A Feisty Little Ferret Called Kennedy

Mick Kennedy

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Who is Luton’s top hard man? Mr.Mosque’s question immediately evokes memories of tackles by the likes of Mick Harford, Terry Branston and Sol Davis, but my vote actually goes to a feisty little ferret called MICK KENNEDY, who played 35 games for us in the 1989-90 season in the top division.

Kennedy, who did all sorts of unpleasant things on Portsmouth’s books earlier in his career, was a nasty piece of work, it has to be said. Being an Irish international, dark-haired and of wiry frame, he was an early version of Roy Keane.

He gets my vote mainly because of a particular incident involving John Fashanu of Wimbledon. It was a 1-1 home draw in September 1989, and Fash was, as usual, employing his elbows in dangerous and illegal fashion and largely getting away with it. Kennedy, in Luton’s No.7 shirt, was a much smaller bloke, but a real hard nut with a long disciplinary record, and he decided to give Fash some of his own medicine.

They clashed in front of the Main Stand, near the halfway line, in a flurry of studs, knees, elbows and God knows what else. If ever two players simultaneously nobbled each other, this was it.

As usual, Fashanu crumpled in a heap, whimpering like a baby, something he often did to avoid punishment. Kennedy also went down, but without such histrionics.

Best of all, our physio Dave Galley ran on, and as he headed over to give Kennedy treatment, he trod firmly on Fashanu’s prone body! Justice was done! It heralded great cheers from the Luton fans who saw it, and upset one or two Dons players. Kennedy was sent-off but the equally guilty Fashanu was only booked I seem to recall. Mind you, Fash was later subbed, so I think Kennedy’s challenge made its mark!

In pure football terms, I suppose we should admit that both players were behaving like dirty cheats, but in Kennedy’s case at least he didn’t feign injury after kicking someone else, which was a real cowardly act.

Kennedy helped us stay in the top flight by coming on as sub in that 3-2 last-day win at Derby, his instructions no doubt to ‘tighten things up’.

He played for total of 10 League clubs and nowadays is said to be coaching kids in Ireland. He’ll not make any Luton Town ‘Hall of Fame’, but we certainly noticed him as he passed through . . .

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2010-11 End of Season Review

Saturday 21st May was going to be the celebration of our redemption, our re-admittance to the Football League. But instead parole was denied, our open-ended sentence to dwell in the prison of non-league extended. The footballing anachronism has been perpetuated. The ludicrous position of having a team that should be two divisions above -and could be three – continues. Having Luton Town in non-league is like having a big, hulking, sixteen year-old lad sitting in a class full of eleven year olds, held back for remedial work, year on year. Brutally funny for some, but painful for those enduring it. Haven’t we been punished enough? I was rather hoping that this piece was going to mark and end to the whole sorry episode of tier five. And it would have been so fitting too – the final game in the Blue Square Premier League against the same opponents as the first. It wasn’t to be. It will be ironic for Wimbledon too: their last game in non-league was against a team probably much better than the majority of teams waiting for them in League Two.

The season had started so promisingly. Pre-season thumpings of Newcastle and Liverpool XIs suggested that the side had real promise and an ability to play bright football. Richard Money, given the pre-season he yearned for and armed with a selection of promising new players, would surely repeat, or at least allude to the excellent form shown at the end of the previous season. Surely the tenacity and passing of Adam Murray, the quality of Andy Drury coupled with the fire-power of Craddock, backed up with the talents of Crow, Gallen and MBH would be the dream ticket back to the Promised Land?

In truth, the league season never quite clicked. We never quite hit our straps. We never quite got back into the same unencumbered attacking belief in ourselves which we had demonstrated in March 2010. The early season was promising, without being entirely convincing, but it didn’t build to anything. From January onwards, we didn’t record more than two consecutive league wins, and for any side hoping to be promoted that is not good enough – for a club of our size in non-league it is very poor.

Whilst some fans had always had lingering doubts about Richard Money’s managerial style, alarm bells began to ring in earnest for the rest of us when Tom Craddock left the club in August. Tom maintained he didn’t want to go. It was Richard Money’s deliberately flippant treatment of him which forced him out. Craddock, the previous campaign’s top scorer was actively side-lined by Money, in some sort of contrived mind-game. He had clearly promised first team berths to Crow and MBH and hadn’t figured a way of keeping all of his strikers happy. Sure, no one was guaranteed a start, but a bit of respect, common sense and communication would surely have diffused the situation. Instead, when Craddock questioned why he had been sidelined Money questioned his loyalty to the cause – this riled TC further into an outburst which resulted in the manager telling him that he wasn’t bigger than the team and could “get stuffed” or words to that effect. Tommy did, thinking that there wasn’t a future for him, and Money’s bluff was called, Craddock hot-footing it to Oxford in the blink of an eye. The losers were Luton Town, yet again. A spectacular, foolish and unnecessary own-goal.
Along with Drury, Murray and Crow the close season saw Dan Walker signed after he played well against us for Bedford, and Czechs Zdeněk Kroča and Pavel Besta. Whilst Kroča adjusted quickly and soon became a reliable and enormous rock at the heart of the defence, his compatriot, seemingly signed on the back of one huff and puff performance against Newcastle was never up to the required standard. Besta was quietly released in January. The reaction to his (and the team’s) performance away to Tamworth led to an undignified incident between Richard Money and those in the crowd behind him. Another alarm bell.

