‘Memories of The Hatters’ by Andy King
Like many Luton families, mine was always full of conversation about the fortunes of Luton Town although no one was, at that time, what I’d describe as a fully paid-up member! My Grandmother was one of the tens of thousands who claimed to have seen Joe Payne score his ten goals against Bristol Rovers on Easter Monday in 1936. It’s probably true – she used to accompany her next door neighbour to matches in those times, he was in the St. John Ambulance service and got them both in free!
My Dad took me to a few games in the early ‘60s. Romford and Corby Town FA Cup matches come to mind but it was the thrill of seeing the 1966 World Cup on our black & white TV that confirmed my passion for football. An abiding memory of that World Cup Final is my Mother being so engrossed in the match that she left a saucepan on the stove to boil dry and melt!
I had already started going to every Kenilworth Road match with school mates and queued up at the Newsagent’s every Saturday night for the Green ‘Un to get the match report from ‘Chiltern’.
The 1967-68 season was truly unforgettable. After dropping to the 4th Division from the 1st in rapid succession Allan Brown built a wonderful team that stormed to the title with a record 66 points. The players in that superb side are etched in my mind. The brilliant Tony Read, one of few League goalkeepers who can claim to have scored a League hat-trick. Freddie Jardine a great left back with solid and reliable Max Dougan on the right. Terry Branston, hard-as-nails centre half and skipper, the legendary John Moore at left half with Stopsley boy, Alan Slough at number 4. The poor-man’s George Best, AKA Graham French, on the right wing, Derbyshire cricketer Ian Buxton inside right, Keith Allen the beanpole centre forward, the incomparable Bruce Rioch, also a Stopsley schoolboy, at inside left and Ray Whittaker at 11, one of a long line of great Luton left wingers.
A typical Bruce Rioch left-footed 35 yard screamer won promotion away at Halifax Town. HATS OFF TO LUTON! was the back-page headline in the Sunday Express the next day. The following Wednesday night, under the lights, Luton hammered Crewe Alexandra 4-0 in front of a massive Kenilworth Road crowd to become Champions – ecstasy………. Actually, not!
For one fourteen year old Luton boy that Crewe game remains an agonising memory that has left a scar to this day - over fifty years later!
After school, on the Wednesday afternoon of that match, I had a big argument with my brother - something about a bike - that ended up in a fight. My Mother warned of dire consequences when my Dad got home from work. I readied myself for a good hiding. Instead, when he came in he simply banished me to my bedroom, without dinner, for the rest of the evening!!
The drainpipe was too far away from the window, so plan A was out! The bed sheets were too short to knot into a rope! So, there I was, marooned three miles from the 19,000 crowd watching the biggest Luton game for nine years.
I don’t normally hold grudges, one learns to move on. There are exceptions to every rule. My Dad, bless him, has no idea of course; he’s in his 90’s now, we’ve never talked about it. Every true Hatter will put themselves in my place, understand, and share my pain.
Below Picture: "20 years later I (third left) had sufficiently come to terms with my Dad’s (2nd left) ‘crime’ to take him to the Littlewoods Cup Final at Wembley"