Skip to main content Skip to site footer
Club News

The Rory Allen story

29 March 2024

Club News

The Rory Allen story

29 March 2024

Sponsored by

They say never fall in love with a loan player. But when they do so well for you, it’s hard not to.

Gary McSheffrey and Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall are cases in point. You can throw in Marvelous Nakamba too – although thankfully Marv’s ours now.

But back in 1998, the Town, struggling in today’s League One equivalent and staring relegation in the face, had a Tottenham youngster to thank for staving off relegation to the basement division.

A man who, although playing just eight times, wrote his name into Hatters folklore and who now looks back on his brief spell at Kenilworth Road as one of the fondest moments of his career.

Step forward Rory Allen – a striker who had scored on his home debut at White Hart Lane and scored against Manchester United as an 18-year-old.

“I had one bad ankle injury before Christmas and I was out for a while. I came back in early March and got a call and was asked, are you interested?” explains the now 45-year-old, who works at the Foreign Office in London.

“Luton were looking for someone upfront. I was a bit apprehensive. I hadn’t had much time to recover from my injury and knew I was going on loan to play in a relegation dogfight.

“I needed to hit the ground running but I didn’t have much time to think about it, so I jumped at the chance and I didn’t regret it.

MAIN PHOTO P970 Rory Allen salutes the travelling Town fans after scoring the only goal of the game.jpg

Having come through the ranks at Spurs, Allen was grateful for the eye-opener. Swapping the bright lights of the Premier League and White Hart Lane for the Kenny and games against Grimsby and Chesterfield.

“It was a big transition. There were players like Anderton and Ginola in the dressing room at Spurs. It was an intimidating environment as a young player, but I did well. I went from a young player there to a standout player at Luton with more responsibility and that gave me confidence.

“It was good to take on a new challenge and I felt comfortable from day one. The facilities weren’t like at Spurs but that didn’t bother me. I loved playing at Kenilworth Road, it was close to the pitch. Everything clicked and it suited me nicely.

“Obviously when you come from a Premier League team to a team struggling in what is now League One, you’re brought there for a reason. There was a bit of pressure. Luton had a couple of injuries to their strikers and of course there was a bit of expectation. There were a few little jokes in the dressing room ‘oh he’s going to save us!’ but I didn’t feel that pressure, nothing less than I’d experienced before at Tottenham.”

P970 Rory Allen at full stretch just fails to make contact with the ball.jpg

Thankfully for the Hatters, Allen hit the ground running and six goals in eight games helped the Town to five wins and a draw to stay ensure their place in the third tier.

“The manager, Lennie Lawrence, just said he’d had good reports about me, and liked me when he’d seen me play before. He gave me confidence to score some goals. I thought ‘there’s nothing to lose’. It was first team experience to aid my development.

“Funnily enough I don’t remember my debut at Walsall. I thought my debut was at Grimsby, but I remember the goal in that game.

“I also remember beating Chesterfield as Tom Curtis, a good friend of mine, who I played with at Portsmouth, played in that game.

“The Brentford game stands out. I scored, I had family there and it pretty much meant we secured safety.

“And then of course the Carlisle game. I scored with the final kick of the game in my final match to win it, which was a lovely way to end it.”

And that was that for Rory’s career at Kenilworth Road. Short, sweet and successful. He’d done his job in keeping Luton up.

The bad news is now hearing that Allen would have loved to have joined the Hatters on a permanent basis.

“By the end of the loan spell, I would have been quite happy to have stayed,” he says. “I went from being a young kid making my way at Spurs to being a young player with a responsibility at Luton. Even though I was young I was looked at in a more senior way at Luton and I liked that.

“The season ended, the summer break started and we had about two months off. I would have liked the season to continue instead of having to start all over again in pre-season.

“I was involved in a few first team games for Spurs but then broke my leg for the first time and I was out for a while.”

MAIN PHOTO P970 Rory Allen controls the ball before smashing in Town`s second goal.jpg

After a spell recovering on the sidelines, his time at White Hart Lane came to an end and in 1999 Allen was transferred to Portsmouth.

However, a string of injuries followed at Fratton Park – seven operations in total – and by that stage Allen had fallen out of love with football and his mind was elsewhere. Specifically, The Ashes.

“At that point, I was 25 or 26 and realised injuries were going to prevent me from getting back to my level,” he says. “I wasn’t in love with football anymore but wasn’t overly scared of ending my career. So I left to pursue my dream of watching the Ashes in Australia.

“I was a single man without commitments, had money in the bank and didn’t see my future at Portsmouth.”

It was a story that gained the headlines in the UK with Pompey boss Harry Redknapp appealing to fans Down Under to find his striker.

“I had obviously planned it but the day before I went, I gave Gary O’Neil, the now Wolves manager, to give my resignation letter to Harry.

“Harry couldn’t believe it. I guess I could have been more upfront about it but I didn’t want any fuss. People told me I could have negotiated ending my contract, but I wasn’t worried about the money. Things like this happen in normal life, but in a football context it was bonkers.

“I turned my phone off, went off grid. When I arrived in Brisbane my mobile was pinging with loads of messages. I had told everyone I needed to, I just didn’t want the fuss and went to enjoy myself. I knew there would be a story.”

At the end of the series, which England lost 3-1, Allen was briefly back in the UK before heading back to Australia again to watch England win the Rugby World Cup in 2003.

“I came back again and realised there wasn’t a future in football for me. Other players have routes – media, coaching, being an agent. I just wasn’t that interested. I had a bug for travelling and experiencing new things,” he says.

Now, he’s settled in the UK, with family. His son Teddy splits his loyalties between the Hatters and Spurs, and father and son watched the Championship play-off final in May, sneaking off from a family dinner on holiday in Greece to see the us win promotion to the Premier League.

WhatsApp Image 2023-10-04 at 22.32.31.jpeg

“He knows his dad played for both and knows I have fond memories of my time at both clubs, he’s seen the YouTube videos and asks a lot of questions about my career,” says Allen.

“If the Luton fans still think of me, that’s a nice feeling.

“To have a played a role in that great escape gives me a lot of satisfaction.

“I’ll never forget my time at Luton. It was absolutely amazing.”

Advertisement block

Hatters Player Next Match Tickets Account