Ground: Kenilworth Road
Date: Saturday 12th April 2008 3.00pm
Competition: League One
Result: Luton Town 1 Brighton 2 HT: 0-0 Att: 6,652
Parkin 49 Westlake 51, Murray 59
Additional: Entrance £21.50 Programme: £3 Hot drinks: £1.50
Kenilworth Road is a ground that has until now eluded me. Virgin trains did their best to keep this tradition up, but I did eventually make it, albeit a tad late. I can’t begin to tell you how much that irks me, to turn up late to a football match. It’s like buying a jigsaw to find there’s pieces missing. Anyway, Luton’s has hitherto been a virgin ground for me, as they managed to avoid being in the same division as Brighton for ages, and when we did finally meet recently, there were always logistical reasons such as evening kick-offs to stop me going.
Luton Town for me evoke some strong images and events; their orange kit, Raddy Antic’s goal at Maine Road in 1983 in the 86th minute to keep Luton up and send hosts Man City down. The pom-pom headed Serbian’s celebration was memorable, but overshadowed by his manager David Pleat’s, at the final whistle. In his grey suit and tan shoes, he gambolled on to the pitch in celebration, waggling his suit jacket up and down a bit with his hands, in a particularly fine display of British ecstasy. His celebration can only be successfully aped by middle aged awkward men, preferably accountants.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyAUkaC6nsI – Pleaty and his Antics
Then there is the famous plastic pitch from the 80s, following QPR’s lead. This was very unpopular leading to the obvious taunt of ‘You only win on the plastic’, which as it happens wasn’t without an element of truth. Then there was the banning of away fans for 5 years after the Millwall cup tie, in which Millwall fans ripped seats out of the ground, and threw them on the pitch. The ban and membership scheme led to them being kicked out of the league cup for failing to relax admission rules, and led to Kenilworth Road being the Holy Grail to ’92 club’ wannabes who weren’t Luton fans!
The game against Brighton could’ve seen Luton relegated to League Two, helped by the 10 point deduction for going into administrationearlier in the season. And it did. We won 2-1, which kept alive our slim play-off pretensions at the same time as sending the Hatters down. Luton didn’t look as bad as their league position suggested and they took the lead shortly into the second half. However, very un-albion-like, we responded immediately with a header in off the bar from Westlake, and almost as quickly again with another header from a cross, this time by Murray. All this in the space of 10 minutes.
Kenilworth Road, on television, had always looked a bit dodgy to me, with the view being, predominantly, of one whole side devoted entirely to executive boxes. It always looked to me like a conservatory showroom.
From the inside the ground looks amazing! It kind of went from being about 75th best in the league in my mind to top five standard. The TV cameras really don’t do it any justice. It is a very close-to-the-pitch atmospheric ground, and in the context of the whole even the conservatories don’t look too bad. It reminds me a lot of QPR’s Loftus Road.
I love the corner stands that look like they’ve been added some time after the other stands were there. The two-tier gap-filler really adds character to the ground, but one of the great features of Kenilworth Road and surely the deal clincher for anyone on the football ground market, is the entrances for the away fans. The club must’ve bought a few terraces in the street which now comprise the turnstiles. As you go through the turnstiles metal staircases lead up to the ground, giving you a birds eye view of the washing lines in the back yards of all the terrace folk. It is quite surreal.
I hope Luton come back up straight away. I have always liked Luton, despite the away fan ban and the plastic pitch. They have a bigger pedigree than people think (actually, than I think, because I don’t know all people, in fact I don’t think I’ve ever asked anyone about their stance on Luton’s standing in the great scheme of things. I just think of them as always being lower division) – with two spells in the top flight, an FA Cup final appearance in 1959 when they lost 2-1 to Notts Forest and a League Cup in 1988, winning the final 3-2 against Arsenal.
One thing that this match has taught me (for the time being), is forget going green; I’m driving to football matchesfrom now on.