Awayday preview : Luton Town, Saturday 25 August
How to get there
Luton Airport. Or London Luton Airport, as it likes to think of itself. Immortalised by Lorraine Chase in Campari adverts in the 1970s and a 1979 hit for Cats UK (“Luton Airport, oooh, eeeh, oooh”), it’s the UK base for EasyJet and makes the picturesque Bedfordshire town highly accessible from all over Europe. From Medway, though, your best bet is to get the train, it’s about a 15 minute walk from the station. There’s not a lot to see enroute unless you’re fascinated by Arndale Centres.
I once stayed in a stifling, filthy hotel room on the Indian Terai in Nepal. It had no furniture except four sweaty, sheet-less mattresses. The single lamp gave off no significant light due to the frenzied swarm of evolving insect species engulfing it. The walls were adorned with unidentifiable red splats.The bog was a festering, reeking cesspit dripping in slime, geckos clinging precariously to the ceiling. It was infinitely nicer than Kenilworth Road. Fewer grounds have made the transition into the post-Hillsborough era worse than this one. Don’t bother taking your legs beneath your knees into the away end, they won’t fit. And whatever happened to the Kohler Dome?
The Hatters. A result of historical local association with the hat-making trade, it evokes happier memories of the club – Eric Morecombe and the period up to the early 80s when the club was everyone’s favourite First Division club, a highly entertaining side of considerable flair….David Pleat’s floppy jaunt when they avoided relegation at Maine Road…cup semi-final heartache against Everton…Raddy Antic, Ricky Hill, Brian Stein, Jake Findlay, Paul Walsh, Mal Donaghy, David Moss – all resplendent in their nice white and orange kit. None of them wore hats.
Stockwood Craft Museum – fascinating displays of Bedfordshire rural life with beautiful period gardens and sculptures. If Millwall’s followers had paid a visit before the notorious cup tie in 1985 they would have been less inclined to fling their seats around
Luton Airport – your best bet for fleeing the place
Where to Drink
Bricklayers Arms – a little idyll in High Town Road opposite the station. Or The English Rose, in Old Bedford Road, about 500m from the ground. Both fab for CAMRA buffs. Luton is surprisingly well served for decent pubs, given the state of the rest of the town. The Bedfordshire Yeoman is close to the ground and recommended for away fans, but is somewhat crap. The White House (Wetherspoons) generally does not welcome away fans.
Likely to be harmless unless you try to engage them cheerfully on how well Marlon King is doing down the road.
Luton Hate Figures
Former chairman David Evans was one of the most loathed men in football in the late 80s. A Tory MP, he epitomised Thatcherite brutalism and was in the pockets of her obnoxious cronies (that short-arsed cunt Moynihan in particular), and was single handedly responsible for Luton degenerating from the aforementioned lovables to the most loathed club in the league. This was chiefly due to the away fan ban and membership scheme introduced in 1986, which was showcased in Tory propaganda as the party tried to destroy football altogether. They were gleefully chucked out of the League Cup because of it, but the scheme lasted way too long and was only finally seen as an unworkable sham after ID cards were lambasted in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster. By that time Evans had turned Kenilworth Road into the tip it is now, featuring holiday chalets along one side and cramped accommodation on the other three. Losing his seat in the 1997 election was one of many highlights of the night. These days, your best bet for a hate figure is probably Paul Peschisolido, who if playing will undoubtedly add Luton to the many clubs he has scored for against Gillingham.
Besides Eric Morecambe, you’ve got Monty Panesar and Nick Owen. Owen was a prominent presenter of ITV’s football coverage in the late 80s, and his love of Luton helped neither him or his employers
- Dicking them in the League Cup in 1979. Back in the day when the first round was played before the season started, we started where we left off in 78/9, stuffing them 3-0 at a Priestfield which featured a roofless Rainham End as it’s moss-covered barrel roof was upgraded
- The original Freak – Ian Feuer – saving a last minute Steve Butler penalty on Boxing Day 1996. Andy Hessenthaler had earlier gifted Luton the lead with an underhit backpass, and received frightful stick for his trouble
- A 2-2 draw in December ’97 during our long winless run. Two goals by Ade Akinbiyi should have ensured victory, but a late equaliser saw to that, and proceedings culminated in a mass brawl and Matt Bryant being sent packing as our disciplinary record plumbed new depths under Tony Pulis
- Lennie Lawrence clutching his head in anguish as his keeper went walkabout in the pouring rain at Priestfield in 1998. Carl Asaba effortlessly skipped past him and lofted home the winner from around 50 yards
- More stick for Hessenthaler, not loved by Luton as a former Hornet. They were busy giving him grief as we chased promotion in 2000 under Peter Taylor when he actually scored with a header, not something that happened terribly often
First points of the season in a 1-1 draw, courtesy of David Graham. The sun will shine, people will smile, Ronnie will say that he couldn’t have asked any more of the lads.
The Morty Vicker