Carlton Morris: Luton are ignoring Premier League table amid points deduction fiasco

Carlton Morris: Luton are ignoring Premier League table amid points deduction fiasco

There are six Premier League games to go for Luton Town. Six “cup finals” according to Carlton Morris and the striker sums up what they mean. For him and the club. They have given themselves a “fighting chance” of staying up and he is determined to grasp it.

“We believe we can do this,” Morris says. “I’ve relished it. It’s just made me hungry for more. I don’t want it to be a one-season wonder. That’s the last thing I want. I want to make sure I come away with zero regrets at the end of my career and that I’ve done everything I can to stay at this level.”

In a classic scenario repeated by so many in the squad, Morris is doing just that.

Last Saturday Morris scored the dramatic 90th-minute winner as Luton came from behind to beat Bournemouth and spark remarkable, emotional celebrations inside Kenilworth Road. “It was wild,” he says, smiling. Those three points became even more important when – two days later – Everton were deducted two more themselves.

Carlton Morris - Carlton Morris: Luton are ignoring Premier League table amid points deduction fiasco
Morris's winner against Bournemouth sparked wild celebrations at Kenilworth Road last week - Getty Images/Justin Tallis

It means Everton have lost eight in total, after two charges of breaching the Premier League’s profit and sustainability rules, with Nottingham Forest having four taken off them.

Luton’s manager Rob Edwards has revealed that he and his squad are still looking at the table without those deductions – even if they mean Luton are now level with Forest and just two behind Everton, as things stand – and Morris confirms that.

“Yes, we do that,” he says. “But I am one of those who just doesn’t look at the table anyway. I didn’t last year [when they were promoted via the Championship play-offs]. Obviously, it catches your eye sometimes but I want to avoid it and just focus on the next game and focus on winning that regardless of who it is because if you haven’t got belief, what have you got?”

Still there must be a temptation, especially after Everton’s latest punishment? “No, no. I like to control the controllables,” Morris insists. “That is out of my hands and even when they are playing I am not fussed; I ignore it. I concentrate on what we’ve got and what’s the next thing we can control as a team.”

Even so there is one aspect of it all that does, understandably, rankle – and that is the ridiculous possibility of Everton’s latest appeal being heard after the season has finished. What if Luton survive on the last day without knowing they might still go down if Everton are awarded points back?

“Exactly,” Morris says. “I find all that stuff a little bit confusing, to be honest. I don’t understand how you can be in a place where you finish the season and you don’t know where you are at. But I think the best thing to do as players is to focus on the next game; focus on taking what we can from that game and have a more pragmatic approach. Because when you start getting caught up in that kind of stuff (points deductions) you end up chasing your tail.”

The drama has added to the emotion of an already extraordinarily charged season at Luton – “we don’t do things too smoothly here at Luton Town!” Morris laughs. “There is no boring day, that’s for sure” – which obviously was at its most heightened during a previous game against Bournemouth on December 16 when Tom Lockyer collapsed on the pitch after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Morris is the central defender’s best friend at Luton and has taken the armband in Lockyer’s absence.

“It’s tough, honestly,” he admits. “I have massive boots fill. Locks [Lockyer] is a close friend of mine. And he was captain and did a brilliant job so he has been sorely missed. For me, it’s been a baptism of fire.

“Being close to Locks and seeing how he acted when he was captain, that helped. I just try and feed off what he did and try and be the best I can be every day.”

Tom Lockyer (left) and Dominic Solanke - Carlton Morris: Luton are ignoring Premier League table amid points deduction fiasco
Tom Lockyer (left), the Luton Town captain, suffered a cardiac arrest during a Premier League match with Bournemouth in December - PA/Steven Paston
Tom Lockyer - Carlton Morris: Luton are ignoring Premier League table amid points deduction fiasco
Players, fans and officials were left in a state of shock before Lockyer was taken off the pitch on a stretcher - Rueters/Toby Melville

Morris admits that no-one, really, has had the opportunity to process what happened with Lockyer technically dead on the pitch for two minutes and 40 seconds and now having recovered after an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator was inserted.

“No, no not fully. Not really,” Morris says. “It was straight back to it, the world keeps turning, sort of thing. I still speak to him all the time. I still see him as much as I can.”

There is a pause. “That was a tough day,” he adds. “He’s in the best place he can be now which fills my heart, to be honest.”

Morris consciously, though, did not push it to one side. “You can compartmentalise, for sure,” he says. “But I think it’s important that you harness that emotion and you distribute it in a good way and you use it as a squad. I remember the gaffer was speaking about taking from Tom his desire, his determination, his grit and using that in our performances.

