Clueless, Chanceless, Goalless…Pointless

time to go

Need I say anything? If you are a Hatter you will know what 3-0 away to Wrexham in the 5th tier of football means, and feels like.

I’m tired of the excuses. If you have read this blog before, you know my opinions on the tactical ability of the manager. I’m not unrealistic: all teams lose. But if you genuinely think that nothing is wrong and Big Mick is the footballing white knight who will lead us out of this division and onto glory then you either know nothing about football, or you are a deluded fool.

Mick Harford is an outstanding ambassador for our club. Mick Harford was a legendary player for our club. Mick Harford loves our club. Mick Harford has an excellent record of recruiting fantastic players for our club, Mick Harford is a good coach, Mick Harford had the balls to take charge of a club with a 30 point deduction. Unfortunately Mick Harford is not a very good manager. And, if he is honest with himself, in his heart of hearts, he knows it too.

My total respect goes to those 303 superb Hatters who made the long journey of a Tuesday evening to Wales. Listening to the commentary the performance sounded about as bad as the Kettering game, if not worse.

I know Mick has been set targets by 2020. My own target for him was to be in the top 6 after 12 games. We are 9th after 11.

We are away to Cambridge on Saturday, then at home to Stevenage next Tuesday. If the fortunes of the team are not dramatically turned around over those two games then, I’m sorry Mick, but you’ll have to go. Never thought I’d ever have to type that.

No hang on – how are even two great results going to turn things around? There is fundamentally something wrong. Mick’s not the right man for the job, even if we win the next two games 4-0. Something’s not right. It’s not working. I’m so, so sorry.

The writing’s on the wall. Change things now, or we are playing Wrexham again next year.

P11 W5 D4 L2 Pts 19 Pos 9th – or to put it another way 101st out of 116.

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Slaying the Dragons

Big Micks secret is out

I won’t be making the trek accross the border tomorrow, much to my annoyance, as I have to be in South London with work until 4:30pm which will make it a bit tricky.

Big Mick gave his customary pre-match press conference today and treated us to a wonderful contradiction:

“We don’t need to chop and change it around.” which rather goes against his comments on the 1st of September when he said “It’s all about picking the right team for the right game and if I feel the need to change it then I will.”

Poor guy, I hear you say – he can’t win can he? Damned whatever he says. A settled team would be nice Mick. A team where all the players are used to the roles and know what is involved in the role for each position. That is all.

Unfortunately, having said the right thing, Mick then took blotted his copybook by using the old favourite “It won’t be an easy game but there are no easy games whatever league you’re in.”

No Mick, that’s setting us up for a fall before we’ve even played. That is called managing expectations. The fact remains, whether you like it or not – there are easy games whatever league you are playing in. This is non-league. We have a team of League One and League Two players, and some heaven forfend who have played in the Championship. If it wasn’t for the unjust, unfair and arbitary points deductions last year we wouldn’t even be in this bloody league. We should be storming it in League One. Instead we are 6th now in the Conference, our lowest ever position and Mick is looking for a point away at Wrexham.

With the players we have, with the backing the club has, with a decent manager we would be matching Oxford blow for blow, instead we are starting to look over our shoulders.

That phrase annoys me so much. It is an excuse not a reason. As I have said before Sven used to say “there are no easy games at this level” when England would struggle at home against some Micky Mouse country from eastern Europe. No – let’s get it straight there are easy games, because not all the teams are the same. Some are weak, some are poor, some are both. We are neither, but somehow flatter to deceive.

Rant over. God I hope we beat Wrexham tomorrow.

Team news: Burgess out forever, Ed back in training, Hatch fine, Porno training again – apart from Burgess everything is moving in the right direction – full marks to Harry Scott-Stackman for getting them all back in such a timely fashion – especially Hatch.

Predictions? The head says 1-1, the heart says a cheeky 1-0 win, Asa Hall 64th minute.