We had started the season with five ‘defensive’ midfielders, but after Kevin Nicholls’ quiet and dignified retirement in August , Adam Murray left for Mansfield after only two months and once Besta was released we were down to the ever-reliable and committed Keith Keane and Godfrey ‘On fire’ Poku. Thank the Lord Keane stayed fit. Paul Carden joined to ‘bolster’ the midfield in February – but fortunately was only limited to eight starts, whilst he was able to read the game well, his fitness and speed often sold him short.

The season saw pleasing progress for a number of the existing squad members: Freddie Murray, though he missed a chunk of the season with injury made real progress at left back.
Jake Howells, picked for England C, often covered for Murray, but also played left wing (where once again he excelled), in the centre of midfield alongside Keano, and ended up on the left of a middle three. I truly hope we can hold on to him this summer.

A late entry into the pleasing progress category is a certain Mr Edward Asafu-Adjaye. Three years ago, after an encouraging loan spell at Salisbury we appeared to have an excellent prospect on our hands. Ed’s game was seemingly on the up, he was first choice right back in the division above where we are now and he put in a strong performance against Scunthorpe in the JPT Trophy final. Then for whatever reason Mr Money took a dislike to him, and just left him out. Once Gary Brabin was in charge, he was rushed back from loan at Histon and did well enough out of position covering at left back to win the place on merit for the Wrexham games, and the play off final, and picked up a better player than where he left off.

Of the more established players, captain George Pilkington was as sound as a pound. Apart from a short mixed period mid-way through the season, was at his imperious best for the remainder. In the final against Wimbledon his performance was nigh on flawless.
Matthew Barnes-Homer was leading scorer, but didn’t go on a hot streak after his initial burst. He attracts mixed support amongst the fans. His style gives off the appearance of not trying when we know he does. He was leading scorer of course, but without sounding too cruel he missed so many chances through the season that you’ve got to wonder whether other players, given the same opportunity would have had thirty or more goals. I’m not being unfair. The kid has got an eye for goal (remember the winner against Stevenage?) but just scores a lower percentage of his opportunities. As soon as Brabin took over, Money’s favourites MBH and Owusu were relegated to the bench and beyond.

Keith Keane is an immense player at our club. His desire to rise out of the mire of non-league was truly apparent and almost tangible in the semi final and final. He worked hard in the centre of midfield all season, tackling hard, closing down, breaking up attacks and distributing the ball well. Towards the end of April he was looking tired, which was hardly surprising. Fortunately after a game off, his batteries were recharged for the Wrexham games, and the ten days off between the 2nd leg and the final game him time to recover too. He needs a good rest in the summer. Of all of our players I am most sorry for him that we didn’t go up. He’s done nothing wrong, he’s just given his all, all season and deserved the ultimate prize.

Claude Gnakpa was, well, Claude. He treated us to moments of brilliance, but also some side splitting lovable but dozy clumsiness. He bagged fifteen goals too which is outstanding – but Claude, oh Claude – please remember to track back: poor Dan Gleeson is so exposed when you stay up the pitch.

Last but not least was Mark Tyler. Time, and time and time again he saved us with saves unbecoming of a keeper at this level. A great shot stopper – he has fantastic positional sense and, when permitted, a keenness to distribute to the defenders. The only weak point in his game is that the direction on his kicking is sometimes awry. But if it was perfect he’d be playing two or three divisions above. So our loss, is our gain, if you see what I mean. Well done MT – deserved player of the season.

Richard Money was a manager whose squad was never quite big enough. Despite a plethora of strikers, in addition to attacking players such as Dan Walker and JJ O’Donnell, (who would both walk into most teams in the division) – he needed more. And more. And more. Taiwo Atieno signed at the start of September scored seven and was gone by February. Amari Morgan-Smith was brought in at the end of September – though he was played out of position.. Despite this, before his injury he was very lively and showed us why he had been scoring goals for fun at Ilkeston Town. Jason Walker arrived in November, and at that point in time was the league’s leading goalscorer. He was soon made to warm the bench. The final forward signed this season was Lloyd Owusu in January who was signed as a ‘target man’. And he did a job to a certain extent (a record of seven goals in fifteen games is not to be sneezed at) but his presence in the team made it too easy for us to play the long ball. A team full of footballers was soon reduced to lumping it towards the big man and our confidence, style and form evaporated; mirroring the evaporation of the adherence to fast-paced attacking, passing football.

