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OXFORD 'NOTES FROM THE BOARDROOM' PART 2 | DIRECTORS

Paul Ballantyne, Stephen Browne, Mike Herrick & Bob Curson's notes

10 May 2019

PAUL BALLANTYNE

We’ve created great memories this season. Southend, where Matty’s magic hat took us top, that first half against Argyle, that first half in the snow versus Pompey and then George’s goal, the spirit at Sunderland, Pelly’s smile at Fleetwood, a sunny day at Accy, a pub in Gillingham singing “Gary Sweet, he’s One of our Own”. Though I do regret not joining in that last one. Just that I have a bit of a problem with that song.

The real great thing about this season has been the collective spirit we have built. Everyone working their hardest to achieve our ambitions. Everyone: Ali in the car park, Mike on the developments side, JJ on the left (or the right), Paul in the kitchen, Gary in the pub. From Kinshasa to Kinderdijk, Sunderland to sunny High Town Road, all ones of our own, if you see what I mean.

As TS Eliot might have said, the end is the beginning. The end of this season marks the beginning of a bright future. This season we have created a platform for the long-term, sustained success of both our Club and the wider community. With moments of magic, of course, but founded on a Club-wide base of sheer hard work. We should be really proud of what we have collectively achieved.

And I promise to join in the Gary song if it ever sparks up again (though I prefer the one that goes “Gary Sweet is magic, he wears a magic hat. And if you throw a brick at him, he’ll head it back with a 25% sell-on”).

On a different tack, I think we should reflect on the debt of gratitude we owe Nathan. The break-up of an intense relationship always seems to overshadow what came before. Nathan worked his socks off for us for three years and massively contributed to building that platform I’m talking about. Despite the upsetting way the relationship ended, I think we owe him our thanks and respect.

 

STEPHEN BROWNE

Well, what a season it has been! As we lost out on the League Two title last year we never dreamt we would be in the position we are today.

Everyone associated with the Club has done a fantastic job this season despite some events that could have thrown us off course, both on and off the pitch.

PROMOTED! It’s a glorious word. So I’ll say it again...PROMOTED! Everyone – to a man, woman, and child – thoroughly deserves this. Everyone – from the dressing room to the offices to the stands – thoroughly deserves this.

But it’s not over and there’s a job to do. One more game and the title is in our hands. Today we can be the 12th, 13th and 14th man on the pitch as we sing our hearts out to support the lads in the final push. They will give everything and so must we! We all want them to have the medal and the trophy they have worked so hard for.

The table doesn’t lie and the lads are the best team in the division. Looking back at the season with so many records broken, so many awards for performances both on and off the pitch, planning application approvals, financial stability, destiny in our own hands – we are all delighted to be part of such a wonderful Club in such an amazing season.

As you know, as a board we never single anyone out because everyone plays their part, and all parts are vital. However, just this once I will make an exception. Last week the Supporters’ Trust honoured our CEO with the Kevin Catlin Outstanding Achievement award. I would say that I was very pleased for Gary but I don’t need to be – I see his work week in and week out, so I am fully aware of his success and I have always known he would give his best no matter what.

Instead, as he walked up to collect the award I felt overwhelming pride. Pride at what he has achieved and how he has achieved it. The culmination of many years of effort and a vision that was set down over ten years ago. We know his abilities but to have that recognised with such an award makes me extremely proud of him, and of course his family who support him so much. He’s one of our own. I could not have applauded more and, barring his broken collar-bone, would have given him a huge slap on the shoulder.

Eric O would have revelled in Gary’s success and I bet he’s up there smiling. Tiddles was there at the start so it is very fitting that Gary was the worthy recipient of the award that bears his name. Two very, very special people that are up there alongside names like Pleaty and Mick as proper legends of this Club, creating history and never to be forgotten.

I have said before that many legends and great people have graced our halls, terraces, and pitch over our 134 years. We are so lucky to have that now and so who knows what we can achieve? Our dreams are only limited by our imagination.

Finally, I’m (not) sorry to repeat...PROMOTED! Celebrate throughout the summer as you see fit..we are a Championship club now playing in one of the world’s biggest leagues. It’s been a very long journey – the rollercoaster we promised a decade ago – but WE ARE BACK!

Today it’s down to us in the stands. Let’s create a tsunami of noise. Sing for everyone who cannot be with us today and those Hatters listening in around the world. Let the sheer force of voices push that ball over the line and let’s win some silverware!

WE ARE LUTON TOWN!

 

MIKE HERRICK

What a difference a day makes! Leaving Burton on Saturday with things still up in the air, we had to cope with the thought that the play-offs might possibly beckon. This would have been unfortunate and undeserved for a number of reasons but mostly, I feel, for our own gentle giant Mick Harford. Then Tuesday evening came!

It’s only recently that I’ve become aware of the intense stress and pressure that he has lived with in recent weeks. Yes – we all feel it a little ourselves if any result is not perfect, but it in no way equates to the burden he has carried on his shoulders.

I still find it remarkable that he blames himself for our demise ten years ago as we dropped out of the Football League. We all know where the real blame lies for that chapter in our history.

He wasn’t pushing himself forward for the job of leading us from the depths with a 30-point deficit (who would?) but by doing so he showed where his heart lay. At a time when we were in the darkest of places he battled through with an impossible job that he alone was man enough to take on.

By the same token it was far from his preferred option to take up the reins once more in January. 16 Could he have thought once more that he was on a hiding to nothing? And what would he have felt if promotion had ultimately eluded us?

