8 May 2019

Poetic justice

Naming a company must be hard, eh? Bear with me...

Keep it simple probably: “The Aerial Shop, Warwick Road, Luton” a radio advert from my youth used to say. You know where you are with that. Expectations managed. “Zobra Auto Parts”. Sexier branding definitely, but still functional.

I recently drove past a shop emblazoned with “ISIS Insurers”. Once you’ve got the business cards printed, your hands are tied caliphate or not I s’pose, Fletch.

Welcome to the stage Luton Town 2020 the consortium that would save our football club. They were here, they said, to take the club back to the Championship and they were putting the deadline on the fucking tin.

In the words of Joe Kinnear, owners with “Champagne ideas and Coca Cola pockets” never did play well round here. Given what had gone before, some of us would have settled for a group named “Luton Town: We Promise Not To Asset Strip / Move You To Milton Keynesey” let alone 2020.

Sitting here today, with LuaLua’s ice buckets scattered at our feet, champagne ideas made concrete – and a year ahead of schedule - I am at a loss.  

It’s too ridiculous, all this. The reality of this renaissance might be to do with shrewd planning and investment and facilities and nutrition and talented staff and players but… when it finally happened… when we finally made it back… it was Mick at the wheel. It was OUR MICK.  

You see Harford was here when minus 30 hit in 2008. He was here when 40 thousand Luton said “Fuck the FA” at Wembley a year later and then he was here when we dropped out of the football league. In 88 he was here to hold the Littlewoods Cup aloft and even when he left he was there to keep us up in 1990 with that own goal for Derby.

He was here when we eventually left the top flight in 92, here again standing with the fans by refusing to work with Gurney as the club faced crisis years later and here once more as Newell’s number two as Town hit tenth in the Championship. Mick was here for all of that. Almost the entire modern history of the game’s most turbulent town.

He’s endured the very best and worst of Luton. Of me and you. Open top buses and open revolt in the stands. A club that punches above its weight one moment, then kicks you in the guts the next. A messy, emotional, seething contradiction of a place, that even on Saturday could dampen victory songs from the grassy-trainered choir with boos from our own seats.

He didn’t do this by himself, far from it, but the man is a timeless symbol of whatever the fuck this is. A battle-scarred redemption song of his own inside a Russian Fucking Doll of an operatic resurrection. A club they couldn’t kill managed by a massive great metaphor with a Mackem accent.

Saturday was Lutopia. The footballing stars have finally aligned to dole out poetic justice to its most maligned. Once the hangovers of this week subside, take a second to drink it all back in.

From singing shoulder to shoulder with my oldest mates in the world, with their kids and their Dads. Hatters from Tottenham to Rotterdam. Meeting my heroes in High Town. It. Was. It.  

The more I go back to Kenilworth Road these days, the more it has begun to feel at home as the symbol of resistance to football’s future. But just as Harford can take a well earned rest as his statue is prepared for Power Court, it’s almost time to kiss goodbye to the other monument to our footballing soul. But not just yet.

I’ve given up explaining how it felt to those not of this Parish, they’ll never really understand what it meant. Not like you mate. I think I’ll give up doing that. 

Because for every tale of Harford Heroism and Hatter-ache, you’ve got a hundred more.

‘kin football.

20 February 2019

These are the good old days

2020’s just around the corner. Maybe in a new division, heading for a new home. But don’t wish this bit away.

14 January 2018

Ten years apart: Newcastle, Liverpool, you and me

Alright? Let’s not sugar coat it, lads. I’m writing today with the cold, callous fingertips of a fairweather Luton fan. Maybe the worst one.

3 May 2016

Farewell and the New Football

I genuinely love you, mate. Oi, don’t look down at your pint… I’m talking to you.

31 January 2016

The return of Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu

Where did it all go, the flowing football that defined Luton’s goodbye kiss to non-league football? The swagger. The goals. Was it really all down to Andre Gray? Were we that much of a one man team? Maybe. Or maybe, part of the answer at least, was just a week away...

12 January 2016

Modern Love: Power Court and Nathan Jones

Grab it with both hands before the new dawn fades. A new ground in the centre of Town, a new manager. No more looking back. New Year, new me, new you…

18 December 2015

Up the Junction

I never thought that it would happen, with us and the bloke from Newham
That night we won promotion, that night we ain't forgotten

9 December 2015

Pressure Drop

Rumour, intrigue and speculative boos from the spectacularly boozed. When you’re the manager of a fourth division football club called Luton Town, eventually the pressure’s gonna drop on you.

11 November 2015

Mark Tyler: Luton’s number one at 38

Before the season is out Luton Town’s Mark Tyler will turn 39 years of age. 21 years, or a Cameron McGeehan-and-a-bit ago, he made his senior debut. Picture the scene...

20 October 2015

There was no Stephen McNulty at the Checkatrade.com Stadium. Stephen McNulty was in Tranmere.

It's lost its novelty value hasn't it, walking for miles through unglamorous suburban woodland, via a concrete underpass to a football ground named after a corporate website?