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Luton Town v Bristol City Match Day 12

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25 minutes ago, havanatopia said:

Good morning everyone, to the magnificent diaspora of Bristol City fans around the world especially to those who are out in the dark, out of any possibility of connecting to this brilliant football forum. I say that because, perhaps unbeknownst to most of you, OTIB is not available in South East Asia. From the northern most reaches of Kachin, Burma to the southern tip of Timor, Indonesia and from the western coast of Aceh in Indonesia to the eastern border of Western New Guinea. 1.7 million square miles, 11 countries and 641 million people or about 10% of the world's population. Football's best forum does not have a voice, it is silent.

Pondering that for a moment? I was out in the cold for 3 months. Admittedly i have been extraordinarily busy in that time and Pegs handled these match days admirably well and i was grateful; this is a broad forum, after all and anyone could have done a match day whenever they wanted but Pegs did so and kept at it so thank you Pegs. So, with a VPN hooked up that enables me to access this forum i can, at least today, have a go at the match day thread. Before I do one final note on this issue. Why is OTIB's host unable to provide access unhindered around the world? This is a clarion call. Please fix it because there are many people who want to access the excellent forum.

So, on to today. I always wanted to understand what happened to Luton Town. A club that fell rather quickly in the earlier part of this millennium. Many of you may be Guardian readers and recall an article last year. I apologise to you if the story is all too familiar but perhaps to many others, like me, we only know parts of the story. I am trusting the investigative and journalistic provenance in this story which I have condensed, reworded and added to.

It begins when Roy Kinnear and his assistant Mick Harford were unceremoniously sacked by the newly incoming owner of the club. This was in the context of Kinnear and Harford having taken over the managerial reins in 2001 when Luton had just fallen to the 4th tier, steering them to promotion in their first season and finishing the following, 2002/3, in a respectable 9th.

A year before, however, saw ITV pull out of sponsoring the Football League and Luton were reportedly losing half a million pounds a month. At the end of the season owner Mike Watson-Challis sold the club to an unknown consortium for £4. In steps John Gurney who professes to front an international group of investors here to save Luton Town Football Club. The names of these investors, however, never surfaced. From the off it was reasonably clear to even the least interested Luton fan that this man was not going to be orthodox. He suggested changing the name of the club to London Luton FC to match the airport. He suggested a merger with Milton Keynes bound Wimbledon and he would build a 70,000 all seater stadium next to Junction 10 of the M1 and on stilts with a formula 1 circuit wrapping itself around it. What did Kinnear and Harford make of all this? They would not wait long to find out because three days in they were both unceremoniously fired via a letter in the post. Harford said at the time “I think it is the saddest day in the club’s history”.

“What have I done to be fired in such a cold and callous manner?”. Indeed we can all warrant Harford a significant pat on the back and admiration for returning last season and steering them to promotion in order to play us today.

But this story gets better or rather worse for Luton’s faithful. Gurney had originally wanted to appoint Terry Fenwick who’s most recent experience at management was a 7 match winless streak at the Cobblers. The irate fans at Kenilworth Road prompted the new chairman, Roger Terrell, and new Vice Chairman, Lee Power, to resign before they started by greeting them with a, shall we say, lack of respect on entering the ground. Gurney was fast losing his supporters and they were boycotting the club.

His next move became known as ‘Manager Idol’ and took its inspiration from Pop Idol. Having already failed to lure Kinnear and Harford back to the club he set about writing up a manager shortlist and invited fans to text in their votes for one of Fenwick, Kinnear, Nigel Clough, Steve Cotterill, Mike Newell, Stuart Pearce, Gardner Speirs (who?) and Gudjon Thordarson.

On Monday June 16th, 2003 the first set of results were announced and the list whittled down to three: Kinnear (polling around 70% even though he had previously said no to coming back), Cotterill, recently sacked by Sunderland, and Newell, who had most recently had a mixed time at Hartlepool.

The final decision would be split between five votes: players, shareholders, season ticket holders, the board and the general public. The premium lines – 50p per call – were opened. They closed at midday on Monday 23 June. A press conference for the unveiling was scheduled at 1pm ... the same day. In the meantime, Gurney set about attempting to agree terms with the shortlisted trio. It was all predictably chaotic. Gurney initially revealed he had agreed terms with Kinnear to return should he win, then admitted he had been unable to contact the former manager all week. No matter. “We’ve two excellent candidates in Steve and Mike Newell,” Gurney cheered. But the day before the polls closed, Cotterill threw a spanner in the works. “I had a very good meeting with Mr Gurney,” he said, “and I was very flattered to be offered the job from 70 candidates, but I just think it was the right club at the wrong time.”

