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FROM THE BOARDROOM: NICK OWEN

23 November 2016

Hatters chairman's boardroom notes from last night's programme

These From The Boardroom programme notes were written by chairman Nick Owen ahead of last night's game against Portsmouth.... 



Good evening and a warm welcome to Kenilworth Road for this tasty Sky Bet League Two fixture against Portsmouth. 

A special welcome to our friends from Fratton Park who, like us, have experienced some distinctly rocky times in recent years, but their results this season, like ours, are giving them genuine hope of far better things to come. 

We swapped places in the league at the weekend after they drew at Cheltenham and we managed a terrific win at Morecambe. More about that later.

Tonight is a special occasion for our popular Academy and Development Manager Andy Awford who must have the name Pompey tattooed across his heart – just under the word Hatters, of course!

He’s actually spent more than half his life with Portsmouth, as a player, coach, scout or manager. Eleven years on the pitch and 13 in various off field capacities, including a spell as manager. He will happily admit that at the end of this season he wants to see Luton top and Portsmouth second!

In his time at Portsmouth, he either played with or worked with some great Luton favourites, including Paul Walsh, Ray Daniel, Gary Waddock and Matt Taylor. He actually watched Matt countless times in our colours before our exciting left-back was lured down to the south coast for a highly successful spell there.

One quirky little fact about Andy: he was and still is the youngest player ever to appear in the FA Cup. He was still a schoolboy, in year 11, when he turned out for his hometown club Worcester City against Boreham Wood, aged 15 years and 88 days – roughly.

He joined us with a glowing reputation and you only have to look at what’s happening with our youth and development to see why. Something the whole club is proud of.

Which brings me to the controversy of the last week or so. The Checkatrade Trophy.

As the whole football world in this country now knows, we were fined a total of £15,000 by the English Football League for making sweeping changes to our line-up for the matches against Gillingham, West Bromwich Albion and Millwall in the Checkatrade Trophy.

Our superb displays and results in all three matches rather prove the point that we weren’t fielding vastly weakened teams. In fact, in a tournament geared to help Premier League and Championship sides blood their youngsters, we have proved how much phenomenal talent we have at Kenilworth Road just bursting to make the breakthrough. A number of those youngsters have already featured in our league side this season and last. Don’t we have the right also to develop our young players for the good of the English game?

Interesting to note too that our last match in the Checkatrade – against Millwall – pulled in an attendance of 2,251 which was the second highest of all the last round of matches. We are not exactly devaluing the competition, are we?

The EFL decision has been pilloried from all sides – both in the press and by supporters of rival football clubs, including Watford, Stevenage and Cambridge! Our club statement, expressing our unequivocal views on the situation and our explanation, was retweeted almost a thousand times. Unheard of! 

We understand that rules are rules and we have broken them, but do we deserve the full penalty of £5,000 a match? Surely not, given the circumstances. I was interested to hear the much-respected Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling describe our fine on television as ‘absolute lunacy’.

And what will Nathan do in future rounds? The prize money goes up, but the maximum amount a club can be fined stays the same. I have little doubt that he’ll be minded to continue giving our highly talented youngsters the chance to prove how far they can go, given that we are currently battling on three fronts – the League, the FA Cup and the Checkatrade. We have a squad for a reason and our younger players have proved they are good enough.

Meanwhile, our crowd for the sensational FA Youth Cup match against Dagenham the other night attracted a crowd of over 400. That’s more than a handful of Checkatrade games the week before!

I’m sure the 408 are glad they made the effort! For our lads to come from behind twice and finally squeeze home 4-3 after extra time speaks volumes for their character. Congratulations to Jack Snelus, in particular, for his scintillating hat-trick, all of his goals thumped home from outside the box. But well done to the overall squad on duty last Thursday and now for Sheffield Wednesday!

Our last home game in League Two was a nail-biter, wasn’t it? It was mighty hard work trying to break down Accrington Stanley and they must have been furious with themselves for letting it slip so late in the game, particularly after an exhilarating display from their goalkeeper Elliot Parish who’d kept them in it with some breathtaking saves.

In the end it was a beautifully worked goal, finished off by Cameron McGeehan, that landed us all three points to keep us well in touch with the top. Something that really struck me on the day was the way the fans kept their patience with a sometimes frustrating game, and every now and then weighed in with some serious chanting to gee the side along. I know it helps the players no end.

Portsmouth will be a real challenge this evening as well and this meeting takes me back to my first season as a Luton fan when I watched us beat them 3-1 on a sunny April evening back in 1959. Even now, I can still clearly see our cunning inside forward George Cummins chipping one home with his left foot from the angle of the box at the Oak Road end. As a very young and impressionable supporter, I wondered at his skill, confidence and cheek and, as I’ve said, the memory has always stuck with me. It was my first real appreciation of the finer points of the game, subtlety and finesse.

Home fans will be hoping for something similar this evening as our good run continues after that excellent performance at Morecambe on Saturday. I was delighted for Isaac Vassell scoring for the first time – he really has looked a handful when he’s come on in recent matches and who knows what he can achieve now that he’s scored his all-important first goal?

Yet again a word of appreciation for our fans at the weekend. More than 500, a brilliant turnout, had a horrendous trip via one of the worst stretches of motorway in the country and many only arrived at the ground towards the end of the first half. Thank goodness they were rewarded with another three points.

One point of information before I sign off. The Evening with Mick Harford which was scheduled for last Thursday here at Kenilworth Road and postponed because of the FA Youth Cup match, will now take place this Thursday, ie a couple of evenings from now. Do come along if you can and have a chat with the player voted the fans’ favourite of all time.

Enjoy the game this evening and please cheer our wonderful side to the rafters.

Bye for now,

Nick


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