David Blakeman pens his final notes in Talk of the Town
Welcome to tonight's game against the Chairboys – as Wycombe Wanderers are known. Our opponents remain third in the table, well placed to secure automatic promotion. From our perspective, victory tonight is crucial, if we are to recommence our good form of earlier in the season and terminate the unfortunate run of results in the recent past.
Wycombe's form has, itself, been good, having been unbeaten since mid-February. Useful wins against Shrewsbury and Tranmere have boosted the position in recent weeks. We will need to be on our mettle, therefore, to produce the sort of performance necessary to achieve that much-needed victory.
From my own perspective, tonight's match is a somewhat bittersweet experience, as I have decided to step down from the Board. I have been thrilled to be associated with the Club for the last three- and-a-half years – an association which has been the fulfilment of a boyhood dream; and I have been involved with some marvellous moments associated with the Club.
Apart from the poor recent run of form, the Club has progressed, in almost every area, in the last few years and I feel our community projects, which I have been closely associated with, have also progressed significantly. I am also pleased to have contributed to our relocation plans, which are also progressing positively. Moving forwards, I do intend to remain involved with the Club, in the role of a general community ambassador – but my business interests prevent more active involvement.
On the subject of our poor recent form, all I would say is that it has not diminished my faith, one jot, in John Still – who I have had the privilege of meeting on multiple occasions. He is, in my opinion, an extraordinary man and we are very lucky he is our manager. This dip in form is, of course, a blip. If I have been asked, at the start of the season, whether I would be happy being in our current position I would have been utterly delighted.
As you will now be fully aware, we are also renaming the stadium for tonight's match as the Prostate Cancer UK Stadium. We were originally approached by Prostate Cancer UK several weeks ago, when the idea to rename the stadium first came about. Nick Owen alluded to the concept of renaming Kenilworth Road in his programme notes for our match with Morecambe, and as we hoped, this provoked a great deal of conversation among you, our supporters, as to what that would mean to the Club and its identity.
We made the decision to keep the full reason quiet to allow the conversation to grow in the hope that when our support for this important charity was announced, the impact would be as great as possible. On announcing the news last Wednesday morning, the story quickly gathered pace and before the end of the day it had been picked up by most local and national news agencies, including some even further afield helping to raise a great deal of awareness of prostate cancer and the important work of Prostate Cancer UK.
This is a true one-off in every sense. In making this move, we become the first Football League club to rename their stadium in aid of a charity, and it's just for one match, so there's all the more reason to make the most of this occasion and help raise much needed funds to help the #MenUnited campaign. In purchasing this programme, you have already made a donation and we would encourage fans to give whatever they can afford to show our solidarity today. I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank The Luton News and Trust in Luton for their support in getting this campaign moving.
This is another such initiative that makes me proud to be a Luton Town supporter, and on this note, I thought it might also be interesting to say what being a fan has meant to me over the years. I have mentioned, in previous notes, that my background, as a supporter, is slightly unusual. Despite being born in the town, I left the area at the age of four. With parents who had no football interest (and who were from Wales and Worcestershire respectively) and going to school on Merseyside, I should, logically, have ended up as a Liverpool or Everton fan. God forbid! The experience of following this marvellous Club has been an absolutely integral part of my life since the age of eight. From looking at newspaper clippings in the late 60s and early 70s (we lived far too far away to go to matches, even if my dad had any interest in doing so!) I eventually found myself in the luxurious position of being able to go to unlimited games from the late 70s, when I commenced university in London. Living in London for the next 30 odd years meant that I could see very large numbers of matches. The position has improved further since I moved back to Bedfordshire three-and-a-half years ago– as my journey now takes only about half an hour compared with the one and half hours it used to take from London.
It strikes me that the difference in supporting Luton is that you simply never know what is going to happen next. We all know that the Club has had a ludicrously complex history. We have been promoted and relegated more than any other club in the Football League. We have scaled the heights and plumbed the depths. No football supporter has experiences like ours. Quite why anybody (unless, perhaps, they came from Trafford) would support Manchester United, defeats me. Their supporters are in the position of expecting victory every match, so that they can only suffer disappointment, on average. If they do win it doesn't mean very much. For us, results such as the win at Norwich in the FA Cup a few years ago, the Maine Road victory to keep us in the old Division One in 1982 and the extraordinary last day of the season victory at Derby under Jimmy Ryan were all deliriously exciting days. I was proud to be in attendance at all of them. Strangely, winning at Wembley in the Littlewoods Cup and the Johnstone’s Paints Trophy didn't have the same allure for me, as did those backs against the wall victories. It's something, I think, about putting one over on the big clubs or winning against the odds that gets to me and which makes me feel quite emotional even as I write this.
Anyway, that's quite enough from me – thank you for your indulgence in reading this diatribe and my other ramblings in the past. I hope some of you enjoyed them.
Join me in getting behind the team tonight.
The following notes were published in a special 100-page edition of Talk of the Town which was issued to mark the renaming of Kenilworth Road as the Prostate Cancer UK Stadium. Click here to purchase your commemorative copy.