“And I think we got a real reaction around that time. That was around our best spell of the season in picking up points because we were using it in the right way.”

Morris also spoke.

“We do a talk before every game on the pitch in terms of getting the lads going, rallying cries, and I think the main message around that time was: we will do it for him. He’s a fighter, he’s a warrior. All the lads know what he’s like,” he says.

Luton, of course, know all about points deductions – having been hammered for breaking Football League rules back in 2008. It meant they started that season in League Two on minus 30 points and went down to the Conference.

“But that’s the thing about the football pyramid, isn’t it?” says Morris, who has worked his way up from League Two through eight loan spells before arriving at Luton via Barnsley in 2022.

“That’s the difference with American sports and how they do it. Here you can literally go from the bottom all the way to the top and it’s important being at Luton, knowing the history of the football club, knowing how we have got here, knowing what the fans have been through back in day. Bouncing back when they were deducted points. Down in the Conference. Climbing all the way up the leagues. It’s incredible. And to see a bit of living history here with Pelly [Ruddock Mpanzu], Pottsy [Dan Potts], Bez [Luke Berry] we have seen a lot of that as well. It’s incredible, it really is.”

It really is. Indeed, Berry and Jordan Clark have been among Luton’s scorers in their last two home games and have now scored in all five top divisions, from the Conference up. “That’s just a perfect example, isn’t it? Of what this club and this squad is all about,” Morris states. “So, if you think for a second that we would give up at any point this season then you would be barking up the wrong tree. That’s just not going to happen.”

‘I have climbed the ladder in order – I got here the hard way’

His own journey is also important. Morris started at Norwich City, aged 10, but was sent out to League Two with Oxford United and York City. Then Hamilton Academical in Scotland, Rotherham United (twice), Shrewsbury Town and MK Dons (twice).

“I’ve had quite a traditional career – I have climbed the ladder in order: League Two, League One, Scottish Prem, Champ. I’ve got here the hard way,” he says.

“It was dotted about everywhere but every single bit of that is life experience and I just think that is crucial. Each one (loan) grows you and it proper ‘drip feeds you’ into the men’s game.”

But does he feel he now belongs in the top-flight?

“Yes,” Morris says, emphatically. “Over the last few years I have grown as a person. When I was younger I would struggle a bit more with the mental side of things. Not imposter syndrome but feeling I didn’t belong at times when I was training with the first-team as a kid. As I have grown and matured I have learned to respect myself and my abilities a bit more and that I do belong at this level. That is a genuine belief of mine now … I would say I am at my peak right now and I’d look to maintain that level as long as I can.”

‘As incredible and enjoyable as it is, this is not a free hit’

It would be understandable, given his and Luton’s journey, if there had been some ‘pinch me’ moments this season. But Morris has a healthy perspective.

“In another world I could be playing in League Two and in a completely different situation because there is a lot of luck in football – with injuries, with the right people liking you. So, it’s important to be grateful for the opportunity,” he says.

“But as incredible and enjoyable as it is – and the kid in me loves it – I am a professional athlete. This is not a free hit.

“And we’re a different team now to the one we were at the start of the season. This league demands an incredible amount out of players. It’s one thing that has shocked me coming into it. It demands incredible amount physically; of controlling your emotions; of understanding the game tactically; of staying focused for 100 minutes.

“It can be tough especially at this level when you are chasing around some serious quality – multi, multi million pound players. But I would rather have a go than go out with a whimper. That’s the last thing that we want and I think our fans appreciate that as well.”

Whatever happens, Luton have certainly given it a go. And will give it a go.

“We have had some modern-day classics this season, that’s for sure!” Morris says ahead of facing Manchester City on Saturday. “Arsenal at home, 4-3 [loss], Newcastle away 4-4, that was a cracker! There’s been some good games and I think as a football club – players, staff, fans – we’ve brought something good, something fresh to this division and we are doing everything we can to stay here.”

Importantly, and given his career path, he believes he belongs at this level. As does Luton. “I feel I have competed pretty well. But it’s not enough for me to do that for one season. I want to stay here with this club,” Morris reiterates.

“Why can’t we stay here for five, 10 years? I just think ‘why not?’ We are good enough. We have the foundations, the staff, the players, the fanbase. It’s an important few weeks coming up to decide that. Six cup finals, as I say, and we did all right in the last cup final [against Bournemouth] so, again, why not?”

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