Luton Town’s John Still strode out beneath the lights onto the Technicolor Kenilworth Road turf to his usual ovation. After respectfully acknowledging the Bedfordshire faithful he made his way deliberately towards the corner of the Oak Road where the modest following from Dagenham and/or Redbridge were huddled, and blew them kisses.
It was always going to be a strange one for John Still seeing his Luton juggernaut roll over the team he invested so much of his life and love into, since a teenager on the terraces it transpired, and he made it absolutely clear before and after the game that while he is a consummate professional doing a consummately professional job for us, it’s the Daggers that have John’s heart. Understandable I suppose.
I’ll admit to feeling a little bit put out by his pre-match claim that the game was luckily “at a time for both clubs where it's not crucial anyway...” and similarly so after the game when he admitted to not really enjoying what to the rest of us felt like a freeing up of the early season shackles and a move towards the lovely goals of last winter and spring - at least for half an hour or so.
For John it must have felt like putting down his own dog. A cockney George finishing off his old pal Lennie in Of Mice and Men. You could almost feel him cringe at the thought of his childhood sweetheart’s embarrassment as the third Luton goal flew in from the rip-roaring free scoring left boot of Mark Cullen (30 goals. Who gives f*ck? We kept Mark Cullen and we’re going up).
Just for the record Mr Still, as you well know 3 points in October is just as crucial as 3 in April, especially when everyone else around us is losing or nearly losing. I can only imagine a previous manager or two of ours talking in the same terms about one of their old clubs. We would not be entertained.
Such is the good will towards Our John (and he is ours... OURS) that we’ll allow him a dalliance or two with an old flame. Even if his emotional pre-match walk across to those Daggers supporters felt a bit like watching your other half giving their ex a slightly-too-familiar kiss on the cheek having bumped into them at a party. “It’s fine, he’s coming home with us” we’d mumble.
John gets away with his wandering-eye for several reasons, not all of them as tangible as the 3 points and the generally messianic nature of his Luton reign so far.
Still’s nothing if not honest, and nothing else if not a real football supporter just like you, mate. He’s no run-of-the-mill careerist manager either and we understand the bond he feels to the club, we respect it and can perhaps even imagine being in his shoes.
But many more autumn nights like Tuesday, beneath the magic lights of Kenilworth Road, and he might find it harder and harder to resist the unrequited love from his new Luton family, because though it’s relatively early days, we’re getting on like a house on fire.
So save some kisses for us, eh John. You soppy old sod.