“Tonight is the night we are back where we belong. Regardless of the result, you will see something special at Kenilworth Road tonight.”
It promises to be a landmark occasion, not just for Luton Town but for the entire footballing world. Football fans everywhere can breathe a huge sigh of relief as the worst period of the year comes to an end. It has been 67 days since Paul Tierney blew the final whistle on the Football League season at Wembley. 67 days since Aston Villa sealed their return to the Premier League and 67 days that have felt like a lifetime to every single football fan. The long wait is finally over.
Luton Town kick off the season on Friday August 2 at Kenilworth Road as they host Jonathan Woodgate’s Middlesbrough side in the opening game of the football season. The Hatters return to the second tier of English football for the first time since their disastrous campaign in 2006-07.
But we are not here to look at the financial doom and gloom that lead to three successive relegations, but instead the incredible 2005-06 season that saw Luton record a tenth place finish in the second tier.
There are several similarities that we can draw between this Luton side and the one from 14 seasons ago. Both sides came up to the Championship after romping to the League One title with over 90 points and there was a huge feel-good factor around the club heading into the second tier.
That Luton squad remains firmly ingrained in the memories of the Hatters’ faithful and we spoke to Ian Robertson from @WeAreLutonTown about that famous promotion campaign:
“That was some season, it was the first and only season in my mind we went into every game thinking we would arrogantly come out with three points and without breaking a sweat.
“We had what you would call ‘Luton’ players, ones that etched their names into the Luton history books, the ones that still attend games now and still have that love for the club.
The likes of Kevin Nicholls, [Marlon] Beresford, [Steve] Robinson, [Chris} Coyne and the rest.
“My memories from that year was the immense away support, fast flowing attacking football and the team never giving up. We should have got 100 points that year, if it wasn’t for Newell letting the team go out on the town the night before and putting a miss-matched squad together we’d have beaten Doncaster that day.”
The Championship provided a tougher test for the Luton side but Mike Newell brought in some decent signings in the transfer market. Although he lead them to a tenth place finish, Newell is not as fondly remembered as the team he created as he did not have the well-being of the club at the top of his priorities which contributed to the financial ruin of the club over the coming years.
Despite this, in 2005/06 the Hatters did incredibly well and finished in tenth place before disaster struck off the pitch and they were relegated in three successive seasons as Ian explains:
“We tinkered only slightly, brought in some well-scouted players. Like Marcus Heikkinen, Carlos Edwards and we signed a decent striker in the form of Rowan Vine. Between Howard, Robinson, Brkovic and Vine they ripped many of the Championship defences apart.
The second season in we had the heart of our team sold from beneath us, that was the start of the downward spiral we found ourselves in with a gentle nudge from the Football League and Football Association.”
We have only just made it back, today, tonight is the night we are back where we belong. Regardless of the result, you will see something special at Kenilworth Road tonight.”
As to whether the current side, now managed by new boss Graeme Jones are showing any similarities to that legendary side, Ian remains cautious but excited for the imminent campaign:
“The style of play is about the only factor [that has remained the same], football has changed a lot in that time. It’s difficult to say which squad was better, both have been brilliant. The Championship has changed a lot, it’s going to be tough.”
Luton have been on the footballing rollercoaster over the past fifteen years but in the last two seasons they have been the must-watch team in the entire Football League. With the dark times now behind them and a bright future ahead, it should be a cracking atmosphere in this season’s curtain-raiser. COYH.