Come on you Hatters…

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Huffing and puffing

Last week, on the days that postie was working, he kindly plopped a letter from 2020 through my letter box. It was an invite to, and a voucher for a training session on the 16th of October. One of the benefits of being a diamond season ticket holder this year is for an opportunity to come and watch the first team train. This is on top of the chance to watch a game from one of the beach huts, and a signed shirt, as well as the 5 adult and 5 child vouchers for home games. Now – if the chance to watch the team train encouraged just one person who wouldn’t have otherwise bought a diamond season ticket then it was worth it and good business. The cost of sale to LTFC of opening the doors one day and letting 400 punters into watch must be near to zero: it costs the club nothing to put on, but adds value to the more expensive diamond season ticket choice.

However, will I go? It means having to bunk off work for an hour or arranging a ‘meeting’ in our Luton office. But it doesn’t really appeal to me. I guess we get to meet some of the lads before, during and after, but I always get a bit star struck with heroes. I once got the chance to fly in Gary Numan’s plane – but bottled it. It took two mates to drag me to a book signing with Tom Baker (he was charming by the way, but a bit pissed I think). I nearly spoke to Ricky Hill at the Legends game, but didn’t quite pluck up the courage, and last time I met Nico all I could say was “Best of luck this afternoon Kev.” So I know if Rossi Jarvis came up and said “Aren’t you my pal on Facebook?(as if…) I would probably become a babbling fool.

But, do I really want to stand on the touchline at the Kenny watching Mick, Alan and Kevin shouting “Hoof it up to Hatchy”? or “Nico, stop kicking him or “Nico – one foot tackle good, two feet tackle bad“??? Do I want to watch a group of grown men run in and out of some traffic cones? Or play touch football? Not really – doesn’t really do much for me. But it is a nice thought and an excellent idea by 2020.

Actually, thinking about it, though it might not be my bag, someone else might love it or their lad might want to take a sicky and go along – if anyone wants to have my voucher for the day, then leave a comment with your email address on and I will be in contact and will send it.

Fair enough? Team news for Wrexham coming up tomorrow.

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Nostalgic walk down Newell lane…

my thanks to the owners of the copyright of this picture

As we haven’t got a game this week and as there are no daily crises to report on because of the stability LTFC2020 have afforded us, I thought I would indulge in that thing which football fans excel in: nostalgia.

I thought perhaps I could put a few thoughts down about our old manager Mike Newell. Now here’s an interesting football character if ever there was one. I think most Luton fans could write a book on the Newell years (June 03 to March 07) and split it into two parts: on the field and off the field. I’m not sure how much time I have to write this, so I will try and squeeze both in, without crashing the server.

If you recall Newell had been ‘selected’ by the cringingly embarrassing and obviously fixed phone manager poll during those mad weeks when following the club really was like watching a ludicrous soap-opera. More about Gurney another time, but I remember watching a sheepish Newell on the Trouble at the Top documentary which gave an insight into those mad times, but when he was appointed I was fascinated to find out what he would be like as a manager. He certainly served us (and himself) well as a player in the 80s – his hat-trick against his favourite team, Liverpool is stuff of legends. And while his short time with us and his record (18 goals in 63 games ) was good, he never quite ascended into legend status himself.

I remember a self-righteous Hartlepool fan posting on the unofficial message board (the precursor to Outlaws, which itself got its name after an anti internet rant by MN), not long after his appointment and advising us to watch out for two things: a slavish adherence to 4-4-2 and his alleged drinking. The monkey-hanger was certainly right about the 4-4-2. I can only recall him not playing 4-4-2 on one occasion a 4-5-1 against Tranmere in the 4th round of the cup in January 2004 when Enoch was the only available striker and we had no choice. We were robbed that day, the ref whose surname began with M gave me genuine reason to believe he was taking money.

The drinking was a different matter – clearly there is no smoke without fire. Players, manager and people in general don’t get a reputation as a drinker without some sort of reason to believe it might be the case. Certainly with Newell there were tales of his drinking sessions with others on the staff or where people had been in the same pub as him. Certainly his mood swings were because of something. But enough about that, I personally had heard nothing but rumours so it would be unfair to comment further without evidence.

