Date:Sunday November 18 2007
The 30th November 2007 is the 50th anniversary of my first Luton Town football match. Has my father got something to answer for? The agony and the ecstasy of supporting the Hatters has always been a matter of mixed blessings.
I thought I`d share some of the memorable moments from my recollections, but naturally it would make a book if I included all of them, and there have been some fantastic highs as well as some devastating lows, so I`ll spread it over a few articles starting with my first season.
Ironically, although I was only 6 years old at the time, and I don`t remember first hand the actual details, the stadium issue was in the news even then! In fact, the broken promises apparently originated years prior to my first game according to my father when in later years, he remembered the 50`s while we discussed the later promises of a new venue for the club. My father, who sadly passed away in 1991, also told me what had been going on in the club during the fifties, when he took me to my first game.
The first match I saw was Luton Town v Nottingham Forest and Luton won 3-1, on 30th November 1957. From that moment on I not only loved Luton Town, but also for some reason hated Nottingham Forest (or Notts Forest as they were known then, before the fans made a campaign to have the team always referred to as Nottingham!).
I was only 4 years old when the new stadium idea came up again seriously, so the following is a combination of recollections as told to me by father (on many occasions, as this was the highlight of his era of supporting the mighty Hatters), and facts filled in by club historian Roger Wash in his book "Luton Town at Kenilworth Road - A Century of Memories" which, if you haven`t got a copy, is well worth the effort!
Luton had been in a roller coaster season of ups and downs in 1954/5 having had a run of about ten victories and reaching the top spot in the league. However, in a disastrous run, which was to be a regular feature of Hatters fortunes during my later support, and still is to this day, they began a downward spiral, which looked like preventing promotion to the lofty heights of the top flight. However, this time they turned it round with three games to play, winning all three. It still was not in their own hands, however, and an unlikely combination of results elsewhere left the Town top with all their games played. Birmingham had one game to play and needed to win it to be promoted and did so pipping the Hatters for the top spot on goal average. Luton were promoted to the first division for the first time in their history!
The directors were worried about the possibility of big crowd potential being lost and began to look at possibilities for redeveloping the ground. Their ideas were scuppered by the proximity of the houses surrounding the ground, as they could not afford to buy all the houses and knock them down. The club bought some land behind the main stand from British Railways intending to build a cantilever stand there to increase seating and standing facilities but due to a shortage of steel the idea was shelved for two years. Instead, as the club already owned the houses behind the Oak Road end they would extend that stand by nicking the gardens from the houses and reducing their rents. The tenants were not having it and looked to get legal protection so the club revoked their rental agreements and told them they`d have to get out. I understand that they thought they could then offer them their houses back later after they`d fenced them off and left them without gardens. It turned out that the tenants had what later became known as assured tenancies so the club were not allowed to do it.
Strangely, I spent the first few weeks of my life in Ash Road where my parents were living with my Aunt while awaiting their own home. Later, in the 80`s she had to sell her house under a compulsory purchase order. Why? The council wanted the houses to be knocked down to redevelop Kenilworth Road Stadium! Did it happen? Did it f…………..ly to the moon?
To cut a long story short, none of the intended rebuilding in the 50`s ever took place as the budget was underestimated and costs shot up and the council were not helpful even back then. Not that it mattered too greatly as the ground had a capacity of about 30000 at the time, although standing in that era was apparently very uncomfortable and people who were vertically challenged found it difficult to get any sort of view with a six footer standing in front of them! My dad used to stand in the enclosure alongside the tunnel and my only real memory of my first game at the age of 6 was being passed over the heads of the spectators to the front to be sat on the railings so I could see the action. Very dangerous of course and totally against current health and safety regs but they always did it and no one ever seemed to get hurt. I can even remember sitting in front of the wall on the walkway around the pitch when the crowd was large.
So, when supporters tell you that the stadium issue has been going on for 25 years they are not even half right - it`s been going on for over 52 years! (Have we got the same council today? :-). During my first season the issue was raised again and a previous new stadium to be built at Skimpot on land owned by the club had been shelved years earlier and the Skimpot area was no longer deemed suitable due to other developments around that area in the meantime. The club asked the council for help locating a suitable site and Lewsey Farm was earmarked as a possibility. I wonder what happened to that idea? I guess the council are still doing their feasability studies?
My next game was on Christmas Day 1957, when the Town played 'The Busby Babes' -Manchester United, at Old Trafford, funnily enough the last time they would ever play on Christmas Day, (and the last time my father was allowed to be absent from the house on Christmas Day as I remember it!). I remember little of the game, so again my 'memory` of it was placed there by my father`s report.
Luton were apparently without several first choice players including the all time greats Gordon Turner, Bob Morton and Syd Owen, so it was a big ask for a newly promoted club to take on the defending champions on their own patch! Luton lost 3-0 with the goals scored by Duncan Edwards,(a very dodgy penalty- even then United were getting the decisions at Old Trafford!) and two by Bobby Charlton, although his first was deflected in by a defender.
The very next day, Boxing Day, the two teams played each other again at Luton and a last gasp equaliser saw the Town gain a 2-2 draw, but my father and I were 'suspended' by my mother for that one!
I have only just realised after reading a section of Roger Wash`s book that less than two months later many of the team that played against us in those Christmas fixtures died in the Munich air disaster in the February.
The final league table of that season was as follows, the second highest League position ever achieved in a season by the Hatters, surpassed only by the 7th position achieved by John Moore in 1986/7:
1 Wolverhampton W 64pts
2 Preston N E 59
3 Tottenham Hotspur 51
4 West Bromwich Albion 50
5 Manchester City 49
6 Burnley 47
7 Blackpool 44
8 Luton Town 44
9 Manchester United 43
10 Nottingham Forest 42
11 Chelsea 42
12 Arsenal 39
13 Birmingham City 39
14 Aston Villa 39
15 Bolton Wanderers 38
16 Everton 37
17 Leeds United 37
18 Leicester City 33
19 Newcastle United 32
20 Portsmouth 32
21 Sunderland 32
22 Sheffield Wednesday 31
Date:Sunday November 18 2007
Luton to Entertain Aston Villa (Friday May 17 2013)
Tyler`s Staying (Friday May 17 2013)
I Wish It Was Us! (Wednesday May 15 2013)
Favourites (Again)! (Monday May 13 2013)
Keeper Ranks Bolstered (Monday May 13 2013)
Nielson Finds New Club (Monday May 13 2013)
Welcome to the Mad World! (Monday May 13 2013)
I Felt Physically Sick! (Monday May 13 2013)
What a Difference a Year Makes (Friday May 10 2013)
Something to Look Forward To? (Wednesday May 8 2013)
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» Luton : 17/05/2013 13:37:00
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» Stockport : 15/05/2013 13:45:00