17 October 2012

Reality bites: Big Mick goes MK

When Mick Harford joined the Milton Keynes Dons as coach earlier this year it was like discovering Father Christmas wasn't real all over again.

When Danny Wilson did it, it stung a bit.

It felt like wandering past a long forgotten pub and spotting, in the corner, a girl you used to fancy at school. The intervening years had been tough and she carried the baggage beneath her eyes, but the sound of her laugh instantly recalled the good times. When all of a sudden like a punch in the stomach the man she ended up with emerged from the gents; and it’s only the smug faced twat who definitely nicked your Raleigh Activator in 1994.

“HIM? I never really liked her anyway” and “Has she always looked that much like Mr Robson from Grange Hill?” I thought.

It always hurts when players leave for a rival club. When Tony Thorpe toddled off to QPR he wrote us a song that some will never stop singing despite his efforts at reconciliation, and watching Matty Spring’s goal at Vicarage Road in a Luton shirt will remain forever tainted by the time he spent there in treacherous yellow.

As they shouldn't exist MK Dons can never be a footballing rival of ours, but the wound incurred when Town players go on to work in the grid-referenced graveyard of the soul up the M1 itches with a more personal insult.

Our most revered players - the ones who really got it - surely knew that the franchise abomination was out of bounds, didn't they?

That said, when Sol Davis did it, I sighed and wished him well. Sol was a proper player, career interrupted. And he didn't stay there long enough for anyone to notice except maybe the IKEA staff rinsing the New Town stench from their Ugg boots in the car park. I can still watch that tackle and smile.

But then ladies and gentlemen... then Mick Harford did it.

Mick isn't only a Luton icon but a Wimbledon man too. A Hatter and a Don. An old fashioned centre forward who loved us so much that when he left he sent love letters back to Luton - scoring an own goal for Derby at Kenilworth Road to keep us up in ’91 and then stamping his way through the horizontal Watford players celebrating in that HILARIOUS “dead ants” style while playing for Wimbledon in the FA Cup in ‘95. If ever a Luton player truly understood us, it was big Mick.

But when he took the MK coaching job in May I didn't instantly hate him and it didn't wipe away the good times he’d given us all. If Mick Harford could go to the MK Dons, I thought, then maybe it was time to reassess the pedestal we put our Luton Legends upon.

Mick did so much for the club as a player, an opponent, a coach and a manager (yes, a manager you cynical swines) that his legendary status can never be soiled by a day job among the concrete cows.

One thing you learn, probably as a result of getting older, and especially if you've spent a bit of time out of work, is that the football fantasy of a few thousand strangers can be no match for the reality of paying the rent, feeding your family or having to up-sticks and move back to Sunderland. Sometimes needs must.

Maybe the way Mick left us left a sour taste in his mouth, too.

Or maybe ex-players just don’t care about the same things we do. Maybe we take it all too seriously and maybe it is just a job after all and we shouldn't impose our unrealistic standards of loyalty on the professional footballers on the pitch.

But as a pathetic but loyal grumbler of the Main Stand, I will always reserve the right to the fantasy that it is more than just a day job for the few we hold up above the rest and who do enough to enter folklore.
Whatever the reality and no matter who pays his wages; for me he’ll always be our Mick.


  1. I am guessing that Mick has bills to pay! He doesn't have a good record as a manager - so he has to take a coaching role where he can. He lives in the area so it all fits.

    Also he did leave under a cloud with rabid fans calling for his blood after not being 10 points clear at the top of the conference after 5 games! He was treated badly.

    I prefer to think of him as "Agent Mick". The way the MK Dons are going - they will be in League 1 for a few years yet - he has not made a good impact so far. Hopefully, once we go up, we will draw them in the League Cup/ JPT/ FA Trophy. We will put noise in their empty stadium that doesn't have a soul and we will once again sing for Mick Harford!

  2. I was so gutted when I heard Big Mick had don the unthinkable, that I wrote a poem about it. I have posted it below.

    Dear Big Mick
    Now you've signed for Milton Keynes
    I feel I must write this verse
    To tell you what it really means

    I was only twelve in '88
    Seeing you hold the cup,
    Felt like something truly great
    I had your name on my shirt for many years later
    To me there was no hero greater

    My mother had a picture of you and her,
    On her bedroom table
    She used to tell of your goal whilst playing for Derby
    As if it was some kind of fable

    My son was twelve in 2009
    A Mad Hatter, despite the clubs difficult time
    Three generations of my family saw you lift the trophy
    And do the Eric Morecambe dance
    Your connection to the club and it's fans
    Was far more than just luck and chance

    The next year some of us booed, and called for your head
    But please Big Mick,
    Don't be mislead
    We were just frustrated, and lashing out
    You just happened to be in charge
    And we needed to shout

    We despise the Dons for many a reason
    You joining them, feels like an act of treason
    To me there was no hero greater
    Now it feels like you're just a traitor

    They stole Wimbledon FC
    The club you played for and ended your career
    They remember you fondly, or so I hear
    This makes your crime doubly worse
    Of taking money from Winklemans purse

    They try to steal our fans with free tickets and cheap shirts
    And its our beloved club that it really hurts
    But hiring our legend is no cheap marketing trick
    Its a massive body blow, and makes me feel quite sick

    Of course you have to make a living,
    But for joining them, there is no forgiving
    There are loads of other clubs you could have gone to
    Stevenage, QPR even Watford would do,
    But why join the one club that really does to us matter,
    And tarnish your legacy
    As a legendary Hatter

    Sam Newlander