So, we’re out of the cups nice and early then; we’ve had a slow-ish start and are just starting to pick up points as the evenings begin to draw in. Familiar ring to it, all this.
No one likes losing, but defeat to Crawley in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, in which we were proudly undefeated since 2008 BC (Before Conference), makes way for the cockney prophecies of John Still to begin to bear fruit once more.
Forget five years ago when Team England’s new No Fun Wembley bulged with the surreal sight of the largest following from a single club ever to grace the national stadium. Put aside memories of the Mawhinney-baiting and communal crates of cut price lager. Pack away your photos of homemade flags hanging from the railings of the Sit Down, Shut Up and Clap your Clappy Sticks™ entertainment venue.
The JPT, or the Auto Windscreens Shield as its Nan would call it if it swore, was never much of a crowd-puller for Luton despite the framed photo you’ve got of Micky Harford skipping along like Eric in the sunshine. So, as only the sorest loser would admit, I’m glad we’re out of it. Tin Pot, Paint Pot Trophy etc. etc. (PS. Love you Claude!)
Last season we saw the benefit of a leaner looking and largely cup free fixture list come the spring - when the latter stages of the FA Trophy and League Cup can tear up your best laid Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday plans while the rain and the snow take their traditional toll on lower league soil.
That said, Mr Still mate, let’s try and stay in the FA Cup for a bit, just in case we draw that Udinese C. I’ve never seen us win in Europe.
The more this season shapes up like the last the better, if, like me, you’re a fan of open top bus parades and jubilant, pitch-invaded Directors Box Hip Hop and Happy Harry beheaded Bedfordshire afternoons.
John Still sat in the stands for the JPT game rather than the dugout, and with the attendance down to what the bean-counters would dub “A Stevenage”, many Town fans seemingly chose to watch from afar too. More and more we’re morphing into the same person, us and him.
John Still is the master of momentum. With carefully chosen and enthusiastically repeated mantras he can make a season slowly build from a few sparks of promising play but “not quite there yet” to that “solid platform” of clean sheets and beyond; Our John relentlessly drills home the latest step in the season’s inevitable, yet somehow un-arrogant, climb to victory - a cycle he’s seemingly repeated many times.
If all that sounds a bit over confident, it’s because for the first time in a while the pressure is off.
For a blissful change there is no desperation here. At the moment we seem to be at John’s “just about there” stage. The new players are beginning to gel with the old, and the back 3 or 4 or 5 look eminently watertight despite the personnel changing almost as regularly as the Watford manager.
Still says his teams always finish strongly. The detail of that particular prophecy might in fact be that we finish more strongly than the rest, and being out of a couple of cups won’t hurt. Ask Richard Money.
If you remember this time last year you’ll be as excited as me about the next stage in a John Still season. Because this next stage, lads, is what I like to call The Goals.
The lovely, lovely goals.