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Luton Town FC in the 1970s By Paul Rance
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Paul Futcher and Billy Bingham. Two of the 50 Luton Town players featured.
Luton Town FC in the 1970s Extract
Copyright © 2017 Paul Rance
March was to prove to be a disappointing month, with home draws against Charlton and Millwall, but a 3-1 win over Hull at Kenilworth Road was a highlight. Both away games were long treks up north and ended in defeat - 1-0 at Carlisle, and 2-1 at Middlesbrough. Narrow defeats were becoming too much of a recurring theme for Luton as we were entering the business end of the season. First up in April was Birmingham City and it was a blockbuster.
Birmingham and Luton were right in the promotion mix, and 10,000 Brummies travelled down to swell the crowd to one of over 25,000 - the Town's biggest League crowd of the season.
This game was also fascinating because of two young strikers creating a buzz around the country - Luton's 21-year-old striker Malcolm MacDonald and Birmingham's 16-year-old starlet, Trevor Francis. Francis had scored 16 goals in his first 16 League games, including four in one match against Bolton. No teenage forward had made such an impact on English football since Jimmy Greaves in the 1950s. Chants of "Supermac!" from Luton fans were met with cries of "Superboy!" from City fans.
An eye-opener for me, as I queued to get in the Oak Road End, was Birmingham women! One female teenage City fan I remember was taking no crap from the police, shouting "Bollocks!" at one bemused cop. The Oak Road End was segregated, though I seemed to be surrounded by Birmingham fans. But all was well, as a Brum couple held me up to help me get a better view over the zillions of heads.
Luton went 2-0 down (with Bob Latchford scoring one of the goals. Both he and Francis were in the England team by the end of the decade), and it looked like the promotion dream was coming to an end. But, in a game suitable for the occasion, the Town came storming back to win 3-2, thanks to a cracker from Alan Slough.
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LUTON TOWN FC Facts
• George Martin (not The Beatles producer) managed Luton twice.
Luton Town's first season in the Football League in 1897-98 saw them, on their home turf, give out some fearful beatings. They won their very first home game 4-0 against Gainsborough Trinity. Then, in successive home games from late November to late March, they beat Blackpool 3-1, Lincoln City 9-3, Grimsby Town 6-0, Manchester City 3-0, Loughborough 7-0, Walsall 6-0, Newcastle United 3-1, and Burnley 2-0 respectively. Newton Heath, now known as Manchester United, ended Luton's winning run at home when they secured a 2-2 draw. In Luton's last home game of the season Darwen were defeated 3-0. Luton's first away win in League football was a 2-1 win at Newton Heath.
Luton finished eighth in Division 2 in their debut League season. Burnley were champions, with Newcastle runners-up. Manchester City finished third, Newton Heath fourth, and Woolwich Arsenal fifth.
• Arguably Luton Town's greatest player, Syd Owen, played in England's heaviest-ever defeat - a 7-1 thrashing by Hungary in Budapest in 1954.
• Luton's most capped player is Northern Ireland international Mal Donaghy, who won 58 caps while starring in Luton's defence in the '70s and '80s.
• Two Luton goalkeepers won England caps between 1949 and 1956 - Bernard Streten and Ron Baynham.
• Joe Payne remains the only player in the history of English League football to have scored 10 goals in one game. Incredibly, a novice forward when he achieved the feat, Bristol Rovers were his victims in a 12-0 win in 1935-36 - which remains Luton's biggest League win.
• Tom Finney's last League appearance was against Luton Town in 1960.
• Luton Town have won titles in the second, third, fourth and fifth tiers of English football.
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Luton Town FC Honours
Luton Town - the Unluckiest Team in English Football History by Paul Rance
The Ups and Downs of Following Luton Town FC
As a Luton Town supporter for nearly 40 years through thick, but mostly thin, season 2008/09 has been more surreal then even the usual season for Luton Town fans.
Beginning the season with a deduction of an unprecedented 30 points for shambolic failings of a previous board, for which the innocent fans (of course), players, manager, staff, and new board are lumbered with, it was maybe predictable that Luton would find themselves in a Wembley final - albeit a final of the humble Johnstone's Paint Trophy.
Things are never straightforward with Luton Town FC, that is for certain. I remember enquiring about watching a game at Kenilworth Road (when the ban on away supporters was in place), and, with my living in Lincolnshire, it seemed getting into Fort Knox would have been easier. Then there was the plastic pitch, which upset many, and, though I'm not big on conspiracy theories, spare me just a little paranoia as to why the Football League decided to give the oldest professional football club in the south of England such a damn good kicking. Though, to be fair, they've treated Leeds, Bournemouth, and Rotherham in nearly as vicious a way.
The title of this article may be contentious (I can see Wimbledon supporters vigorously suggesting they're the unluckiest), but football fans are notorious for seeing that the glass is always half empty. Luton have been up and down more times than a certain musician's elbow, but to treat a club, which made its League bow in 1897, with such disdain makes a mockery of English football, and shows up the people who run it as buffoons with no love for the game, or consideration for those of us who do still care - despite the greed is good mentality at the top clubs.
It's hard to see Luton Town avoiding relegation to the Blue Square Conference, and thus achieve the unique feat of reaching a Wembley final and being relegated from the Football League in the same season. But that's the Hatters for you. When Lewis Carroll came up with his Mad Hatter character, he must have been looking into the future and seeing a Luton fan - because mad (in all its forms) is what following Luton Town makes you!
Copyright © Paul Rance
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