It seems to me that there are two schools of thought on team selection, pick a team to suit the players you have available or make the players fit a formation. Harford tries to do the former, Newell always did the latter. Personally, I think that for lower-league players especially, to keep things simple and to repeatedly drill the roles and and expectation that each position entails is more suitable and practical than constantly chopping and changing formation depending on who is available that week. Accommodating favourites – rather than having the balls to stick them on the bench – is a dangerous game. Just ask Sven Goran Eriksson.

Such was Newell’s adherence to 4-4-2 week in week out you knew exactly what each player was supposed to do in that position. Two wingers – two central midfielders, full backs overlapping when and where possible. Take the time when we had both Underwood on the left, and Brko on the right, whilst Underwood linked up brilliantly with Sol on the left, Brko spent much of the promotion season pushed so far forward from the right he was almost (almost, not quite) part of a front three. No wonder he got so many goals that year. In the middle, Newell didn’t really play with a player ‘in the hole’ behind the front two – something that let him down on occasions – the central midfielders did what it said on the tin, stayed in the centre, with the likes of Nico holding slightly more, and the likes of Robbo pushing forward a bit more, but never in the way that perhaps Asa Hall did last year under Big Mick. I may be over analysing this a bit, especially as Newell famously said in an interview “I don’t do tactics”. But this was one of the things that caused us a problem once Nico was sold, we didn’t have a ball winner (well we did, but he was on the bench, covering for Foley at right back) and played with two ‘central midfielders’ in the middle with the same tactic but with different results.

Newell brought an old-fashioned and somewhat refreshing ethic back to the field. Under him, there was no writhing around the floor if you got a tap on the ankle, you stayed down if you were genuinely injured otherwise you got up and helped your team mates. I can’t remember too much diving either – but perhaps the mists of time have made me forget. It was our honesty and willingness to get on with it that caused such a contrast with Watford last time we played them at home. Watford (managed by Boothroyd ‘Hoofroyd’ – a footballing disgrace) were happy to lump it forward, to stay down when tackled, to ‘manage’ the game, to time-waste and to harry and pester the ref for the whole game. Whilst Luton played attractive, attacking, (naive?) football, stayed on their feet and generally got pissed off by the cheating and gamesmanship. We lost the game, but no self-respecting Watford fan (if such a thing could exist) could ever argue that it was a victory for footballing skill and fair play. That day we were like the speccy middle class kid in the playground. The bullies came and smashed our glasses, stole our lunch, stuck our coat in the bin and teacher turned a blind eye; but as we went home we knew we were in the right and reminded ourselves how cruel life can be.

Thinking about it again – was Newell vs Boothroyd a modern version of the good vs evil, beauty vs the beast, Pleat vs Taylor clashes of the eighties?

Off the field Newell exhibited what he viewed as traditional or old-fashioned stance on things. He was close to his father and espoused a strong family ethic. He believed that managers should manage and coaches should coach. That those involved in football should be true to their word and honest in their dealings – that people should take responsibility for their own actions and not blame others, unusual indeed for a scouser. He detested agents, saw them as leaches. For this reason Bill Tomlins went behind his back to pay agents to indulge Newell with the players he demanded. His famous spat with Amy Rayner which dominated the sports news for a week and brought unwelcome publicity for Luton got him into trouble with the FA, his employers and all of the Guardian readers of the world. Let us not forget, Rayner had a shocker that day, not because she was a woman, but because she had a poor game. Newell famously said “If people call be sexist I am sexist” – meaning that he believed men and women should have traditional old fashioned roles, that chaps should hold doors open for ladies etc. It is not recorded what Mrs Newell thought of all this, but I suspect she had her hands full because MN has about five kids!

Newell was lucky to inherit a good core to the team, Nico (whom he knocked into shape from being an attack-dog under Kinnear), Coyne, Stevo, Robbo, Brko, Sol and Emmerson Boyce were all at the club he inherited. Waiting in the wings were the likes of Keet’ Keane, Kevin Foley, Curtis Davies, Leon Barnett and to a lesser extent O’Leary, Leary and Dean Brill. He also had a supporting cast of sound players at that level such as Peter Holmes, Russ Perret, Alan Nielsen, David Bayliss etc.

