They say the first step on the road to recovery is admitting you’ve got a problem. Saying it out loud. Giving full voice to that niggling, but quietly sincere whisper in your head.
At the end of last season we could all be forgiven for looking around at each other (if we could see that far across empty seats or deserted pubs) and saying “well that’s that then”. After all, we signed up for this journey in, or at least within a sniff of, higher division football. Glory hunters, that’s us.
When we were given that first scarf for Christmas, and got that tasteful tattoo, no one warned us that we could one day be non-league.
That first season ticket didn’t come with an-all-too graphic photo of a heavily scarred-heart on the packaging, emblazoned with the slogan WATCHING LUTON CAUSES EMOTIONAL DISTRESS or PASSIVE LUTON CAUSES LONG TERM ADDICTION IN CHILDREN. There was no one to guide us to the safety of a life without The Town.
But if one thing was destined to finally make us go cold-turkey, to take the plunge and attend our first LA (Luton Anonymous) meeting, it was the end of last season. Still being in the Conference after 4 years was one thing. But being mid-table in the Conference?
So, ladies and gentlemen, what have we learnt from all this? Anyone?
I’ll tell you what we’ve learnt. NOTHING. That’s what. Not one thing.
Because THIS year... this year we sold four and a half thousand season tickets before the first whistle. That’s more bums on seats (or near seats) than will be watching Falcao at Monaco in Ligue 1 most weeks. We’re supposed to be a Non League side, you know that? That’s more than we sold last season after having only just missed out on promotion at Wembley. That’s not normal behaviour for a community of people. You do realise that don’t you?
And not only did you renew your season ticket, but you’ve been to see us beat a couple of Premier League sides in Friendlies haven’t you? Don’t look over there, I’m talking to YOU.
You probably even went to Southport didn’t you? And you’re walking around at work saying things like “I don’t know what it is, but I think this might be our year” and “he’s got them organised, the squad looks really balanced” and “I dunno, they’re just playing with smiles on their faces”.
And do you know what’s sad? What’s sad is that when you woke up this morning (yes YOU) your alarm hadn’t even gone off yet, had it? You jumped straight in the shower, put on some brand new clobber and stuck the radio on. You started scouring the internet for team news and odds and predictions, and reaction to predictions.
And when you walked that familiar walk to the ground, you saw people you’ve known for 20 years, but have never spoken to during July. You saw wide-eyed kids with their dads in unfeasibly orange kits, doing that pilgrimage for the first time.
And when you got to your seat, you flipped straight to the back page of the programme, to the squad numbers, and tried to pick out the new signings on the pitch. Tried to spot the new heroes.
And when they ran out onto the Kenilworth Road carpet and the crowd rose to greet them, your stomach churned and you knew. You knew you that you had well and truly fallen off the wagon. Because you and me, mate: we’re addicted. Say it with me.
First published in the Luton Town matchday programme - 13/08/13