Former Mansfield Town defender Johnny Mullins has joined Stags’ League Two rivals Luton Town on a two-year deal after his shock departure from promoted Oxford United.
The 30-year-old was the highest profile player not to be offered a new deal at Oxford after skippering them to automatic promotion and a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final at Wembley.
Some Stags fans hoped he might reappear at One Call Stadium, but Mullins said: “There was no call from Mansfield. With Luton it just happened so quickly.
“I found out I was going on the Friday and was released on the Monday. That afternoon I then got a text to go down and speak to the gaffer at Luton. Thankfully it all got wrapped up really quickly.
“As soon as I met him I wanted to be part of what he is trying to build. When a club like Luton gave me a call, it was a no-brainer.”
Having played 149 games for the club, 51 last season, Mullins said it was a shock to be released by Oxford after such a successful campaign.
“It came as a surprise as I played so many games there last season,” he said.
“I was pretty confident of getting a new deal, but in football you can never take anything for granted and things change really quickly.”
But he left with fantastic memories of a season to cherish.
“It was unbelievable - one of the most incredible seasons I have ever had by a long stretch,” he said.
“To play at Wembley, have the FA Cup run and be promoted was special. I leave there with some special memories, but you move on quickly in football.”
Mullins has kept an eye on his former club and believes the Stags could be up there challenging with Luton next season.
“I don’t see why not,” he said. “Their squad is strong. They have good players and a good manager. This is a very strong league, solid all the way down.”
Luton boss Nathan Jones said on the official Hatters website: “I’m delighted that Johnny has joined us.
“He has experience of achieving promotion from League Two with both Oxford United last season and Rotherham United previously, during which he captained both clubs.
“Johnny is exactly the type of player and character I want at our club, he is a real leader and will be a big influence within our dressing room. The signing of Johnny massively improves our squad.”
Mullins will have one very familiar face in the dressing room alongside him as Luton have also signed Oxford United’s striker Danny Hylton, the 27-year-old turning down a new deal at Oxford after finishing their third-highest scorer last season.
Mullins arrived at Field Mill after being released by Reading in summer 2006.
He made 48 appearances in the 2006/07 season and the season after was described by manager Billy Dearden as the most improved player in League Two, winning Stags’ Player of the Season award.
However, after Mansfield were relegated to the Conference at the end of the 2007/08 season, Mullins turned down the offer of a new contract, wanting to stay in the Football League, and joined Stockport County on a two-year deal, with Stockport paying Mansfield compensation.