Mark Tyler reflects on his time at Kenilworth Road
Mark Tyler’s exit from Kenilworth Road became official today with his three-month loan at Peterborough United ending, and new permanent contract as Posh player goalkeeper-coach kicking in.
Earlier this afternoon we caught up with the 39-year-old to give him chance to say farewell to the fans who took him to their heart after Mick Harford persuaded him to drop out of the Football League seven summers ago.
“I absolutely loved my time at Luton,” says Tyler, who made 297 appearances for the Town under Harford, Richard Money, Gary Brabin, Paul Buckle, John Still and Nathan Jones.
“It was a decision I had to make at the time, because I wasn’t playing at Peterborough and I’d had a couple of months on loan at Bury, which had really re-energised me and got my love for playing back.
“I knew Luton had wanted me the year before and even though it was a risk dropping out of the Football League, it was one worth taking because of the size and tradition of the club. Mick didn’t have to say much to persuade me.
“I wanted to be a first-team keeper again and yes, it was in the Conference, but we all felt we’d be able to bounce straight back.
“It took a little longer than we expected, but every season had something major happen in it that made it such a memorable time for me in my career.
“We reached the play-offs in the first season, played in the final at Manchester City in my second and then at Wembley in my third.
“The fourth season was disappointing in the league but we made history in the FA Cup by winning at Norwich, which was a dream for me having trained with them from the age of nine to 14, and played for Canary Rangers while watching the first team every week.
“Then we won the title, had a decent first season back in the Football League and last year, got to go back to Peterborough as an opposition player in the FA Cup and get a great reception. I’ve got great memories to take away with me from every campaign.”
The 27-game unbeaten run during the Conference championship-winning season of 2013-14, when the Hatters scored over a century of goals and points, understandably is high on his list of greatest memories.
“It was a great season for the whole club, but I’m proud of the club record for clean sheets that I hold,” says Tyler, who produced 23 shut-outs that season.
“You cherish the moments like when we went to Welling in the first game after we’d won it, and the trophy presentation against Forest Green at Kenilworth Road, but it’s the last day of the season when we went to Hyde that will live with me forever.
“The fans were amazing everywhere we went. We’d go to Nuneaton or Alfreton and take over half the ground, and you’d say to each other as we ran out ‘It’s another home game again today lads’.
“But that day at Hyde, when everything was done and dusted, so many supporters followed us all the way to Manchester for a party, it was unbelievable.
“You looked around and there was the 100-odd seat section for Luton fans, but the rest of the ground was taken over by our supporters. It was an amazing sight.”
Another game from that season will forever be etched in Tyler’s memory, but for completely different reasons – instead of drinking in the sun he was frozen in the Kenilworth Road puddles.
“The televised Barnet game on New Year’s Day was a real highlight because it was the coldest I’ve ever been on a pitch!” laughs Tyler. “I was diving in icy water and my boots and all my gear was so heavy I was struggling to even kick the ball.
“All I remember was hearing Ronnie Henry go up to the referee every five minutes saying ‘Don’t you dare call this off!’ It was freezing cold but we recorded a great win to keep our run going and it was a day to remember for loads of reasons.”
In his last outing for the Hatters on March 1 this year, Tyler kept a clean sheet in the 1-0 win over Morecambe, but was soon heading back to Peterborough to embark on the next stage of his career.
He adds: “I was so pleased I signed off with a clean sheet but I was gutted that I couldn’t come back on the final day to say some goodbyes, because all the League One games were put back to Sunday and we were training at Peterborough at the time the Exeter game was taking place.
“Hopefully I’ll get the chance to come back soon and say an official goodbye because I had a great time at Luton and made so many great friends. Maybe it’ll come next season in one of the cups!”