Last Time At Luton

Luton Town FC 0-5 Sunderland AFC

6th May 2007

The Lads pipped Birmingham City to the Coca-Cola Championship title, with Roy Keane's side demolishing Kevin Blackwell’s already-relegated Luton Town. Despite the absence of the famous old trophy that day, SAFC fans, players and management celebrated in style. Keane and Niall Quinn had engaged and galvanised a disillusioned fan-base, and the momentum carried on into the summer as transfer records were broken and the bright lights of The Barclays Premier League were awaiting. Happy times indeed!

For the opposition that day however, their relegation was barely a taster of the chaos to come.

Although avenging in part the defeat to Keane’s men with a 3-0 win in the League Cup, Luton’s punishment for previous financial irregularities was to spend most of the 2007–08 season in administration, coupled with a 10-point deduction. Another relegation followed.

The club then had a total of 30 points docked from its 2008–09 record by the FA and the Football League for a combination of the afore-mentioned monetary misdemeanours, and also breaking further rules when leaving administration. Another relegation followed. They did have the enjoyment of a Football League Trophy victory, but that hardly made up for facing Non-League Football for the first time in their history.

At the same stage on Wearside, Sunderland were about to begin their third consecutive Season in the top-flight, and despite Keane’s tenure having come to an end, Steve Bruce was putting together a squad to comfortably remain clear of the drop zone, and then enjoy a top half finish the following campaign.

Five and a half years since that 5-0 win at Kenilworth Road, SAFC were owned by Texan Billionaire Ellis Short, were holding their own in The Premier League, and following Bruce, the appointment of Martin O’Neill seemed the perfect appointment to lead us up towards the the sides in top eight or so in the League. Luton Town were a Non-League side with a heartbreaking habit of putting their supporters through annual Play-Off heartache.

Sunderland AFC and Luton Town FC were absolutely poles apart on the English Football spectrum, separated at one stage in March 2012 by 92 places.

We all know what has happened to our club in the time that has followed, and despite our own days in the sun, be it The League Cup Final or great escapes from relegation, it’s all went a little shit-shaped to say the least. In no way has our decline been as rapid or brutal as the one the Luton fans endured, but it has been a dramatic slide nonetheless.

Our counterparts in Bedfordshire meanwhile, not only eventually stopped the rot, but began to turn things around to the extent of not only regaining their place in The Football League, but also enjoying stability under their Manager Nathan Jones. More importantly, this stability and strong management has also been in evidence off the pitch, with owners now submitting plans for a new stadium, 550 apartments, bars, restaurants, a 1,800-capacity live venue and hotel. Quite a turnaround!

So here we are ready to meet again for the first time in the League since Nyron donned his straw hat. It’s quite astounding the recent history of SAFC and Luton, and to stress that even further, combining both clubs in this timeline I’ve covered, not only have they changed ownership a total of five times but there have been a staggering –

5 Chairmen

24 Managers

5 Relegations

3 Promotions

4 Trips to Wembley

1 Trophy

1 Administration

Looking through these numbers and statistics however, no matter how shocking they appear, it is certainly worthwhile putting them into some perspective. And the reason that hit home when writing this, is that there are three players on that day in 2007, are sadly no longer with us.

So if you’re at the match on Saturday, watching online or listening to the radio, take a moment to reflect on our own Marton Fulop and Liam Miller and also Luton’s Besian Idrizaj. Given the fact these lads dedicated their lives to the game of football, I’m sure they appreciated how it can become all-encompassing to us supporters.

And as we head into Saturday’s fixture, it’s safe to say that both sets of fans, despite being wary of how quickly things can change, are currently very happy with their clubs both on and off the pitch, and are extremely excited for the season ahead.

Long may it continue!

Ha’way the Lads