It is too easy to get the keeper to lump it up the middle. It is the poor man’s game – the last refuge of the scoundrel. When all else fails revert to whacking it up the middle because we can all do that and it is easy. By picking and playing up to Owusu in this way showed that Richard Money had run out of ideas. His bold words and good intentions were dashed into the fire. It was unfathomable. Money had shown us that he knew how we should be playing at the tail end of previous campaign when Simon Heslop had shot a bolt of passion and ability into the midfield and team. But that was never quite replicated this term, apart from occasional sporadic bouts such as the away performance at Fleetwood and the home games against Forest Green, York, Darlington and Histon and the excellent spirited performance against Charlton in November. Sorry to hark back again, but hindsight would suggest that that golden month of March 2010 was in spite of -rather than because of – Money’s influence and more down to Mr Heslop’s presence.
That glimpse of how it could be only served to heap additional pressure onto the team this season. We’d done it once, so why were we so ham-fisted in our attempts to replicate that form this season? Though we had plenty of wins in the season overall, indifferent performances at home led to unacceptable bouts of booing from a handful of fans. Games where we should have strolled to victory we either stumbled to a narrow win or drew against woefully weak opposition.
Andy Drury leaving for Ipswich at the end of January was ultimately a big blow, as he was a genuinely class player. We had brought in Alex Lawless and Robbie Willmott. Both are good players demonstrating plenty of potential, but we can only speculate as to how a full season with likes of Drury, Murray and Craddock would have turned out. Kevin Gallen had bowed out quietly at the end of January having been poorly treated, his intelligent link up play seemingly unwanted this season.
This campaign saw Luton record only two wins in twelve games between March 13 and April 19. For thirteen games from February 4 we scored more than one goal in only one game. By the time we reached the end of March the rot had most definitely set in. The players were flat, listless, uninspired and seemingly overburdened with tactics: the memory cache was full – they needed a reboot. And shortly after a woefully poor performance at Southport on the Saturday Money had gone by the Monday lunchtime.
He was replaced by the heir presumptive Gary Brabin, who had ten games to stamp his personality on the team and to install some belief and momentum into the team’s performance. He didn’t quite manage that in his run up to the semi-finals (though the 6-0 win against Southport and the comfortable wins against Eastbourne and Histon showed promise), but the team truly responded in the semi final against Wrexham. An unfettered, unburdened first half saw the Hatters take a 3-0 lead, which could so easily have been five or six. Suddenly we had clicked. A nervy but entertaining second leg saw the rarity of coming from a goal down to secure a 5-1 aggregate victory, player of the season Mark Tyler once again demonstrating his heroic and game-changing abilities with a penalty save which proved the turning point.
This set up the game at Eastlands last Saturday, where both sides largely cancelled each other out – but nevertheless we carved out enough chances to win. But alas it wasn’t to be. If only we had been awarded a penalty…or if Jason Walker’s header had gone an inch further to the right…or for that matter if he decided to actually blast his penalty in the shoot out…
Wimbledon had failed to score a goal against us in 300 minutes of football – yet won the prize of promotion.
So what of the future? If he wants, Brabin will surely get the opportunity to lead the team next year and to demonstrate that the Wrexham away performance was the norm and not a blip.
How many of our better players will keep patience with us in non-league I’m not sure. The attraction of playing in front of 6,500 fans each week as opposed to half as many, two divisions above can only last for so long. If good players leave and are replaced by non-league journeymen rather than Football League aspirants then there is a danger that we might meld into the batch of former League clubs eking out their existence in non-league. We absolutely must remain the big club in this division, actively vying for the top spot. I know the board and Gary Brabin will have that ambition – it is finding an effective way to put that ambition into practice that is the key. It will have to be third-time lucky.

The final at Manchester was a microcosm of our season. Glimpses of brilliance, frustrating at times, but ultimately the inability to stick the ball in the net cost us dearly.
Come on you Hatters.

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PDW’s early summer reactions…

…So, after the dust has settled on that day, that penalty and that uneccessary razzmatazz, so beloved by Sporting authorities. One day they may realise dumbing down is never the answer.