Handily, filmmakers from the long-running BBC documentary series Trouble At The Top were given behind-the-scenes access for the big day. The resulting half-hour programme, aired a year later, really has to be seen to be believed. With media already gathering at the ground, a fresh-faced “I know that sounds sexist but I am sexist” Newell arrived at Kenilworth Road. There was no sign of Cotterill or Kinnear, who with the seconds ticking down towards midday still led the public phone poll. “There’s all sorts of chaos,” said Gurney, suggesting there has been some sort of technical problem. Then came an unbelievable – in a very literal sense late swing towards Newell in the general public vote. He, conveniently, won it by just four votes.

Players and season-ticket holders had apparently voted for Kinnear, shareholders and the general public (thanks to that late swing) for Newell. And so it was down to the board. “We will appoint Mike Newell regardless of the telephone poll,” Gurney told the documentary team. “For two reasons: one is we failed to agree terms with Joe Kinnear, Steve Cotterill is not here and Mike is. And we said whoever was available and we agreed terms with by 1pm today would be the new manager, so Mike is the new manager.”

Clear as mud. Newell looks thoroughly bemused throughout the documentary but had an initially successful spell at the club, guiding them to promotion in 2004-05 and 10th in the Championship the following season (a position that remains their highest since 1992)

And Gurney? At the end of July the club’s supporters trust, having denied Gurney revenue with a boycott of season tickets, ingeniously bought the club’s debt from Watson-Challis and placed it into administration, forcing Gurney out. “If they expect me to walk away from Luton with nothing, I’ll make very sure there’s nothing to walk away from,” he growled.

After a few downs, three relegations in a row and five years in the Conference from 2009 after starting the previous season with a 30-point penalty, 10 for irregular payments to agents, 20 for failing to come out of administration with a CVA agreement Luton are back in the Championship. And Gurney was declared bankrupt in 2008.

Mind you, its not all so rosy for Luton; only yesterday, October 18th, 2019, Capital & Regional, which owns a shopping mall in the town objected to the competition Luton’s new mixed use development at Newlands Park would bring denouncing the planning approval as unlawful and will be taking the club to court. And where is Newlands Park? Junction 10 of the M1. That said this development will not house the new stadium which the club wants to build in the town itself; Newlands will fund the new stadium. 

Luton Town do not just blame Gurney though; they also blame the FA for deducting all those points and that is an official club position too with a sanctioned banner ‘Betrayed by the FA” often seen at their matches. That of course, is another story for another time.

Clearly a new stadium is paramount for a club that currently resides in the worst one in the Championship and many would argue is really not fit for purpose nor sustainable in the second tier of English football. It certainly is a tight old ground.


I wish them well in their many more battles to come, just not today. Enjoy the game folks.


Condensed Version 

Luton Town:

Thanks Peg

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55 minutes ago, alexukhc said:

Funny how life works, was my grandmas funeral yesterday, she moved here from Dundalk in the 60s, half her family went to Luton, other lot came to Mendip, so today a Luton v City game is very fitting 

Very fitting. I hope its a good day for all.

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@havanatopia Looks like post nuptial novelty has at last worn off and you need something else to fill the time on a Saturday morning. :)

Good to have you back, but thanks to Peg for filling the breach while you're been otherwise occupied.

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1 hour ago, City oz said:

Great striker in his day but only in the lower leagues. Apparently he has a good business head and a great mentor to all around him 

What about all those goals in the top flight that earned him an England cap?  16 seasons in top flight for likes of Luton, Derby etc.

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8 minutes ago, Davefevs said:

What about all those goals in the top flight that earned him an England cap?  16 seasons in top flight for likes of Luton, Derby etc.

Quite so Dave. Just checking his stats I was surprised he only played 30 times for us but scored 11 goals. I remember those times and was always very sad when we sold him on to Birmingham City but the lure of the top flight was too much. In all he played 582 matches scoring 182 times, a phenomenal record. As the current Chief Recruitment Officer at Luton he no doubt will be in attendance today. 

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