Good afternoon everyone. A warm welcome to you all and especially our visitors from Rochdale.
We very much enjoy the company of their directors at the various EFL events during the year and despite their relatively lowly position they gave us quite a game at Spotland in November, which ended in a goalless draw. No doubt today’s game will be equally competitive as we both need the points at opposite ends of the table.
We were reminded this week that last Tuesday was the 11th anniversary of 2020 having their offer to take custodianship of the Club accepted by the administrators. Gary Sweet, who had been trying for some time to get the Club into safe hands, created a mission statement, which he then presented to us, the investors as a prospectus.
It was initially a 12-year plan intended to protect the future of the club by eliminating losses and achieving sustainability by building us a new home in the town and getting us back to our natural league position, which we believed should be, at least, the Championship, by 2020. Taking into account that we didn’t expect to have time in the Conference, let alone five years, the plan isn’t going too badly.
What an expedition it has been. It is etched in our memories, but we sometimes forget having lived every minute of it that some of you were too young or not even born when it was all happening. At the time of that administration we were third from bottom of League One, having been docked ten points, and most of our players had been sold to help pay the creditors and keep the Club going. Looking back from today it’s ironic that in early 2009 Mick Harford was given temporary charge to replace the sacked Kevin Blackwell as manager
At the time of eventually taking control having been relegated, Mick said: “I’m absolutely thrilled for the 2020 lads. They have worked tirelessly for the Club behind the scenes over the last seven or eight months. I can say to the fans that the club is in great hands and has a safe future as far as I’m concerned. They have got a magnificent business plan and prospectus which I have read at length and they are keen to secure a new stadium and put the club on the right road.”
When we agreed to buy the Club, we were unaware that the Football League and FA would combine to dock another 30 points the following season, and effectively relegate us from the Football League. Despite this Mick managed to put a team together to win the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Wembley, on a day we’ll never forget.
Unfortunately, then everything turned sour in the first year in the Conference and we were forced to replace Mick, who left under very sad circumstances.
A year or two passed before John Still joined us and then our heart began to beat once more and we felt the unity returning. Since then our progress on the pitch has been nothing short of remarkable and we are ahead of the schedule Gary set despite the Conference years.
In my time our league positions have been much more volatile than any other club, and we understand how important momentum is to our success. At the moment, we have it and we are grateful and indebted that Mick is maintaining it by agreeing to look after us until the end of the season. We all hope he is able to lay a few ghosts and get what he so richly deserves this time round.
The other element to our vision was relocation to a new stadium. It has been a long, expensive and sometimes painful process. However, we are delighted to have heard on Thursday that the Newlands Park committee report will give a positive recommendation for consent. It goes without saying that this is great news and very encouraging, but it must be stressed that, at this stage, it is only encouraging – we’re not there yet. The Planning Committee meets on 11th March when they will hear comments from all before reaching a local resolution.
Those of you who have been following these applications will know that the approval and implementation of Newlands Park is important to our ability to deliver Power Court commercially.
Town centres across the country face major challenges to reinvent themselves and diversify, and Power Court will do just that. Not only do we intend to provide much needed facilities at the very heart of Luton but we are also keen to take an active role in helping to shape the future of our town centre.
We are, of course, delighted to have got this far and thank everyone for their support and patience, which will continue to be needed as there’s a lot of work still to do.
“Quality is never an accident it is always the result of intelligent effort” - John Ruskin
Enjoy the game.
Come On You Hatters!