Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu’s incredible journey from Non-league to Premier League
The midfielder becomes the first player to get promoted from non-league to Premier League with the same club
In a Conference match at Alfreton in December 2013, Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu earned his debut for Luton Town. At the time, both player and the team were in rough shape.
He had only made one League Cup game for West Ham United at the time when he was just 19 years old, and he was unclear about the direction his career would go.
While all was going on, Luton was playing non-league football in their fifth season after being demoted from the top tier in 1992.
Almost ten years later, the 29-year-old feels like “part of the furniture” at Kenilworth Lane and, after their play-off final victory on penalties at Wembley, was named the first player to progress all through the process from the National League to the Premier League with a single club.
Mpanzu was replaced during the extended period of play against Coventry, but his team still won 6-5 on penalties to clinch a spot in the Premier League.
“I feel like I’ve completed football, I can retire,” he told Sky Sports afterwards. “I’ve been through highs and lows, but you’ve got to believe in yourself and here I am. I’m surprised I’m still here.”
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He said: “I’m a Premier League player. I told you we were going to do it and it’s going to be a party all summer in Luton.”
Mpanzu has made over 360 games for the Hatters since that game in Alfreton, which was seen by 1,279 spectators—84,432 less than the audience at Wembley on Saturday. He has also earned two caps for the DR Congo.
Luton overcame a 2-1 first-leg deficit against Sunderland in large part due to their intensity and self-belief. Mpanzu and midfield partner Marvellous Nakamba did an almost perfect job of protecting their defence as the Wearsiders attempted futile to find a goal to tie the scores in the dying seconds.
At Wembley, where the Hatters had controlled for the whole of the first half and took the lead via Jordan Clark, the same tenacity was required when they were pushed back after the break.