Read the Chief Executive's programme column from EFL Cup tie
Good evening and welcome to Kenilworth Road everyone!
Who said they were missing live football in the close season? From a footballing void to a fast and gruelling schedule taking on seven games in 22 days is a hectic schedule to kick the season off, to say the least. And even though it’s tough on our small, young squad in some ways (and tough on the pocket for many supporters, too) football at Kenilworth Road is just as welcome as you are, especially under the floodlights and especially hosting Leeds United.
May I ask you to join me in welcoming Garry Monk with his staff and players and the 1,500 Leeds supporters making the long midweek journey. After an eight-year fixture gap, it’s good to have the Yorkshiremen back.
We now know what Leeds went through that season we last played each other, 2007-2008. After joining us in relegation from the Championship the previous season, the Whites were issued a 15-point deduction by the Football League for exiting administration without a CVA in the same period we entered administration and got ourselves relegated again before we, 2020, took custodianship.
Our own 40-point fate is scorched markedly in our souls, not just the record books. Whilst neither club has fully recovered from that hapless era, our punishment (or “sanction” as the League put it) and the resultant forfeiture of enduring five years of rehabilitation in the Conference has since well and truly defined us. Moreover, it has fiercely ignited a purpose within our culture which fuels our ambitious desire and our current resurgence.
In October that prior season, I remember taking my usual seat in the enclosure to witness a magnificent 5-1 drubbing of Leeds putting us in a strong play-off position vying for Premier League membership. Within days, Sol Davis suffered a stroke en route to our 5-0 battering at Ipswich and our erstwhile chairman put our Club into administration leading to a continued positional decline for six seasons.
Tonight will be different, of course. In fact, we’re hoping that another victory over Leeds tonight and an inspiring cup run may help springboard a continued six-year rise up the football pyramid. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t adopt such an optimistic outlook with a new training ground just around the corner, a new stadium in planning, Nathan Jones at the helm and the best crop of young talent our club has probably ever seen, is there?
Of course, this next period of growth isn’t just about one result but the recent histories of our two Clubs – along with significant games between us – tell a poignant story. Football is a cyclical game. Clubs fall and, if steered properly, clubs rise again. The impetus around Luton Town right now has a solid momentum which is recognised by many. Even Ladbrokes – after our 3-1 victory over Villa in the last round – offered a special on us to become Premier League members by 2021 at ridiculously short odds of 7-2. Amazing!
As you know, as a board, it isn’t our style to promise Premier League football within five years; not even ironically. But we do take encouragement by the examples set by other clubs, such as Bournemouth, Swansea and Hull, who were all Football League Two competitors of ours since we last played tonight’s opponents.
It’s fair to say that much of the confidence in our progress originates from our sound plans for our relocation to Power Court being facilitated by our development at Newlands Park; not just the plans but the designs, detail and the noteworthy fact that our planning applications will be validated by Luton Borough Council before the end of this week.
The validation of a planning application is noteworthy because, not only does it mean the Town Hall’s planning department recognise that our applications contain all of the necessary reports and assessments for them to consider an approval but, more pertinently, both applications will be uploaded to the Council’s website kicking-off their four-week public consultation process.
During these two fortnights you will have the opportunity to give your considered opinions to the Council based upon your considered review of our applications. Ultimately, do you think both applications together are good or bad for Luton?
Last Thursday I was asked to attend a joint supporters club meeting to explain this process and establish the best way they could give their support, if they decided that’s what they would do. It became absolutely clear that the organisations that represent your views understand the critical importance to act during this period as representatives of no less than six groups were active at the meeting.
Whilst we naturally think our own applications are both painstakingly ingenious, detailed and flawless and will regenerate our Club and our town, it is not the Club’s remit to petition public support for the two applications as it wouldn’t be fair to do so.
It is important to note that the extent of public opinion will ultimately help define the outcome of our relocation. If the weight of support is overwhelming, Power Court will be our new home, hopefully, by 2020. If, however, the balanced weight of public opinion is more negative than positive, Kenilworth Road will remain our home for the foreseeable future.
We know we will have strong opponents to the scheme; primarily we think from commercial objectors whose remonstrations will be professional and polished, as one would expect.
Supporters groups, including Luton Town Supporters Trust, Loyal Luton Supporters Club, Luton Town Disabled Supporters Club and even Bobbers Travel, Hatters Talk and Luton Outlaws, are more than eager to make their positions known and will be urging you to avoid apathy and make your thoughts known to the planning department once you can review the applications on the Council’s website.
Once the material is in public domain you are free to support or object to our plans, and we would strongly encourage you to do exactly that. This is our Town, this is our time; don’t waste the opportunity to make a difference.
Please make a difference tonight too by giving the lads your positive support!