Luton Town manager Mick Harford admitted he joined the Hatters faithful in applauding the club’s custodians, 2020, during the 2-2 draw with Gillingham because of their historic Newlands Park success.
Supporters planned the 20thminute as the chance to direct a standing ovation towards the Kenilworth Road directors’ box where chief executive Gary Sweet and his board were sat.
On Monday (11 March), the Hatters supremo was in Luton Town Hall to hear the council approve the mixed-use development at junction 10 of the M1 motorway, which will help transform the town and provide crucial funding for Power Court, where a new 17,500-seat stadium is planned.
Speaking after the match that saw Luton maintain a five-point lead at the top of League One and keep on course for a second successive promotion, Harford said of the poignant first half moment: “I applauded as well on the touchline. It was the biggest victory in Luton Town’s history in terms of getting a planning application for the new stadium.
“Rightly so, they were given a fantastic reception, Gary, the 2020 board and everyone involved in that, so yeah, it was an epic moment in Luton Town’s history.”
In his match day programme notes, Harford also wrote: ‘We all know what that means for the hopes of a new stadium finally being built for the great club and the hard wok the 2020 have carried out over the past decade can only be applauded.
“Congratulations to Gary Sweet, David Wilkinson and the rest of the board because not only have they brought the club back from the abyss in football terms, they have done so much off the pitch to make Luton – not just the football club – a better place.
‘That will become even more evident as the years go on with the support of the Council and the local and national business who will want to be part of the developments – not forgetting those 11,000 people who wrote in to show their support.”
Club captain Alan Sheehan also wrote in the match day programme about his delight at the Newlands Park decision, saying: ‘There is a real connection between everyone at the club at the moment, and that goes from the stands to the players and the boardroom.
‘They all would have been celebrating the night before when the dream of a new stadium became a reality, and the Newlands Park decision certainly gave us players a boost when we heard the news as we sat in traffic on the M1.
‘We know that Gary Sweet and his team have worked so hard for it. I remember being shown the plans when I first signed, and then the models before the applications were put in, and the prospect of Power Court being built has been – and will be – a big lure for a lot of players to come to Luton. Congratulations to Gary and the board for delivering.’