Good afternoon and welcome to Kenilworth Road for another huge, sold out league game as we take on two-time European champions Nottingham Forest.
Before a ball is kicked today, with this being our last home game before Armistice Day, we pay our respects 101 years on from the end of World War One. Amongst many local people, three Luton Town players lost their lives in the Great War – Arthur Wileman, Ernest Dodd and Frank Gilder – and when we bow our heads in remembrance this afternoon, we will respectfully remember them.
Today we welcome the players, officials and supporters of Nottingham Forest for a game which signifies another mark of how far we have progressed in the last decade or so.
We last met in the Spring of 2008 shortly before we became official custodians – a week after it was confirmed that we were destined for League Two football the following season – where we were defeated by a single goal at the City Ground adding more salt to an already open wound.
To be back playing, against peers, against an historically huge club in the second tier and former European champions of course is testament to the work that everyone at the Club has invested, just as it provides the motivation to carry on delivering to ensure that they remain a recurring fixture.
Today’s game itself represents another great challenge for our first team staff and players as The Reds (or the Tricky Trees) push for a promotion place in an amazingly competitive race.
The appointment of Sabri Lamouchi has proven to be an inspired one, as the Reds are now yet another example of a team wanting to play the beautiful game in an attractive style.
It’s an approach Graeme and his staff work on with the squad day-in, day-out and that resulted in one of our most enjoyable games this season as we defeated Bristol City in our last home game at Kenilworth Road. Certainly, a repeat of that performance will provide wonderful entertainment for another full house today.
In similar circumstances as we went into that game, we had previously gone two matches on the bounce without a win, this time suffering defeats at Fulham and Birmingham.
Heading into this season we all knew that our budget would be dwarfed by most, if not all other, Championship clubs and none more so than by the likes of Fulham. To walk away from the Cottage having scored a brace and taken them right to the wire is something we should be proud of.
Our trip to Birmingham proved to be a frustrating affair, none more so than for those who arrived late due to the traffic on the M1. Ultimately, we were punished for not showing a bit more Championship nous, something that the hosts that day have had the opportunity to get right after spending a few years at this level.
Whilst we can be proud of how well we have recently performed we know that the history books will only record points on the board. It goes without saying that amassing those vital points is our primary objective as we look at bagging another three today.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank and heap praise upon our recent travelling supporters – all 4,700 of them in the last week. Despite the resulting scorelines, en-masse, every man, woman and child were magnificent in their behaviour, unwavering positivity and noise-levels throughout both games to the extent that both opponents recognised and congratulated us on your behalf for adding so much to the atmosphere. This is exactly the support we need this season. Simply brilliant!
Our opponents today have recently extended their lease at the City Ground – a move that takes developing the stadium one step closer to becoming a reality. Plans to turn it into a 38,000-seater ground are at a consultation phase, before their planning applications get submitted.
Of course, we have become intimately familiar with the trials and tribulations of the planning process over the last few years so we can empathise with their challenges ahead hoping they have no obstacles to face.
I’m sure you will all be aware that, in three days’ time, the much talked about six-week period for a judicial review challenge upon Luton Council for our successful planning applications at both Newlands Park and Power Court expires.
Clearly, it is hoped that no challenge will be forthcoming despite the Council’s receipt of a ‘Pre-Action Protocol’ letter from Capital & Regional’s lawyers effectively providing advice of their intention to do so in relation to our Newlands Park scheme.
Since receiving this, we have naturally supported the Council in whatever information they required resulting in their excellent and pleasing response to Eversheds Sutherland earlier this week.
As I write these notes, no follow-up action has been instigated and, personally, I would be literally gobsmacked if our planning opponents had the audacity and bluster to push the button on an action that would effectively “declare war on the people of Luton”, as exclaimed by our two chief supporters’ groups later this week.
The arguments put forward in the letter-before-action were, in my mind, weak and toothless and I would suggest, knowingly so. I would find it hard to believe that any senior legal advisor would recommend that their client commits, not only themselves to a significant expense, but much more so for the taxpayers of Luton in order to merely delay an inevitable outcome.
Furthermore, should they be imprudent enough to challenge I would be somewhat surprised if the high court gave it enough substance to invest valuable and expensive court hearing time. In their statement, the Council said they would vigorously defend their decision to grant us with planning permission to build a mixed-use scheme at Newlands Park and that they were ready to do so.
I can assure you that we are more than ready to support the Council in every possible way we can to ensure that any arguments they put forward are kicked into their own long grass, hopefully, at their cost. We are steadfast in our ambitions for our football club and our town, with or without further battles.
We aren’t going anywhere. We are here to stay and more than ready for anything that any opponent puts in our way.
Enjoy today’s game and sing loud and proud!
*These boardroom notes were written ahead of Saturday's game against Nottingham Forest and appeared in the matchday programme 'Our Town'.