Stevenson, Howells, Lawless, Smith, Henry, Smith, Benson, Lawless, GOAL. Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Calling all bored teenagers watching the game through the Sky Sports Score Centre App on your iPhone: Introducing the mythical ‘Luton way’.
The Loch Ness Monster, Area 51, The Beast of Bodmin, the Watford Football Club trophy cabinet; you’ve all heard the unlikely stories.
As any right-minded person knows, the above are fictional creations, flights of fancy designed to terrify and entertain. No sane individual has ever seen them or can verify their existence, but get stuck in the wrong conversation with the wrong man at the bar and you’ll soon be having your ear chewed off in a slather of half-truths and Chinese whispers. Especially the Watford one.
The ‘Luton way’ you say? “I remember hearing David Pleat bang on about that on some high quality ITV commentary once.” And you’d be right.
You see kids, the story goes, that in the olden days when we rose through the divisions, we didn’t scrape victories and cling on to Top Flight survival by churning out Rory Delap throw-ins and anti-football like Pulis’ Stoke City. Not us. No, we did it the ‘Luton way’. Players like Ricky Hill swept defences aside with accurate attractive passing football, played on the deck. And even in less successful times, players coming through the youth set-up were skilful and intelligent on the ball, choosing to work relentlessly from defence to attack without the ball leaving the turf save for the occasional pin-point cross. Think Preece. Think Jean-Louis Valois. The myth’s proponents suggest it is well known throughout football, outside of these borders even.
If the Luton Way were a road, it would have been the antithesis of Route 1. It wouldn’t ruthlessly destroy buildings in its wake like the increasingly un-mythical Guided Busway either. No. It was a beautiful meandering scenic route that encouraged the lowering of car windows and soaring violin music to fill the countryside around it.
But like all mythical subjects, and increasingly the opinions of Milton Keynes apologist David Pleat, whether the ‘Luton way’ ever actually existed for more than just fleeting moments probably warrants further investigation. Everything looks better with the rose-tinted specs on after all, and the dirge sticks in the mind much less readily than the giant killings on the plastic pitch, or the poetry of Valois.
One thing that’s for sure is that the idea, mythical or otherwise, of the Luton way is what fans dream of seeing week in and week out. It’s the reason you’ll still hear it mentioned when the ball goes long, and the reason under 12s teams wince at ‘ON THE DECK!’ being belted from their idealistic dads on the touchline on wet Sunday mornings in the Chiltern Youth League (is that still a thing? I’m 30).
Whether or not playing the Luton way actually ever existed or not, Lawless’s goal for 3 nil on Tuesday night is it in its purest form. Lots of the football being attempted against Dartford was.
And while we all accept at this low-ebb that winning is absolutely everything, some more of that mythical stuff every now and then would definitely recharge the soul, and the gate receipts.
Up the Town