Reggae Boy Bell over the moon as club Luton Town rocket into the big times
Jamaican footballer Amari’i Bell celebrates after his club Luton Town secured promotion to the English Premier League with victory over Coventry in the play-off match at Wembley Stadium in London, England, on Saturday. (Photo: David Horn/Luton Town)

One of Amari'i Bell's great football desires has finally been fulfilled.

The Luton Town and Jamaica international achieved one of his boyhood dreams of playing in the British top flight when it appeared his time would never come.

But it is never too late for a shower of rain.

English-born Bell was an instrumental figure as the Hatters earned promotion to the English premiership in a dramatic Championship play-off against Coventry City inside storied Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

Jamaican footballer Amari'i Bell (trophy in hand) celebrates with Luton Town teammates after they secured promotion to the English premiership with victory over Coventry in the play-off match at Wembley Stadium in London, England, on Saturday. (Photo: David Horn/Luton Town)

In front of a near capacity crowd, both teams battled to a 1-1 stalemate in regulation and extra time before Luton clinched it 6-5 on penalties.

Luton Town — club of iconic player Ricky Hill, who has Jamaican roots — join Burnley and Sheffield United in England's top flight next season.

The moment for Bell is nothing short of surreal counting the atmosphere, the stakes involved, and triumph in the end.

"The feeling is amazing and words can hardly really describe the fit. In the last campaign we reached the semi-finals and lost and we didn't want to feel that way again, and the experience we had from last season, helped us to go all the way this year, and finally, we did it," he told the Jamaica Observer on Sunday.

"It [gaining promotion] means a lot to me and everyone in the club because as a boy growing up, you want to play in the premiership, and I was no different, and I thought it was now or never, and it turned out that the time is now. It is a great achievement for me and my family and also for the club as it's been a long time since they played in the top flight," he added.

Bell, 29, has had sniffs of top-flight football before, but the odd goal, game or point has stolen those moments.

"This is my first time playing in the top flight as the closest I got was last season when we lost in the semi-finals…it has been a long time coming, but I am ready to step up to the challenge," he noted.

While the Hatters would have enjoyed winning the Championship title, gaining premiership promotion was the club's biggest goal.

"It would have been great to win the title, but promotion was the main goal and to do it at Wembley in a play-off in front of 80,000 people was amazing," Bell said.

The Jamaican defender's role in the club's successful run is beyond doubt as he has played 49 games in all competitions, scoring once and offering one assist.

"I would say I played a vital part in it [successful campaign], but it wasn't just me, but all the other players…some people have come off the bench and have scored. All in all, it was a team effort.

"I started out at left-back and then left centre-back, so I was not able to attack and influence the attack that much as I had to concentrate on defensive duties, but all that means nothing now," he stated.

On Saturday in North London, Manager Rob Edwards reprised his confidence in the left-sided Bell, keeping him in the trenches even when the gutsy player was near his breaking point approaching 120 minutes of gruelling high-stakes football.

"I played the whole game and there was a time that I thought I was struggling with the extra time as I started to cramp up, but I kept fighting for the team and myself as there were key moments where, I believe, everybody had to man up and fight," he noted.

Bell admitted that when he first came to the Bedfordshire club he had no idea that he would have one of his great football dreams come true

"Honestly, when I first came to Luton I didn't expect it to go this way, and thankfully, it has gone better than I thought and I put that down to everyone associated with the club coming together, and that spirit helped us a lot.

"At first, I was a little sceptical, but after meeting with the manager, he gave me a lot of confidence, and now I know that I made the right decision…he believed in me and I believed in him…and I have watched the club grow from strength to strength," Bell shared.

The former Blackburn Rovers man says gaffer Edwards was an inspirational figure who preached self-belief and who gave the players width to play to their strength.

"I speak for every member of the team when I say we all love the gaffer because he gives everybody confidence and belief to play our own game, but, of course, there is that tactical element that we have to adhere to, but it is key for us to have our freedom and he gives us that," Bell said of the 40-year-old Welshman.

Sean Williams

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