As a club we were in such a state and such a pickle when he inherited the team that the performance against Crystal Palace in that sweltering pre-season friendly in July 2003 was a refreshing revelation, a bolt out of the blue, in otherwise depressing and gloomy times. Despite being in admin, unable to sign players and Enoch playing for expenses, at least the team could play good, attacking football to give us some hope for the future, whatever was going on off the field.

That season (03/04) it really was backs-to-the-wall time, it really was a ‘nobody likes us, we don’t care’ mentality. The team spirit (notwithstanding Nico’s bust up with Newell over being made to play on the left) was excellent. With such a limited squad each game had a sort of last-ditch, make-do and mend mentality and things seemed to work out well. When a player was out with injury one of the youngsters came in and had that initial burst of eagerness, energy and luck but then the original player was back just in time, before the youngster started to get found out and started to make consistent errors due to his inexperience. Leary was a good example of this – he stepped in for Nico for a few games I seem to recall, and just about did okay and then Nico was back before too many of Leary’s faults could be exposed by too long a run in the team.

In Newell’s first season we finished a remarkable 10th which bearing in mind the utter turmoil there had been over the summer and the delays over coming out of admin was a remarkable achievement.
I think my point is though, it is much easier to do it coming from a position of strength with a good core of players and a great crop of youngsters than perhaps from a standing start, such as Big Mick had to do last year. In fact, putting this in historical context, if you ignore the unfair and unjust 30 point reduction last year our finishing position would have been not too bad, bearing in mind the dismal starting point.

Of course the following season we went from strength to strength, going unbeaten for the first 12 league games and going on to win the league. He had brought in players like Underwood and Vine and suddenly we were going places. But this early success and the ability to tempt excellent players into joining Luton was the start of the problem. Like a junkie needing more and more to get the same hit, and to keep the drive onwards and upwards the following season in the Championship we saw Heikkenen, Morgan and Carlos Edwards join over the summer, as well as Feeney who had come the previous season. None of these came cheap, but we were in the big boys league now. Playing well and thriving in the Championship. Not for us a season’s consolidation or two! I think this drive to recruit more and more players masked what was going on behind the scenes. As long as Newell had a good team and could recruit decent players and improve the squad things went well. It was once the rug had been pulled from under him that he started to flounder. No manager can succeed when all around him players are being sold, but some are better with no money than others, and Newell was shown up once he was unable to continue to build the team along the lines he wanted. I think that, notwithstanding the fact that some more signings were made in the next couple of years once the board lost its bottle (more of this in a second, bear with me) and started to sell, beginning with Curtis Davies on 31 August 2005, it was the beginning of the end, or perhaps to quote Churchill “the end of the beginning”.

The first championship season saw some memorable games, the victories over Southampton and Palace, whacking Preston, going 4-0 up in the first half against Norwich, and of course the memorable 3-5 in the cup against Liverpool in January 2006. This game, more than any other demonstrated Newell’s approach to football. Newell’s sides were incapable of sitting back on a win. They weren’t incompetent, it was the attacking ethos drilled into them. The way to protect a 1-0 lead under Newell was to go 2 up. There was no fallback. It made so some fantastic and some frustrating games. We were 3-1 up against Liverpool with 28 minutes to go. Liverpool were European Champions at that time. Only three sides had scored three goals against them since December 2003, AC Milan, Arsenal and Chelsea – we were in good company. Without appearing to be disloyal though, at no time did I think we would win even when 3-1 up. I could think of some football clubs down the M1 who would have spoilt the game as a spectacle from then on and got away with a win. Not Luton under Newell. You know what happened next, so I shan’t go over it again. Only last Friday a Liverpool fan came up to me and spoke about that game and wished us well. It was nice that it meant as much to them as it did to us.

For me, there are three types of manager: those who do well with money to spend, those who do well with nothing to spend or on a budget (David Pleat is a good example of this), and those who are rubbish even though they have lots to spend (Bryan Robson). Newell in his stint at Luton seemed initially at least to be in the second category, ie good on a budget, but this was because he inherited a good team.

