With the long awaited return of the Championship tomorrow and our beloved Luton Town Football Club kicking off at 3pm against Preston North End to a cardboard cut out crowd, we thought we would have a chat with one of Luton’s top fans and surely one of their top fact statisticians, Alan Adair.
To lead us gently back to Kenilworth Road, to finish off this season, we thought we would ask him about his penchant for Luton and his ancestral association with our town, in more ways than football.
So Alan, how has lockdown been for someone whose life pretty much revolves around sport?
It’s been really tough at times. For someone who has always been a person who loves to socialise and interact with folk, attending Luton matches nationwide (and being half Scottish – Rangers occasionally too), dancing manically at the Cali Reunions and I am also missing playing dominoes with my older team mates for Stopsley Working Mens Club.
From all that, to next to nothing in the last couple of months or so – thank God for my love of music, it has kept me sane!
If you could run out any team at Kenilworth Road, past and present players, who are you picking, right down to captain?
I’m afraid they are all from the past:
Goalkeeper: Jake Findlay (though Miljia Aleksic (Elastic) RIP would be a very close second)
Full Backs/Defence: John Ryan, Steve Buckley, Steve Foster (my best ever Town captain), Mal Donaghy
Midfield: Ricky Hill, David Preece RIP, Peter Anderson
Forwards/Wingers: Malcolm Macdonald, Brian Stein, David Moss
Subs: Mick Harford, Graham French, Bruce Rioch, Paul Walsh, Steve Howard
What age were you when you went to your first game? Oh and go on, what was the game and the stats?!
Aged 8. It was watching the 1966 World Cup on TV that ‘got’ me into football. When Bobby Charlton scored a screamer for England v Mexico in the Group stages, from that moment on I was a football fanatic and I still am to this day.
My first Luton match was on 1 December 1966, FA Cup 1 Replay. Luton 2 (Bruce Rioch and David Pleat scored for us) Exeter 0 (Attendance: 7,079).
Wigan away in March, pre-COVID, was my 1,893rd Town game attended, 1,229 of those at Kenilworth Road.
We here at Save our Town are passionate about our local heritage and keeping it alive, Vauxhall is obviously a huge part of this town too and we understand that your grandfather and uncle were both strong protagonists central to the union movement at a time when this was pivotal, could you tell us a little about your grandad Tom please.
Vauxhall has played a major part in both mine and in my family’s lives.
Both of my Scottish grandads, Bill Roberts and Tom Adair, worked at Vauxhall, as did my Uncle Tom Junior, cousin Bob Adair all his life, his brother Ken for a short period and even my mum, Miriam, had a short period working on the track in the mid 1970s. Bill was a time-served toolmaker.
Tom Senior was deemed too valuable to serve in WW2 because of his major role in the production of the Churchill Tanks made in Luton at Vauxhall. He even met Sir Winston himself when the wartime leader toured the plant at Luton.
A famous war artist, by the name of Kennington, painted a huge portrait of Tom and it hung in the Director’s Office in the Vauxhall Boardroom until Tom retired in the 1960s, then it was presented to him by Vauxhall upon retiring.
Tom was also a major player in the trade union movement at Vauxhall in his role as shop steward, working hard and succeeding in securing many workers’ rights and conditions for lots of years to follow. Tom Junior, his son and my dad’s brother, was a foreman at Vauxhall.
In my personal life, working in print from 1974 to 2019, Vauxhall were my biggest client in terms of print literature, until sadly last year when technology ended that period. Vauxhall, under their recent Peugeot ownership, placed from January 2019 90 per cent plus of their printed literature online. In one fell swoop, I had lost over 70% of my business and after over 45 years in the print trade had to leave it in September last year.
What is your favourite statistic/fact that you like to reveal on its anniversary each year?
1 December each year, passing of my first game v Exeter. It will be 54 years, God willing, in six months.
What is your favourite ever goal?
Without a shadow of doubt Graham French – 18 September 1968 Division 3, Luton 4 Mansfield 2 (Attendance: 19,315.)
French gathered the ball that night in his own area at the Oak Road end, he went on running the length of the pitch with the ball, leaving Mansfield player after player in his wake. He must have beaten at least 6,7,8 before rounding the Stags’ keeper and cooly slotting home – to pandemonium at Kenilworth Road! Sadly, there is no actual footage of this goal/game anywhere!
It will always be for most Hatters of my era, our fave Town goal – but in 1994 Scott Oakes v Derby came very close to it with a similar run. There is YouTube footage of that one!
Graham French was the George Best of lower league football. He had everything, skill-wise, and also a touch of Bestie off the pitch too – ending up serving a jail sentence from 1970-72 for shooting a bloke (whose brother I knew) in a Lewsey Farm pub, The Unicorn!!!
What are your top 3 Luton Town Football Club experiences?
No 1. Easy – 1988 League Cup Final at Wembley. Arsenal 2 Luton 3. Attendance: 95,732 – inc 35,000 Hatters!
No 2. Raddy – Maine Road 1983 Division 1, Man City 0 Luton 1 (Raddy Antic RIP). Attendance: 42,843 – inc 5,000 Hatters!
No 3. The Great Escape – 1990 Division 1, Derby 2 Luton 3. Attendance: 17,044 – inc 5,000 Hatters!
And finally, as the clock counts down towards kick-off, what are your views on Nathan Jones’ return as manager, the battle we have on our hands and your hopes for the future when we move to Power Court?
I, like most Hatters, was extremely annoyed in the manner in which Nathan Jones left us. Nobody could blame him for securing his family’s future with his GABO (Got a Better Offer) but life is short. He’s apologised and I, for one, accept it and think it’s a good move for the club and our best chance of survival this season.
He knows most of the players, knows how the club ticks and, in all honesty, this is his best chance of re-kicking his managerial career too.
With regard to Power Court, I’ve always been 100 per cent confident that 2020 would get the new ground sorted, but the Arndale owner opponents have definitely not helped in their long – hopefully in vain – pursuit and battle against us.
I am sorry to say this, but I can’t help now being more than a touch concerned that Covid-19 is going to have a major impact on all our lives for the near future.
I still think and pray Power Court will happen in my lifetime and that I will finally get to see Luton play in our new ground, but the impact this will have on high-end retail, with our plans for Newlands Park, is bound to have a major impact on shops actually opening there.
That just leaves me to say – Come On You Rip Roaring Hatters!