This year I’m cheating on you, Luton. While you’re at home for Christmas entertaining Woking, I’ll be away. In Preston. Watching Bury.
It’s my first proper Yuletide away from home this year. I’ll be up north with the Mrs and her family, wondering what the Christmas Day rules are: what time we’ll open presents, whether they’ll go to the pub before lunch and who gets to boss the remote.
While we’re there I’m continuing my ongoing cultural exchange with her sister’s fella and watching his team Bury away at Deepdale on Boxing Day; no doubt feeling a long way from home.
I love festive football. It offers the foolhardy fan brief respite from the impending doom of a normal league game.
Kenilworth Road on Boxing Day crawls with the occasional-fan and their families; long-lapsed hatters home for the holidays. The bars bristle with frustrated dads so afflicted by Christmas Day cabin fever that the result on the field can take second place to cathartic bouts of unadulterated drunken swearing into the crisp winter air.
Faces are fat and tinged with the gentle brandy-fogged optimism usually reserved for a performance of a child’s school play.
The ill-fitting seasonal jumpers on show may never be worn again. The teenagers sport moody polythene-fresh Stone Island jackets whose symbolism will never have occurred to the well meaning Santa that delivered them.
Boxing Day is no place for modern football either. No cheerleaders or goal music is needed. Instead the Sally Army Band parade slowly round the pitch, belting carols older than Trevor Peake through the only horns welcome in Bedfordshire. The scene could be lifted directly from 1959... but with more Easy Jet adverts and less England internationals in Luton shirts.
After the game, the warm house you return to is still glowing from the Morecambe and Wise Christmas special on the telly. Black rimmed glasses, Luton signs and only slightly more homoerotic than an afternoon in the Main Stand, Eric and Ernie evoke memories of Christmases past. Of happier seasons.
I’ll think of you, Town, while I’m far from home. But do us all a favour and get 6 points, eh. Because being fat and poor in January is one thing. But being fat and poor and mid-table in the Vauxhall Conference is quite another.