Actually, Newell was only good when he had money to spend and could improve the team, and there lies the problem. And it was this that shaped the position we are in today.

Imagine for a second, that you are Bill Tomlins. Hard to do I know, but imagine the strategy you have. You are a local man, you love the club, you have a young manager, who the fans have warmed to, and who is playing good football and who is bringing success. The fans would lynch you if you got shot of him, so you go along with him and his little ways. In order to retain players and to recruit new ones you have to spend more and more on wages, living beyond your means, but on the other hand you are having success, moving up the league, and goodness me, suddenly you are in the play-off positions with an outside chance of getting into the Premiership and say £20m a season for just being there. As a business man (okay try and stay with me, I know this is Bill, bless him, but stay with me) do you (a) hold your nerve and go all out for that Premiership place, incurring more and more debt on the way but with the £20m carrot dangling in front of you; or (b) despite having come this far and incurred the debts you have so far, start to cut your losses and to sell your assets, attempting to balance the books with player sales, moving to sustainable wage bills in the longer term, but realising that you are weakening the team in doing so, and therefore reducing the chances of obtaining the big prize.

Now I know it isn’t as simple as this and there were a 1001 other factors involved, including the land at J12, Mitchell’s grubby paws and general financial incompetence. But looking at it in the cold light of day Bill bottled it when he sold Curtis Davies. Once you start to dance with the debt devil, he will always have the last say. It was always going to end messily, unless we reached the Premiership. Bill had the opportunity of ‘Shit or Bust’ and opted for neither, and ended up going bust anyway. Selling Curtis Davies was the footballing equivalent of falling between two stalls. It was as I said earlier ‘the end of the beginning’. There was no exit strategy. He was in a position of his own making, having indulged his manager he now had to keep up the pretence of Championship aspirations and find some money from somewhere or move to Plan B which would have been selling the family silver, getting a sustainable playing squad and a less ambitious and demanding manager.
It was a mishmash – Bill didn’t properly do anything. He sold off the family silver – but kept his manager (for now) but didn’t keep tabs on the sustainability of the playing squad. Whatever happened next would have meant one or two relegations, but there was a world of difference between holding your hands up and acknowledging a sensible scaling down of ambition and finances and what he did do. He sold a pup to that fool Pinkney, who was way out of his depth and within a year the club was in administration.

Now, by saying that Bill bottled it by selling Curtis on that August evening rather than going all out for the Premiership, don’t think for a second I am advocating living beyond your financial means. If we had clung onto Curtis but not made the Premiership we would have been in an even bigger financial mess. Though football clubs traditionally don’t make a profit and are rich men’s indulgencies – unless you have someone’s retired millions to play with gifted to the club a la Blackburn – once you go into debt (and I don’t mean everyday overdraft because of cashflow) but serious debt where outgoings exceed income in the medium term, you are treading a dangerous path these days. It was different in the past when football was not the multi-million (billion?) pound sport it is now, and when you could put a good team together for next to nothing in Division 3 or 4 and happily work your way up to the top flight like Swansea or Carlisle or even Luton. But what happens when you get to the top? Even in the fifties, sixties and seventies you had to recruit players to maintain your position or sell them and face the drop. But once a club like Luton with a finite income (because of the size of the ground) tries to live with and compete on the same terms with clubs who can generate twice the income then there are going to be serious problems.

This is why what LTFC2020 are doing (and what other clubs like Doncaster and Exeter have done) is so important. Never again do we spend what we don’t have and run an unsustainable business. I’m not sure if the FA/FL would accommodate a fourth administration, whatever the circumstances of the previous three.

So – in the second Championship season having delighted us with a 10th finish in the first one,it remained an exciting time. Yes, we had sold key players and the spine of the team, such as Howard and Nico (I’m ashamed to say I was interviewed on Sky Sports and described their sales as ‘good business’ – never trust my judgment again) but we were still hopeful. We signed Langley, Parkin, Boyd and Porno that summer. Newell seemingly, despite depleted resources went from strength to strength, culminating in a 5-1 home win over dirty-Leeds. I remember looking at the next few fixtures after that game and plotting our route to the top. But then, even if you don’t agree that Curtis Davies being sold was the turning point for Newell, you must agree that Sol’s stroke and the subsequent 5-0 drubbing by Ipswich started a downward spiral from which we have never recovered, and only now 3 years later have just arrested for the first time.

