The only time I have ever played on a professional football club’s pitch was back in the early 1990s at Kenilworth Road Luton when, together with Preston and QPR, they had an AstroTurf surface that they were prepared to hire out to just about all and sundry during the off-season.
My then company BASF took them up on the offer and the might of our Seal Sands [Teesside] site took on a *rest of the UK and Ireland* squad for what was a fine day out for all concerned.
We [as in the Rest] got stuffed 3-0 as most of us could not cope with the width of the pitch because we weren’t used to those dimensions. But that was an early one to get off the bucket list and there was a great spread and bar on tap for us all after the game. I don’t think the Eric Morecambe statue was there then but we might have missed it if it was.
For some crazy reason the Seal Sands coach was allowed to park in the official car park but our private cars were not so myself and a mate parked up opposite a patch of neglected grass at the end of a massive row of terraced houses. We had bad vibes but it was a company car so ashamedly we didn’t care about it too much.
On our way back to the car we saw a group of what I can only describe as a cohort of angry men armed with staves charging down the street in order to remonstrate with another group similarly loaded. They completely ignored us and continued with their mission. I’m hardly up to Royal Protection standards but I can seriously drive and the quickest three point turn I’ve ever done – not too easy in an automatic Rover 827 – got us safely away. The whole experience was surreal.
As was a Division One match in 1990 when we went one up only to succumb to a Lars Elstrup hat-trick. He was slow, ponderous and unmarked. Possibly one of my worst Carrow Road memories of all time. We were so naive it was ridiculous. For anybody brave enough:
Of course the absolute nadir came along with the Fourth Round of the FA Cup in 2013. Scott Rendell’s late winner made certain that Norwich City became the first Premier League side ever to lose to a non-league outfit. Luckily I wasn’t there that evening. Look away now, as they say:
But despite all this there is a positive spin we can apply to our friends from Bedfordshire.
We acquired two highly rated young guys from them a few years ago. You might have heard of them: Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis, still [for now] of this parish.
So the anxiety, grief and angst I have suffered at the hands of Luton Town has been dissipated by those signings alone.
And on Saturday we meet again – without 15 of our finest who are away on international duty and the suspended Emi Buendia of course. Josip Drmic is also suspended but that’s not really going to affect the outcome too much now is it?
Luton are missing a single player who has been called up by Croatia.
Luton Town have provided me with an extreme high, a couple of lows and the bonus of Max and Jamal.
So literally anything might happen on Saturday.
I’m just pleased that the result will mean very little to me on a personal level.