But the calm assurance of his leadership has this time culminated in the explosion of joy that we see today. Ten years in which the man at the helm when we went down is the same man that has now taken us over the line and back into the Championship.

What a perfect symmetry. So perfect that surely it was meant to be. Some people I’ve spoken to said it would have been nice to get promoted on the field of play. For my part I wouldn’t change a single thing. The euphoria we all felt on Tuesday night will live just as long in the memory. And as a bonus we still have something very big to play for today.

Our stay in League One may have been very short and sweet but what a season it has been with many momentous events that we’ll remember long after the dust has settled on our game against Oxford United today – planning applications determined in Luton’s favour and our record unbeaten run to name just a few.

In a way, absolutely everything will have been overshadowed by the planning decisions, and rightly so. Just as we know that form is temporary and class is permanent, so promotion could be thought of as temporary, but Power Court and Newlands Park will be permanent. We have an amazing opportunity to transform not only Luton Town the football club, but the town of Luton as a whole. And this transformation will be evident irrespective of whatever league we may be gracing in the future.

Looking back on the 2018/19 campaign, however, what I shall remember most fondly is the exhilarating style of football that it has been our pleasure to watch. All those weeks where you just couldn’t wait for Saturday to come round again; the atmosphere that a full house at the Kenny can create; away days savouring the camaraderie with hordes of fellow fans; these are the things that we’ll take with us.

In boardrooms up and down the country we have received many compliments about our club and our brand of football. When all is said and done though, if we remain at the top of the table after 46 games it will have been not only by the season-long efforts of a closely-knit and exceptionally talented group of players and staff but, very importantly, the fans as well. You may not always be aware of the incredible impact your support has had, and the League One championship, if that is what it is to be, will be your achievement as much as anybody else’s. Oh – and Mick Harford’s.

 

BOB CURSON

We welcome the Oxford directors, management, players and fans to Kenilworth Road this afternoon trusting we can make them feel as welcome as we felt last week at Burton Albion. Although the will to win will be as strong in both camps, the camaraderie between us should always shine through to show that football is always the winner.

I am writing this piece on Monday so I am unaware of what our position will be today so here goes.

Well, who would have thought at the beginning of the season that we would be in this position on the last day of the campaign? After enjoying so much success last season, I think that we would have settled for a mid to upper table position with a possibility of reaching the play offs.

However, Nathan Jones had other thoughts and even after we had only achieved one point out of the first nine, he believed that we could get automatic promotion and said we were as good as the best and that if we applied ourselves, we could do it.

The team have been magnificent in every way, striving together to achieve their ambition even when Nathan decided to part company with us in January, their strength came to the fore. Things could have been very different if the senior members of the squad had not have taken up the challenge to build on what they had already achieved and worked with Mick to overcome a very difficult situation.

Although Nathan’s departure was a complete surprise which could have resulted in a loss of form, the foundation that he put in place, along with Mick’s willingness to step in and to keep things the same, seemed to bring the team closer together and we carried on as if nothing had happened.

What a fantastic run of matches without a defeat, a wonderful achievement, one that will take a long time to equal, if ever?

The football played this year has been some of the best I have seen for over 60 years, it has been a pleasure to watch and I am so proud to be a small part of this tremendous football club. It would be absolutely fantastic for us all if we could convert this monumental effort into promotion to the Championship and complete a fitting tribute to everyone associated with the club.

We are a team from top to bottom, I take as much pleasure out of hearing lovely comments about our hospitality hosts, catering and bar staff, stewards and everyone representing the club as I do watching the football. Thank you and well done to you all.

The people of this town need success and having a successful football club goes a long way to improving the environment in which they live.

Off the field we are also striving to change the face of our town by involving our community in sporting activities that will change their lives, whilst completing major developments which will physically change the environment.

As Chairman of Football in the Community, I have held an active role in the progress that we have made over the past ten years. The charity was on its knees and looking to fold when we took over. Now it plays a major part in what we do for our community and is thriving in every way, so well done to all concerned, we could not have achieved anything without you. I look back with personal pride on what we have achieved so happy tenth anniversary to the LTFC Community Trust.

As a Director of the club, I also look back in amazement at what Gary and Mike Moran and their team have achieved. A new football ground with entertainment and residential facilities along with bars and restaurants at Power Court, and offices, sports, specialist shopping and other support facilities at Newlands Park. Planning permission has been achieved and assuming we have no major setbacks over the coming months, we will achieve our goal during the early to mid-20s. When Gary showed me the plans, I thought it was pie in the sky and he was dreaming, my only hope now is that I will still be around to see that dream come true (there must be a song about this?). We will have to get Rob Stringer to look through the Sony archives??

I must admit however that watching the last ten games and going through the stresses and strains along with the highs and lows of football, I am not doing too much to help my personal goal. Anyway, what will be will be and whatever happens today always remember that Luton Town FC will always be the spirit of the town. My thanks go to YOU our wonderful fans for sharing my dream, please give it your all today and make the difference. Good luck and Best Wishes. COYH!

***STOP PRESS 9:43pm TUESDAY 30 APRIL LUTON PROMOTED TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP***

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES!

Just managed to squeeze this in before printing. Fantastic news, congratulations to everyone at the club especially to Gary, my fellow Board Members and Mick, a great bunch of “BLOKES”.

We have travelled a considerable way together, not always easy but long may it continue. And to the fans that give us such tremendous support, carry on dreaming the dream, thank you, one and all, enjoy the ride!! I am overjoyed!!!

Bob

(*These notes appeared in last Saturday's matchday programme v Oxford United)


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