And this too was the beginning of the end for Newell. Like Mrs Thatcher, he went a bit mad at the end. His outbursts became more and more extreme, he sought and got more and more publicity. His team selection became more and more bizarre (Leon Barnett upfront anyone?) His tried and tested 4-4-2 and attacking policy couldn’t arrest the decline. There was no holding player in midfield and thus no bite at the back. The goals weren’t coming up front and by that stage he was merely rearranging the deckchairs. The writing was on the wall. In his dying throes he managed (God knows how) to sign Beresford and Robbo his (drinking?) buddies on new two year deals when both were now past their best. It was as if he wanted to punish his employers by hobbling them with yet more expense as he went out the door. Perhaps he was just looking after his mates, albeit with someone else’s money.

So I am in two minds about the Newell years. By saying I enjoyed them is almost condoning what went on. On one hand, if you look at it one-dimensionally he treated us to some wonderful memories, some flowing football, some great games, some good players and a stonking promotion year. But because of how he was and how he behaved, he was indulged and allowed to sow the seeds which ultimately put us in the position we are in now. It was Newell’s recruits whose wages incurred costs at the club – along with incredible business incompetence and greed by the board , the suicidal appointment of Kevin Blackwell and the wastes of space he recruited – which led to the debt which led to the administration which led to the relegation. Yes, it didn’t have to happen that way at the end, but rightly or wrongly Newell’s success was built on an unsustainable financial lie. His time is sullied, because realistically it should never have happened that way: because it would always have ended up in tears somehow. It was a three and a half year bender that led to a monster hangover.

His time at the club was like we were driving a stolen Ferrari around a council estate, enjoying it whilst it lasted, but always knowing that we would either crash or get caught by the Police. In the end, of course, we did both…

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Fair play

Looks like I did Tommy Craddock a disservice by saying that his shot was wide when in fact the keeper got a hand to it. Others were better placed than me and I acknowledge that I got it wrong. Just like good old Adam Newton!

Come on you Hatters…

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Newton’s law

Adam Newton - plays for Luton

Good old Adam Newton – scored a fluke goal, and with complete honesty held his hands up immediately and owned up. I like that. He tried to cross from the right and instead the ball flew over the keeper from a bizarre angle and Luton were one up. Mind you, that was it.

I liked Barrow, they did try and play, though they were a bit poor. We should have scored more. In fact, if Tom Craddock hadn’t fluffed two or three clear chances we would have had more. To give Harford credit, he did have the players playing decent football on the floor – for the first half at least – and we played them off the park.

The ball didn’t go in the air for the first four minutes. I joked to my mate Rob that Harford would fine the first player to put it in the air and we showed that at no point does it have to be hoofed and retaining possession and playing it on the floor is the only way. It was good old Mark Tyler who was the first one to lift it off the floor by the way. I think that the 59-41 possession ratio in Luton’s favour tells a bit of a story, as does the 14 shots to 4 in our favour.

In the second half we sat back a bit more, and the football was not so good. We did make some chances though and went close a couple of times.

With Nico out with a three match ban for his late tackle in the Oxford match we looked more settled than of late. Is it a heresy to say that we are better off without him? Actually I describe it as late, it was so late it was almost in time for this afternoon’s match.

The team was Mark Tyler (who had so little to do that Mick sent him out for training and practise at half time), Gnapka/Gnakpa right back, Pilks and Whitey at centre half, and Murray (hats off to Mick for preferring him to Blackett) at left back.

Both Murray and Gnapka/Gnakpa overlapped well and got good crosses in. Pilks was more solid than a rock and passed the ball nicely, rather than lumping it; and White played well, on one occasion he got forward, and bless him, stayed forward and then stayed forward even more. Looked quite good up front!

