Who Are Ya? - Luton Town #COYH
Ahead of the weekend's game, Luton supporter Liam shares his views... Who do you support?
Luton Town. How long have you supported them?
It's a family curse so from the moment I was born I was doomed to be a Luton fan. My first game was during the 1993/94 season and my first season ticket was the year after that. I was born shortly after we won the League Cup in 1988 so I missed out on our top flight days, but it's certainly not been a dull ride... Last season's league finish?
7th, 13 points outside the play-offs. The worst in our history and hopefully our lowest point. The preceding summer was once again full of optimism and we signed some exciting players, big money on people like Jon Shaw and Ronnie Henry. But then we were even worse than we had been under Brabin and before you knew it we were changing managers again... There were only two redeeming features to last season: 1) the FA Cup run provided some entertainment while it lasted, but more importantly 2) it was the year we finally appointed the right manager in John Still. What do you think of your manager?
Brilliant. He's been a breath of fresh air and for the first time in a very long time I have absolute faith in a manager to take the club forward. He sees the game as the fans see it, he's got the team playing brilliant football, reduced the wage budget, is already planning for the future with the young players he has signed and best of all, he's somehow managed to unite the fans and players together. That infamously hasn't always been the case since we've been down here but now everyone is pulling together in the same direction and the feel-good factor is back. How has your season gone so far in comparison to your pre-season expectations/hopes?
Much better so far. I wasn't expecting a title challenge, I was hoping for play-offs but for the first time since we've been down we weren't the pre-season favourites with the bookies for promotion. We started relatively slowly but to have only lost twice going into January, sat top of the league and the top scorers in the top five leagues of English football (maybe joint top after New Years' Day) is simply phenomenal. Since we met last, back in September, we've gone completely different ways. Seems to have been a turning point for both teams! What's been the difference in the last 15 games or so from earlier in the season? Have things just clicked?
There's been a few reasons for our good form in my opinion.
On the players front, we've had the return to fitness of Alex Lawless, our player of the year last season. He's been exceptional since he has come back after an injury plagued opening month or two to this season and made a real difference. We've also had the introduction of Paul Benson. He joined the club prior to the Lincoln game but it took him a while to bed in to the team. He's been a revelation over the last two or three months, not only getting into double figures for goals himself but also his general link-up play making a huge difference to the rest of the team. It is no coincidence that Andre Gray has been in fantastic form since forging a partnership with Benson, hitting 14 league goals already after struggling to even get into the team at the start of the season.
But the main turning point was actually that Lincoln game. As you may remember, Lincoln were ahead in that game and certain elements of the home crowd were becoming restless. We went on to win 3-2, but not before our captain, Ronnie Henry, had a very public altercation with one of our own fans involving Henry telling him to get behind the team or not to come at all. Still backed his captain over the incident and the fanbase as a whole seemed to rally around the players. In the following week the fan in question was invited into the club to talk it out with Henry and the rest of the players, which he did, and the next home game he was brought on to the pitch after the game and welcomed into the post-match team huddle, differences resolved - symbolic of the fanbase as a whole.
That incident was the real catalyst for the unification of the fans and the team that I mentioned above. It seemed as if after that incident, all the negativity that had built up over the dreadful past few years drained away and now when the team are struggling the fans aren't moaning or getting restless, they are spurring the team on. We haven't looked back since. It's funny how a seemingly random incident can have such a dramatic effect. Jonathan Smith suffered a bad injury at Barnet last week. What was the news one that?
Broken tibia and fibula in his right leg. It's the same injury that Aaron Ramsey suffered at Stoke a few years ago so he'll be out for this season at the very least. I was worried that this horrific injury would have a negative effect on the team similar to how Arsenal collapsed after Eduardo broke his leg, but so far it seems to have just spurred us on even more. He was a very important player in our midfield though so he will be a big miss. Do you think this might finally be your year?
I'm not getting too carried away yet as I've been a Luton fan long enough to know how easy it is for things to go tits up very quickly. But the signs are all very positive at the moment. Top five predictions?
I think the top 4 will definitely be ourselves, Cambridge, Grimsby and Kidderminster (in bad form currently but I fancy them to turn it around before too long), with it currently looking like a two-horse race between us and Cambridge for the title. Fifth place really is anyone's guess right now. Bottom four predictions?
Two are obvious and the next two are harder to call but if I were a betting man I'd guess Hyde, Dartford, Southport, Tamworth. Thoughts on Lincoln City?
Another traditionally Football League club struggling to adjust to the black hole that is the Conference. Score prediction?
Well on current form we have to be favourites, but I'm also a bit wary of the fact that all runs come to an end some time and it would be very much in the Luton way to miss an opportunity to go 7 points clear at the top with Cambridge not playing. I'll tentatively go for a narrow 2-1 win for the Hatters. Random fact about your Club?
We were the joint top scorers in the top 5 English leagues in the calendar year 2013, level with Liverpool, which isn't bad considering we were completely pooe in the league last season and highlights how far we have progressed since John Still took over.