The Big Push

Tomorrow we need to put whatever might have gone wrong with our league form in the past few weeks behind us and all do all we can for a result against Millwall. Once again, the footballing world will take a little look at us out the corner of its eye. We need to get behind the team even more than usual and raise the roof. Another packed Saturday at the Kenny should be an atmosphere and an early afternoon to savour. I hope and I know that the players will be giving their all to extend the run a stage further and to finally get one of the ‘big boys’ and make a bit more history on the way.

Of course the profile of this tie is pretty high because of our non-league status, because of our victory against premiership opposition, and has been tweaked up further by memories of the 1985 game, and further still by the unacceptable racism shown by the Millwall fans against Leeds, which has made them newsworthy this week. Whilst what PB said about staying on if there are racist chants was right, Mendy’s flounce that he would come off was foolish to say the least. He could still have come off if racist language was used towards him (and rightly so) but to pre-announce that he would/will adds an edge to the game that didn’t need to be there. Now that they know, it only takes one cockney Neanderthal to shout something to Mendy and we will have utter chaos on our hands.

Millwall will be no pushover and no mugs – half way up the championship they will have higher morale than Wolves, but only just. Like Wolves and Norwich their league form (hey, just like ours) is horrendous at present and so any swagger they have won’t be built on the back of confidence created by good form, but in a belief that man for man they are a better side. Once again, we will have to be at our best and Millwall will have to have an off-day. It’s happened before twice now, why can’t it happen three times? I just hope that we can rediscover our goalscoring form, as we might only get one or two clear chances and can’t afford to squander them as regularly as we have been. We won’t get the luxury of a stumbling part timer to present us with half a chance – we have to carve out our own.

If we thought it was good to have a positive spotlight on us for a change, and the friendly support of the smaller clubs of this world, and those people who love an underdog, if – and it’s still a big if – we can win tomorrow then our boys really will be big news. Huge news and, bigger still if we get a big tie in the last 8. But you know that – and indeed you know that a big task awaits tomorrow.

I’ve no idea what Kenny Jacket’s teams are like. I know he has a pretty good record as a manager and is quite well respected in the game. Obviously with the footballing pedigree he has (being a one club man, and what a club to be a one club man for, what do they know of life those that only Watford know?) and being assistant to the former England manager whilst at the club down the road, I’m thinking that his teams might be a little ahem, direct, shall we say. But of course that is pure conjecture on my part. He might be Wenger in disguise for all I know. Actually, traditionally we are better against sides that don’t close us down, so perhaps it might be better if he does keep it on the floor…

To get all melodramatic for a second, TE Lawrence (Laurence of Arabia) once said: “All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”

Let’s do some dreaming on the day (but not on the pitch at set pieces please.)

Fingers crossed…come on you Hatters!

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A new dawn?

Well, surprise surprise, having been odds-on all week, yesterday it was announced the Paul Buckle is to be the latest manager of our great club. By my count the 26th manager since the war.

If he’s successful in taking us up this season he will become a legend, if he does it next year he will be the fans favourite. If he is successful at this club then Luton Town will not be the biggest club he ever manages. If he is unsuccessful then we will more than likely will be the biggest club he ever gets to run.

He has the world in his hands. No doubt he will be backed by the board, and if his time at Torquay and Brizzle is anything to go by boy will there be changes in the summer. And boy does there need to be.

Let’s hope that he can replicate what he did at Torquay and that his time at Bristol Rovers was an abberation – too much too soon perhaps? Only time will tell. Whilst us football fans don’t have the reputation for being the brightest human beings, instinctively we will know if something’s wrong. We want a manager who is too good for us, who is going to be in demand by other clubs because of what he has done with us. Wouldn’t that be a nice change?

I would love him to take us up this year – well obviously – but I what I mean by that is that it will take the pressure off him and buy him time to build the squad he needs – whereas if we don’t, and we don’t storm into a lead next year, he will be under exactly the same pressure as Mick, RM and Brabs were. A vicious circle.

With the sides above us getting the jitters we have a good opportunity to sneak back in if we can turn the form and performances around.

Am I expecting too much? Perhaps I am, but it would be lovely to see us make some progress under him and it will be fascinating to see his side, the way he sets his team out to play and the reaction of the crowd on Monday.

I have no doubt whatsoever that he will receive a welcome at home on Monday which will send tingles down his spine. I hope he will be left in no doubt as to the passion and desire this fanbase demands, I am sure the board would have communicated this club’s size, history and traditions – and if that doesn’t get him going, nothing ever will.

So we’ve got the change we needed and demanded – I’m sure everyone would have had their opinions as to who they would have liked to take over, the vital thing is that we get behind the new chap and give him every chance to succeed. Personally I lumped a fair amount on Buckle when the Sky Sports rumours yesterday morning reinforced the odds-on favourite position that Buckle had had all week. Well that’s next season’s season ticket paid for!

Come on you Hatters, let’s hope that the sequence of events that sees us back in the league, has just begun.

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He’s Gone…

….I’m out all day and I come back to some positive news at last.

Clearly as disappointed as the rest of us, the board have finally shown Gary Brabin the door.

Alan Nielsen is in temporary charge whilst Paul Carden hangs on.

He had to go, it was cruel keeping in charge for so long when he was so obviously out of his depth. I wish him well in the future – and here’s betting that the first time his new club play us, they beat us. It can’t have been easy for him, he’s had a bad year losing his father and now his job. It must have been frustrating feeling so out of control of the players. I suspect tonight, he feels just a little bit relieved. Relieved that he hasn’t got to face the wrath of the crowd again, on the back of another terrible result.

