Ahead of Saturday’s play-off final at Wembley, Town’s leading scorer Carlton Morris admitted it hasn’t come as a surprise to him that Luton have given themselves a golden opportunity at reaching the Premier League this term.
Just under 12 months ago, the 27-year-old was unveiled as the Hatters’ club record signing when joining from League One Barnsley, his fee surpassing the £1.5m that Town paid for Simon Sluga back in August 2019.
Twenty goals later for the striker, and with 46 league games completed, Luton found themselves sitting third in the table, registering 80 points in the Championship, earning a two-legged tie against Sunderland for a place at Wembley.
Having lost in the play-offs last term, this time they saw off the Black Cats 3-2 on aggregate to set up a winner-takes-all contest with the Sky Blues this weekend.
When asked if it was something he always believed could have happened, Morris said: “Yeah, to be honest, because when I signed here I was signing for a Championship play-off club, coming off the back of a successful season.
“I saw no reason why we couldn’t replicate that, especially with the recruitment done here.
“I’m not surprised but I’m still very humble and we’ve got a job to do.”
The fact that Luton made it into the play-offs this season was in no small part down to the goal return from Morris, who became the first Hatters to hit 20 at this level since the legendary Brian Stein managed to do so over 40 years ago.
He continued: “I’m delighted with it.
“There were definitely some times I could’ve taken some more chances, but over the course of the season you take some you shouldn’t and you miss some you should.
“It’s one of those that balances itself out.
“The lads have done a fantastic job of finding me in the right places.”
Before joining Luton, Morris had been struggled for a permanent home at times, as coming through the ranks at Norwich City, he was loaned to Oxford, York, Hamilton, Rotherham, Shrewsbury and then MK Dons, also hit by a serious knee injury which ruled him out of the entire 2018-19 campaign as well.
He finally put down some roots at Barnsley in January 2021, before the Hatters came calling, and on approaching a year in Bedfordshire, reflecting on his career to date, the forward said: “It was very tough, especially for a young pro, but if you want to make it in this game, if that’s your path, that’s what you’ve got to go through.
“There’s different paths for everyone.
“You see young players coming through all the time and getting a chance at their club.
“But there’s a lot of players that you don’t see out on loan, up in Scotland or wherever they may be, applying their craft and trying to go the more traditional route of going through the leagues and trying to improve
“I’ve done quite a good job of finding my home at a lot of places I’ve been.
“I feel the experience I’ve gained over my career has been invaluable.
“I’ve been to a lot of places, moved a lot and as a young pro it’s really tough.
“But it builds you not only as a footballer but as a character and a person.
“I have loved it here though, it does feel like home.”
Having one of his golfing buddies already with Luton made it easy for Morris to settle in too, as he said: “One of my best friends, Harry Cornick was here.
“He took me under his wing, like a lost little dear I was just following him about.
“I was fortunate enough to have him to hold on to here and make me comfortable.
“That helped with the settling in process, I followed tight behind him (in the car) and made sure not to get lost.”
Although he was highly thought of at Carrow Road, where he won the 2013 FA Youth Cup with ex-Hatter Cameron McGeehan, Morris eventually left with only first team appearance to his name, that coming with a late cameo in the Canaries’ 1-0 home defeat to Wigan two years later.
On whether winning promotion would prove a point to his former side, who failed to really threaten the top six this season, he added: “Proving them wrong? I don’t know if I’d use that exactly.
“I’ve become a much better player with age and experience.
“I don’t know if the whole knee situation had anything to do with that but I never did anything spectacular at Norwich which might have given them no choice but to give me that opportunity.
“I’ve still got a lot of fondness for that football club and the way they treated me while I was there.”