Read Nick Owen's programme notes from the Aldershot programme
Good afternoon and welcome back to Kenilworth Road after what seems like a grand tour of England, from north to south! Welcome also to our visitors from Aldershot today, who’ve had a tough old season after starting with a 10-point deduction following relegation from the Football League.
Bearing in mind our recent past, you can’t help feeling sympathy for what they’ve been through, but it won’t have any bearing once we get on the pitch this afternoon! Aldershot are in the bottom four, facing a second consecutive relegation, so they’ll be battling for everything, but we will too, now that we are so close to the title we can almost sniff it!
Here we are then, about to play the first of three home matches in succession. It’ll be good for the squad to give the motorways a break after travelling a wearisome 800 miles in just a week to face Grimsby, Halifax and Dartford.
I’ve no doubt we’d have settled for six points out of nine before those games, even though Halifax was a disappointment. In fact, three draws and three points would have seemed pretty decent, wouldn’t they? We never seemed to get going at the Shay, but credit to Halifax, they never let us settle and, who knows, they could be back in the Football League next season only six years after the old Halifax went into liquidation.
The results at Grimsby and Dartford showed the true signs of potential champions. Both clubs had plenty to play for AND took the lead, so to come back as we did was simply excellent. As for the two late goals at Dartford on Tuesday, simply breathtaking! The size and versatility of our squad is really bearing fruit at this incredibly tense and congested stage of the season.
It seems a good moment once again to talk about our support. Utterly phenomenal! We took more than 400 to Grimsby on a chilly Tuesday night, nearly 1,200 to Halifax and then a stonking 1,828 to Dartford earlier this week. That kind of following makes such a tremendous difference to the players, it really does, and they are constantly referring to it, so thank you very, very much.
A fascinating statistic came out this week, before Dartford, about away support. In a list of average away followings for the 72 clubs in the Football League, our average of 945, probably higher after Tuesday, would make us 25th. That is a terrific tribute to the remarkable fanbase of this very special football club.
Oh and, by the way, I met a couple of Luton Town travelling fans a few weeks ago when I was working on a cruise ship in the Far East. I met one on the ship and then bumped into another on the Great Wall of China! There’s something faintly surreal talking about the charms of Kenilworth Road and the goals of Andre Gray when you are striding along one of the great wonders of the world which they first started building nearly 3,000 years ago! We get everywhere!
There’s a growing wave of support for safe standing to be brought back into football grounds. The way it would be constructed would indeed be safe. We had to become all-seater back in 1994 and we’ll have to stay like that if and when we return to the Football League – as things are at the moment.
Six games to go then and we are on the brink of returning to our home of 89 years, the Football League. It’s a very exciting time and extremely emotional, after all we’ve been through. In my 56 years following the Town, I have seen 16 promotions or relegations, glorious Wembley moments in 1988 and 2009, but somehow this is the most important, the most urgent, and the most stressful because it means so very much.
My four children Andy, Tim, Chris and Jenny live and breathe Luton Town. My grand-daughter Martha has seen a handful of matches this season and she is only five. She loves it. It is always very special when there are three generations of us at a Luton match. If only my late father, Bertie, who missed seeing Martha by a mere five weeks, could have joined us too to make it four generations – that would have been special beyond belief. Our passion for the club is mirrored in so many families. There’s nothing like it!
I don’t like to count our chickens, but we are surely on the verge of a monumental landmark in the history of Luton Town Football Club. For that, all credit to John Still and his coaching staff and, of course, our players. They have done us proud, but there’s still work to be done.
Enjoy the game and pleas give us even greater backing in the run-in.
Bye for now,