The writing has been on the wall for a while this year. There have been a number of strange and worrying results. Whilst we don’t have a divine right to win every game – alarm bells began to ring as early as the strange home draw against Forest Green, the draw at Hayes, the draw at Stockport, the draw at Bath, the home defeat to Cambridge, the draw at Ebbsfleet, the draw with Telford, the draw at Lincoln, the defeat at Barrow, the poor performance against Bath, the draw at Darlo, the home draw to Grimsby and the defeats against York. You get my drift.

The only way from here is up. This is the first stage and this is early days. Still got a hard game away on Tuesday and still got the dismal dispirited bunch of players who have been letting Brabin and the crowd down recently. Might take more than Alan Nielsen to pump some spirit into them. But, the shackles have been cast aside. Southport did us a favour today by losing at home too.

Next steps:

1) Do what we can to try to get into the play-offs and scrap ourselves into some form, like wounded tigers.

2) Find the right man for the job 4th time lucky, someone to believe in, someone the players will believe in, someone the fans have faith in.

In the summer:

3) Get rid of some of the idlers at the club – the bonfire of the contracts. Reduce the size of the squad.

4) Procure players who want to play for the club and are proud to wear the shirt.

5) Encourage a seamless transition from the youth players to the first team squad.

6) Try to play some decent football in the style we expect.

7) Turn us from a side who can’t beat the top 6, to a side the other teams in the top 6 fear.

Not too much to ask…it can’t be too tricky now can it?!?!?

Come on you Hatters!

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Third Time Lucky

And so it all starts again, against our friends from Nailsworth on Tuesday night. I think we have quiet cause for optimism. Like it or not, we have a strong squad of good players. The key is that we have a squad of players, many of whom could and will play at a higher level: a young and improving team.

We know that Mr Brabin prefers to play good, attacking football of the type that us Hatters fans prefer to see. We know that the club is in safe hands with the majority of the financial backers now on the board, running the club. We know that we have a healthy network of local scouts and a talent spotting system, catchment area and youth set up that many clubs above us envy. We have a proven track record of identifying, nurturing and playing youngsters who go on to decorate the top of the game.

So – all things are good, apart from where we presently reside – a founder member of the Premier league twenty years ago, still sitting in football’s fifth tier.

What of our divisional rivals? Last year I spoke about Crawley being the team to beat (and they will also be the team to beat in League Two) and Wimbledon being on an inexorable rise to the league. This year some clubs like Fleetwood and York have flashed the cash (but not in a Crawley way) and should improve and be threats. I think Fleetwood have bought in Andy Mangan and have Richard Brodie on loan (Brodie coming to Luton is as likely as Shearer playing for Newcastle it seems). York have Gary Mills in charge who is a canny operator, they bought Jason Walker from us, who so nearly was the hero, but whom I suspect will be cast in the role of villain for evermore. He’s already clocked up two goals for York. They also have former Hornet Liam Henderson, to give the boo-boys an alternative target. Speaking of which, Forest Green and their millionaire Chairman have bought Al Bangura who played for our M1 rivals whilst they were briefly in the premiership, and who interestingly enough played for the Azerbeijani lot that Tony Adams brought in pre-season – before settling in Gloucestershire. He’s injured by the way so don’t expect to see him on Tuesday.

Darlington are strong – we know how Mark Cooper’s teams play, Grimsby have bought that striker who got all of Alfreton Town’s goals last year when they were catapulted into this league.

So I think that our main rivals will be in no particular order: Darlington, Fleetwood, York, Grimsby to a lesser extent, possibly Mansfield and there is usually a joker in the pack – how about Bath City? Stockport seem to be on a ‘bit or shust’ policy of recruitment, putting all of their eggs in one basket, and of course Lincoln will want to bounce straight back. But we all know how hard that is.

Do you know what I think? Whilst there will be blips, bad runs and surprise defeats, I have a sneaking suspicion that we are going to do very well. It’s ours to lose. Look out for the usual trends this year – decimating teams who play the ball on the floor, making hard work of beating longer ball teams. Similarly, raising our game against the good teams and then struggling against the bottom clubs. You know how it is – you know it is going to happen! It’s the Luton way…

So, onto Tuesday. You look at Forest Green Rovers and you think, well, nice easy opening fixture, especially as we beat them 6-1 at home last year. The bigger picture sees four wins out of four against them, but three of those four were by a single goal and were a bit of a struggle I seem to recall. As I mentioned above, they are a stronger team this year and have Luton’s ‘super sub’ last year Luke Graham at the club now. Styche has an excellent record in front of goal, and as I said above they have a chairman who is willing to wave his chequebook around. So it won’t be another doddle. Having missed out on the game yesterday, because of Shropshire Police’s inability to multi-task and because the some Police authorities seem hell-bent on trying to avoid confrontational situations rather than actually doing the confronting – we are already 3pts behind York and Fleetwood (who are now favourites). Let’s hope that it is for the last time this season.

As ever, I will be fascinated to see who is in the starting line up for the first game, especially as I have missed all of pre-season (just like George Pilkington) and so have not seen Dance, Antwi, O’Connor, Osano and Beckwith (in Luton colours that is) and so can judge them for myself. To be absolutely brutally honest with you all – I’m only just ready for the new season. I was so gutted and hurt and pissed off at the end of last season that I just wanted nothing to do with watching football until the pain stopped hurting. Well, I’m ready now, just. It might sound melodramatic – but it’s true.

Prediction? Well the head says a not-quite-ready-yet 1-1, the heart says 2-0.

I’m ready, I hope the team is – because the fans are ready for a return to the league. Third time lucky.

Come on you Hatters.

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