Current affairs

Local football team makes Premier League history

13 Jun 2023 | Written by By Lindsey Betteridge

Lindsey shares her fun and footie-filled weekend, exuding well-deserved pride for her local football team and their recent history-making victory…

What a great bank holiday weekend we had in my home town of Luton!

As a born and bred Lutonian, I’m feeling very proud of the Luton Town football team right now. I don’t know much about football; my daughter coaches my grandsons’ teams and theirs are the only football matches I’ve seen live. However, I’m happy to class myself as a bit of a fair-weather footie supporter, so when the England Lionesses won the World Cup in 2022 or when the England men’s team do well in the European Championships or the World Cup I really enjoy being swept along on the wave of pride and excitement that it brings. So you can just imagine how JOYFUL I was when on 27th May when the Luton Town team made history at Wembley.

Luton Town is nicknamed ‘The Hatters’ after Luton’s once-thriving hat trade. The huge number of hat factories in Luton provided work for a vast number of the local population and by the 1930s manufacturers and suppliers of hats were producing over 70 million hats each year, making Luton the world’s largest hat producer at the time.

I watched and enjoyed every second of the match, even without knowing too much about the rules! It was both an enthralling and worrying game as team captain Tom Lockyer collapsed on the pitch just a few minutes in and was taken to hospital, meaning the Luton players had to play on having no idea how he was. It was all well in the end. Tom watched the rest of the game from his hospital bed and he came out of hospital five days later and, with plenty of rest, is expected to be fine but it was heartbreaking that he couldn’t play in what may have been the game of his life.

Tickets to Wembley had been a sell-out, leaving many fans disappointed so a large local park was turned into a giant, family friendly, back up stadium with the match being screened for free. At the final whistle, with a 1-1 score, the game went to a penalty shoot out and I hardly dared to watch. After 11 successful penalties Coventry’s Fankaty Dabo missed – and the whole of Luton went into total meltdown! By winning this play-off Luton Town have become the only team in history to go from the Conference to League 1, League 2, the Championship and now Premiership, all in only nine years. Also worthy of note is Midfielder Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, who has also made history as the first player to go from non-league to the Premiership with the same club. 

And, my goodness, Luton knows how to celebrate in style. On bank holiday Monday it’s estimated that over 20,000 people turned up in the town centre square to ‘paint the town orange’ and celebrate with The Hatters on their open top bus parade. The team lifted the trophy on stage, greeted and snapped selfies with their fans and signed autographs. Even the BBC had extended coverage of the event.

Incidentally the wonderful Eric Morecambe was a director and proud fan of Luton Town and the club’s largest hospitality suite is named in his honour. This year is the 50th anniversary of the club initially adopting orange as their colour, the orange kit being Eric’s suggestion as he felt it would stand out and appeal to the youngsters, to help attract supporters.  

Much has been made in the press of Luton’s historic tiny ground at Kenilworth Road, ‘The Kenny’, with many mocking how it can possibly work for a Premiership team. Luton has played at this ground, which sits in the middle of rows of terraced houses since 1905 and it has a capacity of only 10,350. Other commentators, however, have noted how it is grounds and teams like this on which the game is built, how Luton have got to the Premiership on their own merit rather than with the help of very rich businessmen and how Luton knows the ‘real game’ whereas some of the bigger clubs may be losing sight of this. 

A new ground has been on the cards for some time and all the benefits of a place in the Premiership will make this much easier to attain. It’s anticipated that the brand new Power Court arena will be completed by 2026 and will have a 23,500 capacity. In the meantime, work has already begun on an urgent upgrade at The Kenny to meet Premiership requirements for broadcasting facilities etc., by removing some executive boxes. Word has it that this work began within hours of the final whistle!

What made the whole bank holiday weekend even better was the 47th annual Luton Carnival, the largest one day carnival in the UK, second only to the two day Notting Hill festival. This is a celebration of cultures from all around the world and took place on Sunday, between the game on Saturday and the bus parade on Monday. The largest attraction is the procession through the town, filled with amazing themes, colourful costumes, music, dance and performances from local schools, bands, national and local charities, local organisations and businesses, welfare groups and even supermarkets for a joyful day of celebration. With Luton’s win this was even better than usual! Luton gets a bad rap a lot of the time, but The Hatters’ promotion has proved what a wonderful multi cultural community we have here.

There’s a lot of debate about how Luton will fare playing against the big boys and I really hope this loyal and dedicated grass roots club do well. As I understand it, Luton’s entire wage budget is around £6 million, less than one Manchester City sub. One thing’s for sure, with Luton playing in the most famous and watched league of the sport in the world, they’re going to give it their best shot!

Have any of your own experiences which you’d like to share? Get in touch via submissions@thejoyclub.com!

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