In midfield, Keet’ partnered Jarvis in the holding role and Hall played behind the front three.

Up front, Newton, Gallen and Craddock. Craddock out on the left again. Fair play to Craddock, today he did work hard, and should really have had a couple of goals. They were gelling as well, and (much like most of this season) they were creating the chances, but, as before, it is the finishing which has been the problem. I suspect once Craddock gets a bit of confidence and form he will be scoring goals for fun. Two points about Craddock though, he did the most obvious and piss-poor, laughable handball I have seen for many a year. A good cross from Murray (I think) was sailing over his head and he jumped, stuck out an obvious hand and punched it towards the goal. A most foolish thing. And the ref rightly booked him.

Also Craddock supplied me with a perfect example of the phrase “Methinks he doth protest too much”. When presented with another chance after an excellent through ball he missed the target completely and curled it past the post. Making out as if the keeper had got a hand on it (he would have done if he had been 10′ and not a pot-bellied dwaf) he then had a go at the ref, the lino at the far end, the ref again, some of his players and then the lino at our end. Twice. Tom, mate you missed it. Get over it. He was mad and very near to getting another card.

But, in the second half, about 10 mins from the end, hello hello, what’s all this then? A not really fit and leggy Liam Hatch made an appearance with a tattoo of “Plan A” on the back of his head. The most awaited player since Lars Elstrup – possibly.

He looked keen, got himself booked, ran around alot, got on a couple of headers and generally looked a pain and a handful. Good news. Our next game is not until Wrexham away on Tuesday-week and there is a reserve game midweek, so he might even start against Wrexham.

One thing to say is that the ref was a bit rank. He missed three handballs, one of them in the penalty box only slightly less obvious than Craddock’s effort. God knows how he and the lino missed it. Certainly all of the Kenny end went up in unison, amazed that the officials missed it.

Their keeper was a bit of a character. He changed boots in the first half (only to change them back later) and every time a Luton player had a shot on his goal he bellowed at his defenders as if he had caught them in bed with his wife. He was also very unfit. On one occasion he had to sprint out of his goal to intercept a ball and then clear it and he puffed and blowed his way back to his goal line looking like Big Daddy after a jog.

That’s enough for now I think. I quite enjoyed it this afternoon. Some of the football they played was excellent and made for a good game. They needed a second to be secure, and at the back of my mind I could see us cocking it up (like against Salisbury) and draw a game we should have won. But, truthfully, the class was evident for a good portion of the game, if not in front of goal.

Thank goodness for Adam Newton. He was man of the match (even though he ended up as right back, after Gnapka/Gnakpa went off with a sore leg) worked really hard and was the difference between the two sides with his unlikely goal.

So, after 10 games: W5 D4 L1 Pos 2nd.

Thanks for reading, and for the nice comments and messages. Makes it all worthwhile to know that someone is out there. I haven’t got the balls to post a link on the Luton Outlaws website, for all of the grief I would get for my supposedly ‘anti Mick’ stance from those not willing to try to understand what I am saying…ahem

Picture from Luton website, with thanks.

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Barrow boys

Tomorrow our friends from Barrow are visiting Luton, something that last happened in 1970 I think. Such is life. Barrow are managed by former Hatter David Bayliss, who I had a lot of time for when he played for us under BFJ and then Newell.

I have had no team news, yet, so I suspect much the same, ie Burgess is out, Hatch and Rio are training and Nico is suspended. I think Mick hinted that Hatch might be back, but it is still too soon for him, and with no game until the 22nd after this then he can get nice and fit.

So – I suspect we wil have 4-3-3 again. Jarvis and Keet’ in front of the back four and Hall in front of them with Gallen and Craddock being out-jumped by the centre halves.

Betting-wise Luton are 5/2 on or 2/5 if you like. This means that this week is a bumper lay. In the event that we have the ignomy of not beating Barrow I will win £70. If we do beat Barrow then I lose £29.40.

So, a quick prediction: Heart 3-0, Head 1-1, and some more boos. Oh I do hope not. I hate the booing.

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