After pledging to buy a virtual season ticket for the 2020/21 campaign, our Conference-winning striker Paul Benson spoke in great detail about his life in football and what Luton Town Football Club means to him on iFollow Hatters.
In an extensive interview, Benno started by explaining how he became involved with the club in a coaching capacity, after a successful three-year stint as a player at Kenilworth Road.
“It was perfect really,” the 40-year-old began. “I had known Andy Awford the academy manager, played under him in a brief spell when he was at Portsmouth, he was there at the time I went there on loan.
“I knew him and then John Still brought him into the club when I was a player, he brought him as the academy manager so we reacquainted. I always got on well with him and I admired the way he was as a person.
“With his values and his time at Portsmouth, we were quite aligned in the game so I think that was important. When I left the club and went to Boreham Wood, he rang me up and said look there is an opportunity part-time and he said I want to bring you in, I think you compliment the staff we’ve got and I think you would be a good fit for what we are trying to do with the academy and the players.
“I came down and went through the procedure and they offered me the role of under-13s coach which was out of my comfort zone I’ve got to be honest. I’d only ever dealt with senior players and when I was at Dagenham, when I went back to Dagenham the second time, Stilly had me doing bits with the development squad and senior players there that weren’t in the first-team squad.
“I think I built up a lot of experience in those two years when I worked with the 13s and then at the end of those two years, there was an opportunity to go full-time and it coincided brilliantly with me retiring and finishing at Bedford Town.
“I’d had a year of coaching there with the senior team and I was ready to go into full-time coaching and the opportunity came up and I’m really pleased that the opportunity came up with a club that I had such good success with.
Now working under the title of Professional Development Phase Assistant Coach, Benno explained: “I’m loving what I’m doing and I’m loving the opportunity to keep learning off people like Dan Walder, James Townsend, Adrian Forbes, people like that who I work alongside mostly so I can keep learning and keep improving, which is the main thing for me. I just keep doing that, keep working and trying to be as good as I can and try and get as high as I can in what I’m doing now.
“I never left the area, my kids are in school in the area, me and the missus we love it here, we’re settled. It was a fantastic club to play for, it’s now a fantastic club to go and watch the first team with the support and the atmosphere. We went to the Middlesbrough game first game of the season and I went in the Oak Road End and I was blown away by the atmosphere, it was fantastic.
“It’s brilliant what this club means to so many people and how supportive they are. I’m just pleased to be a part of it because I’m in the community now and if I wasn’t working, I’d be going to watch games anyway so it’s fantastic to be able to be a part of it and sharing the success. The last two years when I’ve been part time, it’s been fantastic to be on this wave of success the current first team players and the previous first team players have managed to achieve. It’s fantastic to see where they are now to where the club was when I first came in the door.
“Players have come and gone and done well for the club but if you’ve paid your money to go and watch, you’ve also played your part in the success the club has had and where they are now.
“I think that’s fantastic and hopefully when we’re back from this difficult time we are in, we get back and we get back supporting the club and who knows where it might go from here. It is not beyond the realms that this club can go even higher than they currently are but it’s important we have that club to go back to and it’s important that the people, if they can, keep supporting it and hopefully we will be in a good position once all this is over and done with.”
Finally, the former striker wanted to send a message to the fans, ensuring each and every person values the jobs people are doing in this time of crisis.
“These roles, these jobs that people take for granted really I think for a long time without being political the NHS has been underfunded and not really been looked after the way it should have done. You even have people like the delivery drivers and the bin men who are coming and collecting the waste every week. You don’t realise how important they are and they’re just as important.
“The bin men, the delivery drivers, who bring your food home delivery are just as important as anyone else. I think there is going to be one good thing that comes out of all of this and we will have an appreciation of people’s roles and how important these jobs may be.
“I liken it to something I always say to Daz the kitman at the club, there is no person more important at a football club than the kitman. The players can turn up and they earn great amounts of money and they’re fantastically talented people. They can turn up in the changing room but if they haven’t got kit to wear, they can’t go out. It is the same as we’re experiencing now, people who maybe aren’t looked at having these important jobs are just as important as anyone else and I just think we are realising that and appreciating that now.
“I think it is fantastic that people are now starting to realise, and long may it continue even after this pandemic. Hopefully after it, people will start to show people in these professions a little bit more respect and a little bit more appreciation for what they do.”
You can watch the full interview on iFollow Hatters by clicking on the image at the top of the page.