Thursday, 28 April 2016

Luton Town: The Non-League Years by Rob Hadgraft

Book review: There are a plethora of books on Luton Town’s recent history. As well as this one there are no less than three others by the same author (Luton Town: Through the Trap Door: From Championship to Conference 2004-2009Luton Town: Staring into the Abyss: Minus 30 - the Coldest Place in FootballLuton Town - the Dark Side of the Moon: Journey into the Unknown 2009-2010). And there is even a book about our first season back in the league 2014-15 (Luton Town: Back Where We Belong: A season of dream, or a lesson in reality). Maybe when the current season is over (2015-16) another book will be hitting the shelves. So perhaps the market is overheated and perhaps there are cross-overs in what each book is covering but at least as a Luton fan you can’t say you aren’t well catered for. 

I haven’t read them all so can’t make comparisons and pick out the best one, but I have read this one and can comment on it in isolation from my viewpoint of being a Luton fan and being present at many of the matches featured in this book covering out non-league years from seasons 2009-10 to 2013-14. 

There were some interesting sound bites in this book: 
  • “It was clear summer jaunts to the USA and Asia would be off Luton’s agenda for some time to come.” When were these ever on Luton’s agenda? 
  • “We were now ranked 101st in England – the lowest point in my lifetime and quite probably in the last 100 years or so” – if you’re going to say things like this maybe you could be a bit more specific 
  • A game versus Grays: “Not since Manchester United played Barnsley in the Premier League had there been a bigger gulf between two clubs in the same division” Nice sound bite but hard to prove. 
  • On Jason Walker and his famous Panenka penalty v AFC Wimbledon: “it was high-risk and only attempted by the supremely skilful, supremely confident…. Even Peter Crouch had come a cropper.” Yes even the supremely skilful Peter Crouch. 
  • Loanee Jake Robinson debuted but made little impact at the Impact Arena” Don’t know how this made it into the book given the player in question went on to play just 7 Conference games in total for Luton making “little impact” before leaving, perhaps it is for the wordplay.  
  • On a 5-0 win over Kettering: “the most one-sided league match ever seen at Kenilworth Road” – even more so than our 12-0 against Bristol Rovers in 1936 which I presume the author was at so as to offer his opinion? 
  • as the great French poet Rimbaud wrote…” – sorry, you lost me. 
  • On Luton’s away following at Welling “a massive 75 per cent of the 2,650 were away supporters. Surely some sort of record?” Er, no because on the next away game at Hyde the author writes: “a crowd that was more than 80 per cent Luton fans” 

There are some depressing bits too as the writer talks about all the booing and abuse that Luton got during this time: 

  • “Despite being unbeaten after five games, Luton had been booed off by their own fans three games in a row.” 
  • After his third league game in charge, a 0-0, Richard Money said “I have never before been subjected to the abuse I received at Chester. I remember walking off the pitch thinking – wow, what is going on here?” 
  • After 10 games played in 2011-12: “We went top for the first time in more than a year, yet players, fans and management all headed home dissatisfied.” 

Even the author gets stuck into the team: 

  • “We had no divine right to beat clubs of the stature of Braintree and Dartford, of course, but losing to part-timers is an embarrassment all the same, especially for the long-standing supporters like this writer” 

But then there are better moments, like when the author brings out of the quaintness of following a football team in the non-league after being in the League for so long: 

  • On Forest Green away – “We parked at the local primary school in an area that looked as if Compo and Clegg from Last in the Summer Wine would go cycling by at any moment.” 
  • On Histon's ground: “this exposed meadow in the Fens” 
  • On Welling away: “there was a friendly atmosphere here that made it feel rather like a Saturday afternoon church fete.” 

And then there are the shared good on-field memories where the author covers things such as the emergence of Andre Gray (now Championship player of the year and surely destined for the Premier League shortly), the purple patch we had towards the end of 2009-10 when Gnakpa ate his soup and the team smashed in the goals, and of course the promotion winning season. 

So a depressing read in places and a more uplifting read in others.

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