seasons. He did get 11 Premier League appearances while with Sheffield United in 2019-20. After being released by the Blades in summer of 2022, he spent last season pitching in for Luton Town, mostly as substitute on attack.

#24: CAMERON JEROME – You talk about grizzled vets of English football? Jerome is now 37, and outside of a stint in the Turkish Super Lig with Goztepe, has spent all of it England, on a multitude of clubs. In fact, age contributed to his time at Luton Town ending, as in January of this year, he felt all the traveling from his home in the north-west of England tiring, so they ended his contract on mutual consent, and he signed with League One’s Bolton Wanderers. He had appearances on the England U21 team from 2005 through 2008, but agreed to represent Grenada in October of last year (which probably added to his travel fatigue). Still with Bolton in League One this season, he’s got well over 300 Championship appearances, and over 200 Premier League appearances. One of those old ass strikers who just can’t quite give it up, and has seen it all in English football.

#25: JAMES SHEA – Shea seems to be Luton Town’s eternal back-up GK, whose been with them since their League Two days. He played a prominent role in their single League One season, and has sporadically had spells as their number one in the Championship years. He’s still holding down a spot on the squad, and wears their #1 jersey still.

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