These notes were written for the Rotherham United edition of Our Town, which you can buy a printed edition of by clicking on the programme cover below...
Good evening and, for what I desperately hope will be the final time, a warm virtual welcome to Kenilworth Road for a Sky Bet Championship fixture.
We have missed your wonderful support here in person for all but two matches of what has been an excellent season, when we recorded two of our best home performances of the campaign against champions Norwich and Preston North End.
We know we have lost out, probably more than any other club, by not having our fans here for home games that we’ve drawn or lost, and we know that 12th man would have driven us on to a better result, and an even higher position in the table.
Maybe we’ve benefitted a bit away from home, but when this place is packed, there is nowhere else like it in English football and we can’t wait for the first time we walk out with you all back in the ground next season, God willing.
It was emotional with just a few hundred in here back in December, and I can imagine there will be a few tears, as well as cheers, when that day finally comes as we remember some who tragically won’t be able to be with us.
It’s been such a horrible year in so many ways, as everyone understands. But I would like to start my list of thank-yous to every single Luton Town supporter who has continued to give us your backing, whether that be financially with a season ticket, iFollow match pass or purchase from the club shop, or with a letter, email or positive social media post, when I know how difficult it has been for you not to have your weekly escape to the football.
I dedicated the recent derby win to all of you, including the board, and as we head towards what we hope will be a top half Championship finish for the first time since 2006 and the start of all the troubles that led to 2020 taking over, I would like to dedicate the whole season to every single Luton fan who has been to the bottom and back. Some of you more than once.
The difference a year can make is unbelievable, and although it’s still a month shy of the first anniversary of my return, I thank Gary, David and the board for giving me the opportunity. It was a brave decision by them, and by myself, but this was the only club I wanted to return to management with.
The players have been unbelievable, playing 53 league games (so far) in 46 weeks to maintain our Championship status and then establish Luton Town in the division. Make no mistake, we should be higher in the table, but the ones we signed in League Two, the players I inherited last May, and those we’ve signed this season have all been so committed to the cause. A great group.
I thank the staff, both at The Brache on the football side – where Mick, Harty, Chris and Kev have been fantastic along with the analysts, sports science, medical, catering and groundstaff – and at the stadium, where everyone has been working so hard to keep the club going in the most trying of circumstances.
I must also must thank my wife, Laurie, who is at the heart of me being able to work all hours and devote myself to a job I love. Our daughter Olivia was due a couple of days after I returned to the club last May. Thankfully she arrived a few days late, but for Laurie to cope with a new born on her own while I was living at the training ground for most of the week, quite literally, while we waited to be able to move back from Cheshire to the local area, in this world of Covid restrictions, is something else.
It’s fantastic we are now all settled and so looking forward to getting back to some sort of normality in a part of the country we love.
Finally, tonight I welcome my good friend Paul Warne and his Rotherham team to Kenilworth Road. It’s a huge game for them, I understand that. We were in the same position last season and we had a former goalkeeper, someone we all love and who I worked with for years, coming forward for an injury-time corner that could have relegated us in the final seconds of the season. Football throws up these scripts and we just need to look after ourselves, as Paul and his Rotherham side need to do for themselves.
Whatever the outcome over the next few days, there is no doubt that my old Yeovil team-mate has done a fantastic job there and will continue to do so, I’m sure.
Enjoy tonight’s game and Saturday’s at QPR, have a fantastic summer and let’s all look forward to an even brighter 2021-22 season – together!