The usual comings and goings have started to occur. With Jason Walker off to York, probably for the best, although doubtless he will score against with a decent penalty. Decent honest toiler, but would have got dogs abuse for our not very tolerant crowd, after that insane penalty. 60K is I believe slightly more than we paid for him. Thing that occurred to me is the number of Northern footballers who seem unable to settle ‘down sarf.” Everyone is different of course, but personally I lived and worked in the north, never found it a problem. You do meet some some obnoxious types, but generally no more or less than anywhere else in the country.

With Graham and Carden going back to their parent clubs, although Carden has been released by Cambridge ( don’t even think about it, Mr B!) as well as Owusu and Newton not being offered new contracts and didn’t they take the news well…no actually…they didn’t.

Enjoyed Adam Newton’s diatribe on the truth about football on Twitter, whilst much of what he said was true, he missed out the obvious point ” Don’t play well for two years, don’t get a contract renewed”. For a player that started at West Ham and going on to play for League clubs for a decade, not to make an impact in the non league was odd, although playing over all the shop didn’t help.

Owusu had a fantastic scoring record, but when Brabin didn’t select him when taking over was on the wall for a player in his mid 30’s.

What of the players coming in both from down the road in Northamptonshire. O’Connor appeared in neither of our games against Rushden in the season just gone ( how selfish of them to be expelled and be replaced by Southport. However on a positive note, we can’t play as badly up there as we did in March. Bloody hope not!). His goalscoring record in average team is more than reasonable. Have seen Beckwith play for Northampton, a few times this year. Good in the air, but rather slow and clumsy. He lives in Gillingham as well, it would appear he doesn’t have his bad luck to look for. Now that Kroca the giant Czech is checking out, would prefer Shane Blackett to partner Pilkington, if he is ever less than a week away from fitness again.

Early days as yet,but by and large, the team at the moment lloks to lack enough quality to win the League , compared to the business that Fleetwood and to a lesser extent Newport are doing.

One position we are were stocked for is goalkeepers. Delighted and surprised to see Tyler sign on again. Although to be brutally honest, he is wasting himself in non league, by at least two divisions. With a number of decent young goalkeepers being released including our Mansfield Nemesis Grof, surprised Kevin Pilkington has stayed. Did well in his first season, but age, and an inability to catch the ball (Tamworth away) and to kick straight (unless you count out of play) time looked to have ran out for him. Not so, presumably few goalkeepers want to warm the bench (unless Brabin decides to go down Money’s idea of playing the goalkeeping hokey cokey game. Fair enough in the FA Trophy – I know I had forgotten about competition too) and it gives Lewis Kidd another year to develop.

The pre -season fixtures look to have a novelty value. An Azerbaijan side managed by Anthony Adams. Good luck chaps, his English wasn’t great , he may be struggling in Russian, as long as he can teach them how to hold their hands up and appeal for offside, that’s all that matters. Parma too. Luton, QPR, Norwich and Cardiff on tour , they know how to live life don’t they? If they dive blatantly, does that make them ham actors. Cue tumbleweed.

Still anything is better that the Hertfordshire trebola of hate St Albans, Hitchin and Stevenage, adding Bedford to that list too.

Fixtures out on Monday fortnight, be interesting to see which Tuesday nights in mid-winter, the little man with his pencil sends Luton to places like Barrow, Gateshead, Darlington.

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Summer Summary – so far:

For my benefit as much as anyone else’s:

In

Aaron O’Connor – out of contract striker (and captain) from Rubbish and Dustbins

Dean Beckwith – centre half Released from Northampton

Re-signed

Tyler – hurrah

Pilks – thought he might want to go somewhere else and get a game, but a v good deputy

Released

Adam Newton – out of contract – lovely bloke & gentleman but not quite a winger nor a right back. I wish him well.

Lloyd Owusu – out of contract – good scoring record but the nail in Money’s coffin. Encouraged lame hoofball. And we’re not Watford.

Sold

Jason Walker – to York – perhaps he was already playing for them when he missed that penalty?

Pre-season friendlies:

Parma – Serie A 2/8/11

Gzxbmyzzppsal Rovers – Azerbaijan C Division 27/7/11

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Open Thread: Worst Away grounds you’ve been to

I’m not saying that the facilities at the Kenny are anything to write home about, however down the years we have been subject to some interesting away ends and grounds which on occasions raise an eyebrow or two. Of course our two year spell in non-league has been an eye opener for many. For me the worst memories of an away day were the ‘toilets’ the Hawthorns in the early eighties. If I remember correctly (and time and beer has faded the memory) the toilets were more akin to France – ie an open pit into which you could do anything you liked. And they had no roof.

Would anyone like to add any fond (or perhaps not fond) memories of away grounds which perhaps didn’t/don’t quite pass muster…?

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