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Man City going to Luton’s Kenilworth Road is what makes English football great



LUTON TOWN’S chief executive Gary Sweet has just presided over a phenomenal piece of sporting sorcery, so he clearly doesn’t get much wrong.

But the newest arrival at the Premier League’s top table made one mistake before the Hatters won the Championship play-off final and became the first club to complete the journey from the English top flight to non-league football and back again.

Luton completed their miraculous climb from non-league to the Premier League with victory over Coventry

Sweet said he was ‘annoyed’ about the apparent widespread mockery of Luton’s Kenilworth Road home.

You know, the one where you enter the away end between two terraced houses and look down over a row of Coronation Street-style backyards as you go to the seats with barely enough legroom to accommodate a mob of oompa-loompa ultras.

I went there last season. You can’t sit down.


You can see the neighbouring washing lines but you can’t see much of the pitch. It was brilliant.

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Inside incredible away entrance at Luton's ground following Prem promotion

That isn’t sneering laughter Sweet is hearing — it’s joy, admiration and respect. It’s wonderment at the nature of the English football pyramid.

It’s nostalgia for a time when many top-flight grounds were hemmed in by modest working-class homes and were literally a part of their communities.

It’s amazement that matches from Kenilworth Road will be beamed across the planet from our supposedly shiny, sanitised ‘greed-is-good’ league.

If there is any laughter at all, then it’s aimed at the Big Six, who signed up for a breakaway European Super League, thinking they were too big and important to play the likes of Luton, but will be getting their eardrums battered there next season.


Sweet noted that Erling Haaland won’t be entering Kenilworth Road through that away supporters entrance, but through ‘the other s**t entrance we have’. And, seeing as he mentioned Manchester City’s goal machine, let’s compare and contrast their two clubs.

Well in 2008, Sheikh Mansour took over City just as Luton, who were about to start a League Two campaign with a 30-point deduction, were installing their new chairman — former Good Morning Britain presenter Nick Owen.


Mansour, it’s safe to say, never shared a sofa with Roland Rat while wearing a wide range of pastel knitwear. But neither was he a lifelong fan of his club, like Owen is.

You can see the neighbouring washing lines but you can’t see much of the pitch. It was brilliant.

Dave Kidd

Back in 2008, though, Luton had won a major trophy — the League Cup — only 20 years previously. City had been waiting for 12 years longer.

And in 1983, Raddy Antic scored a dramatic final-day winner at Maine Road to save the Hatters, and relegate City from the top flight, provoking boss David Pleat to cavort across the pitch in a beige suit.

These two clubs are part of the same ecosystem and next season they will compete at the same level again — just nine years after Luton played non-league football against Hyde United and Alfreton Town.

City have won five titles in six years but their supporters might feel a hint of envy when they face Luton.

Their filthy-rich club may have trophies galore but Luton have authenticity and soul. They are owned and run by genuine supporters, like Sweet and Owen, who stepped down as chairman in 2017.

Kenilworth Road will be a shock to away Premier League players and fans next season

There are no concerns about sports-washing or human-rights abuses or FFP breaches. Luton’s squad cost £5.5million in transfer fees and their wage bill was one of the smallest in the Championship.


When they beat Coventry at Wembley on Saturday, the human interest stories were numerous.

Captain Tom Lockyer watching the penalty shootout from hospital after collapsing on the pitch.

Pelly Ruddock-Mpanzu ‘completing football’ having risen from the National League with the club.

Manager Rob Edwards, churned out of the great Watford managerial sausage machine after just 11 matches, achieving promotion with their most bitter rivals. And club legend Mick Harford — a lovely bloke, miscast as an old-school hardman and currently suffering from prostate cancer — dissolving into tears after promotion was clinched.

But while Luton’s story is unique, it is only just about unique.

Coventry have survived ruinous ownership and homelessness to fight back from the fourth tier to the brink of the Premier League.

It’s amazement that matches from Kenilworth Road will be beamed across the planet from our supposedly shiny, sanitised ‘greed-is-good’ league.

Dave Kidd

And next season, Luton will face Brighton, Bournemouth and Fulham, who have all flirted with relegation to non-league football since the Premier League was founded.


They will also face Brentford, whose marvellous relic of an old ground Griffin Park, with a pub on all four corners, only missed out on staging top-flight football by one season.

There are limits to what can be achieved. Luton will not be fighting City for the title but then the Bees have just completed a league double over the Treble-hunters.

Brilliantly-run clubs can still thrive, supporters can still dream, Sweet can rub shoulders with the Sheikhs of east Manchester and Geordie Arabia.

Luton intend to move to a new stadium before long and, while that makes sense, their departure from Kenilworth Road will be a sad day.

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In the meantime, Sweet doesn’t need any chip on his shoulder regarding his club’s historic home.

Nobody is laughing at Luton. But plenty of us are smiling with them.

Source: The Sun


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