Today we welcome Pep Guardiola’s treble winning Manchester City to a festive fixture here at Kenilworth Road. How far we’ve come – the best team in the land gracing our hallowed turf in a home league match for the first time since 28th November 1998 back in the old Division Two.
And for the older contingent of the away following, how could I not mention that famous day in May 1983, when with four minutes remaining the late, great Raddy Antic silenced Maine Road and secured one of the greatest final day escapes in history. I have a fond kinship for those City fans who hold this against us. It’s nostalgically welcome to bare the grudge of real fans for past clashes, when passions ran our beautiful game. No more so than in today’s footballing climate, where fans, pundits, and the league itself, seem to have very short memories.
For the second consecutive fixture, Kenilworth Road plays host to one of the English and European footballs giants. Our endeavour and commitment against Arsenal was immense and the game plan so nearly came off. A cruel end to a fascinating game but let’s remember we took a key title contender to the final second. Not many will score three against them this season. Had the ref played the correct extra time, we would have gained an exceptionally worthy point. The atmosphere was amazing and you can see the difference you make. If we all keep doing our best and keep improving, we will surprise and confound many people.
With games coming at us thick and fast over this winter period, many opportunities to pick up valuable points lay ahead, and I know I speak for us all in saying a solid haul of points under our tree come the end of the month would be a hugely welcome present!
We must spare a moment, however, to give extra consideration to those less fortunate than ourselves, particularly at this time of year. Be it the cost of living, the holes left by absent loved ones, or the suffering throughout the world, it is far from an easy time to show kindness to your neighbour, but in these times of instability and division that is precisely what we must endeavour to do.
This year, the Luton Salvation Army Toy Appeal aims to provide 7,000 children in Luton who won’t receive a present this year, something to open on Christmas Day. As a club we strive to back projects within our local community and the Academy and development squad players have been down to help with the wrapping. I know it’s a huge amount to ask, but even a small donation will make an incredible difference to a family this Christmas – and we are all part of the same family. If you have an extra unneeded present, or a few spare coins, please help us ensure that there are 7,000 smiling and laughing young faces on the 25th. Scan the QR code below to help with the appeal.
At a time when the gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ of this world is only widening, it seems like an appropriate time to look inwards at what we ourselves can do to make a positive difference to our collective futures.
I’m reminded of a tale undoubtedly familiar with the vast majority of you - Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’. It’s hard not to empathise with Bob Cratchit and poor Tiny Tim, and revile against the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge who, consumed by his own greed, lost all sight of what truly matters in life.
Not until the visit of a former adversary – the chain burdened spectre of Jacob Marley – followed by a trio of apparitions, does Scrooge truly contemplate his ways and recognise his folly.
The Ghost of Christmas Past sought to remind Mr Scrooge of his humble roots. Simpler times in which he hadn’t yet fully developed his cold and callous nature. The estrangement from his fiancée to be, a love lost summoning a year of regret, a glimpse of humanity. Slowly the realisation dawns that the insidious allure of gold lined pockets stole from him far more than it could ever give.
The second spirit transports Scrooge to observe the Cratchit family Christmas, and their ailing son, Tiny Tim. With meagre means and few resources, it becomes apparent that unless he intervenes Tiny Tim will surely die. In his eternal quest of avarice, the price is borne by those less fortunate.
Finally, the wraith of Christmas Yet To Come presents to Scrooge his own mortal end, raising the ultimate question of legacy. In the end, we will all be judged by our deeds, and what we do in the present directly influences the future, for better or worse. We are the masters of our own destiny.
But what about when our destiny is collective? How do we achieve alignment amongst many parties? As a board we have always held true to transparency and ethics at the core of what we do and who we are. I truly believe our success in recent years has been in a large part down to the ethos woven into the fabric of this wonderful Club of ours, that has held steadfast for over 135 years. And that ethos? You, the supporters.
Previous owners of our Club, in 1991, voted for the introduction of the Premier League. Now, we as Custodians, are playing our role in the New Deal for Football as proposed by the Government White Paper and included in the King’s Speech. Should we vote with our eyes focussed on gaining advantage for ourselves at the expense of others? Or should we vote thinking about what is good for the game as a whole – and for every stakeholder – no matter what that means for us?
Our promise to you was to give us all a club we can be proud of. To find a harmony between championing the interests of Luton Town, whilst simultaneously standing as a beacon for the wider footballing community, endeavouring to better ourselves and others. From grassroots football initiatives such as our recent partnership with Switchshop to bring the local school children of Beechwood Green JMI School a new astroturf playing surface, to community driven projects such as the Salvation Army’s Toy Appeal I mention above… our Club and community are intrinsically linked and beat with the same heart.
We are being held up as a model club and we have influenced many fans and owners around the country. We continue to change and evolve our wonderful game and use our voice to speak fairly. Neither you nor I are impressed or lured by shining things, or things we cannot afford. We are not transfixed on pockets lined with (fools) gold that some other clubs can be accused of chasing. We do not gain success whilst financially doctoring accounts to gain advantage.
So, I invite us all to reflect; what is it that we stand for? Is it the further stratification of our game and repeating the financial inequity of the past, or are we better than that? True courage is selfless - to stand up in the present and make yourselves heard wherever injustice is encountered. Only through collective action can we shape what is yet to come.
The question is this; who do we want to be in the future, and who is that future for?
I think you know that Luton Town will vote for what is best for football. Best for those who are not sitting at the table and not able to speak. Let’s hope that others have the courage and bravery to do the same and put selfish thoughts aside.
I send you my best wishes for the festive season and an exciting 2024.
As always, Come On You Hatters!