Welcome to the cheap seats…

by Chris

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Luton Town FC RIP

And so, on April 13th, Luton were finally consigned to step five football for the 2009/2010 season.

We were all expecting it of course. Only a miracle could have saved the Hatters this season, something which ex-newsreader come chairman Nick Owen happily pointed out on Sky News this morning.

As you’ll remember, Mick Harford’s team were forced to start the season on minus 30 points after they were deducted 20 points for failing to comply with the Football League’s insolvency rules. A further 10 points were taken away by the FA for paying agents through a holding company. Without the penalties, Luton, who lifted the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy by beating Scunthorpe United 3-2 at Wembley Stadium nine days ago, would be 15th in League Two.

What tickled me about Owen’s commentary though was his kind words about the Blue Square Premier League that his beloved Hatters are about to become a part of.

Far from the dour face and arrogant expectations I was expecting, Owen was full of praise for the teams currently in the Blue Square Prem. He spoke with warm tones about the history of these clubs (presumably he’s talking about Histon and York City here, rather than the renamed Ebsfleet) and praised them as worthy adversaries for the season ahead.

Still, it must be something of a bitter pill to swallow: Three and a half years ago Luton was fifth in the Coca Cola Championship – now they face a season alongside local strugglers Stevenage Borough and Woking.

Slough Town fans will probably empathise with the Hatters more than most, since Luton’s fall from grace mirrors the Rebels own downfall in the 1990s. Controversy struck the Rebels in the 1997/98 season when, despite finishing in 8th place in the Conference, they were ejected from the league.

The Rebels had completed an excellent season, reaching the semi-finals of the FA Trophy for the second time where they lost 2-1 on aggregate to Southport and holding Cardiff City to a 1-1 draw at former ground Wexham Park in the FA Cup 1st round proper before bowing out of the competition 3-2 in the replay at Ninian Park.

Quite why Slough was ejected from the Conference is still debated today. Whilst the official reason is the issue of the seats, there has been much talk that there were severe financial irregularities at the Club and that these were the real reason for the Conference expelling the Rebels.

Following a long period of dispute between the club and the council, chairman Alan Thorne, resigned his chairmanship of the club. His son elected not to install the additional 49 seats required by the Conference. He went on to sack manager, Brian McDermott and placed the entire playing squad on the transfer list.

Money slowly flowed away through mismanagement and poor decisions and by 2003 Slough found themselves groundsharing in the Ryman Premier with local rivals Windsor & Eton. After being relegated a further step and shunted across into the Southern League, Slough are now 18th in the British Gas Business South West Division, having gone through 6 managers and over 100 players in the past three seasons.

There are green shoots of recovery here however. A new chairman joined at the tail end of last season and talks are well underway with the local council for building a new home for Slough Town back in the town centre. Of course, those who have followed the Rebels longest remain cynical about whether any real progress is really being made, but with a new manager starting to string together a few promising results – and a busy pre season lined up already – the clouds are starting to clear in John Betjamin’s favourite town.

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  • Tef1on

    You’re going down, Oh Luton town
    To the place where you belong….
    Playing Woking, in the conference
    You’re going down, oh Luton Town
    … Read More
    (To the tune of country roads)

    I Went to the Barnet game last Saturday and we were singing this non stop… will be singing it this weekend vs Luton too! Gotta love League 2 football!

  • http://www.ukfootballfinder.co.uk Darren

    its real football!

    Do u think Luton will go out of business?

  • Tef1on

    I can see it happening… I can also see Southampton going. No one likes to see a club go under but i think Luton are in deep trouble, maybe the fact they won that lower league trophy will help them out?

  • http://nickreeve.moonfruit.com NickR

    Like the use of ‘green shoots’, a phrase of the year so far I think. And I always thought it was spelt Betjeman…

    It’s a shame to see Luton disappear out of the Football League but I think they have the backing to bounce back, and hopefully they can re-establish themselves as a league club in the next few years.

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