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Club News

Gary Sweet's Aston Villa boardroom notes

4 March 2024

Club News

Gary Sweet's Aston Villa boardroom notes

4 March 2024

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They say time flies when you’re having fun. Is anyone else wondering how quickly this season has flown? We’re now in March when it doesn’t seem five minutes since we were heading south to Brighton on the opening day in August.

The defeat that grey, wet afternoon to the Seagulls certainly opened our eyes to the challenge that lay in wait over the course of this, our first season in the top-flight in over 30 years. While many outsiders wrote us off before a ball was even kicked, such negativity, thankfully, has not penetrated The Brache or Kenilworth Road.

It is, therefore, with great pride that we enter the final 13 games of the season with a real chance of preserving our Premier League status. Nobody outside our environment gave us a chance of being in this position but the way in which Rob, his staff and the players have performed over these past seven months have been a result of incredible hard work, meticulous dedication, desire and plenty of skill and quality.

The past two matches in particular have seen us come up against, let’s be said, two amazing football teams with individuals performing at their peak. However, how refreshing has it been to see this Luton Town team taking the game to Liverpool, at Anfield, and then Manchester City here in the FA Cup on Tuesday? It’s brave, it’s progressive, entertaining and aggressive. It is as close as the fabled ‘Luton Way’ as it is to playing, and we have nothing but admiration for how the team’s style has evolved throughout the season. Teams are certainly wary of the threats we carry, and opposition managers have been extremely complimentary about the way we are playing.

Another proud aspect of the match against Pep Guardiola’s side was the glowing display by Joe Johnson, who – after celebrating his 18th birthday last week– came on in the first half and did not put a foot wrong. With Zack Nelson inching closer to his senior debut and with Axel Piesold given a squad number for the first time, we hope these products of our academy can not only push on and break into the first team on a regular basis, but also inspire the next generation of players in our academy set-up.

Of course despite all the plaudits and positivity, points are the prerogative – things we need in order to achieve the goals set out at the start of the campaign. That continues this evening against Aston Villa, who I wish to extend a warm welcome to. Our focus has always been on retaining our status regardless of external noise, and that is something we will continue to aim for between now and the season’s end.

Your support has played a massive part in our success. It been tremendous, ferocious and passionate home and away, and we’ll need you to maintain those levels between now and the end of the campaign. The noise does make a difference – anyone who was at Anfield will testify to that.


This evening you will notice that the installation of safe standing in the Oak Road Stand has been fully completed. This process has been a complex but rewarding one that means that over 800 additional seats are now in this area of the ground and it has resulted in us more than doubling the home capacity in this section.

We challenged the market, leaving no stone unturned, by installing a bespoke design into the Oak – designed in-house and manufactured specifically for our use. No such design exists outside of Kenilworth Road.

We’ve had many questions enquiring about why we feel the need to do it now – with such little time left at Kenilworth Road – and whether the cost can be recovered.

Firstly, because of the increase in capacity, pay-back would be well under two seasons with the additional benefit of allowing more supporters into the stadium. This increase has been made possible by a number of strategies, including increasing the number of usable rows, decreasing the segregation zone, having all standing seats as allocated positions and losing one gangway.

But there are other major reasons why we’re doing this now. The most valuable to us is that we’re learning with a view of perfecting a significant standing proportion of our capacity at Power Court.

It also means we would, by working with the Sports Ground Safety Advisory and our SAG, that confidence in us operating this level of licensed standing will increase safety and enjoyment for our supporters. But, naturally, this will be dependent on everyone using the Oak Road to respect the environment for the greater good. 

The installation also looks fabulous!

I can also reveal that we are in the early stages of investigating into areas of the Enclosure in which we could possibly install the rail seating. We will, of course, update you on any future developments.

Perhaps most importantly, the completion of this development means today is likely to see the biggest attendance at Kenilworth Road since we took over custodianship of the club in 2008. Kenilworth Road took its fair share of derision in the summer for being the smallest in the division but that is no longer the case. Our fixture against Manchester United saw the biggest league attendance, 11,483, since we played the same club in 1992 and we’ll, hopefully, be able to see an attendance of 12,000 before the season is over.

Turning attention back to today, and before kick-off we will remember Chris Nicholl, who sadly passed away last week. Chris was a magnificent centre-half who served both ourselves and our visitors with distinction. Having helped us to promotion from the old Third Division he went onto excel for Villa, where he twice won the League Cup. Please join us in a minute’s applause to remember him today.

Please get the behind Rob, Richie, Trolls and the boys this afternoon.

Come on Luton!


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