Luton Town Football Club

Luton Town Football ClubIntroductionEarly HistoryP

A Football Report
Luton Town Football Club

Luton Town Football Club


Since Luton Town’s formation back in 1885 the club has spent periods in and out of all four divisions of the Football League. Currently plying its trade in League One the club are in the midst of a financial crisis and recently entered administration. The Hatters, as they are affectionately known due to the town’s hat-making industry, are in the process of a takeover but have many battles ahead.

Early History (1885 – 1938)

Based in the town of Luton in Bedfordshire, the club became what they are today following the merger of Luton Wanderers and Luton Excelsior in 1885. They became one of the founder members of the Southern League in 1894 and soon became the first professional club in the south of England.

A successful application saw the club join the Football League in 1897 only to resign three years later to re-join the Southern League. As the club progressed, the Hatters moved into their Kenilworth Road home ground, which is the club’s stadium to this day. The Hatters continued to play in the Southern League before the Football League was restructured following World War I. Luton remained in the newly formed Division Three (South) for 17 seasons before a fantastic 1936/37 campaign saw them crowned.

Promotion was achieved that season thanks to a great squad of local talent and with the talismanic striker, Joe Payne leading the line – scoring 55 goals in the title-winning season. The Hatters looked to progress further and increased Kenilworth Road’s capacity until World War II curtailed what was an exciting season resulting in a seven-year break.

Post Second World War Rise (1945 – 1959)

As Luton returned after the War several seasons of mid-table mediocrity followed before coming close to relegation in 1951. After battling back to consolidate their place in the league the side eventually triumphed after a titanic battle in 1955 to clinch promotion to Division One for the first time in their history.

The club impressed in their debut season as several famous wins gave them a highly respectable mid-table finish. An eighth place finish in 1957/58 became the highest in the club’s history and more was to come for fans as Town reached the FA Cup final during a thrilling 1958/59 season. Luton surpassed their previous quarter-final record performance, beating Leeds, Leicester, Ipswich and Blackpool en-route to the final against Nottingham Forest.

Cup euphoria struck the Bedfordshire town although the final left Hatters’ fans heartbroken as they fell to ten-man Forest, losing 2-1.

The Rapid Fall (1959 – 1967)

Following the FA Cup run the season before much was expected of Luton. However, an ageing squad sank without a trace, finishing bottom of Division One in 1959/60, resulting in relegation. Things were only to get worse for the Hatters as they fell rapidly to the Fourth Division in the next six years.

The depression that surrounded the club saw attendances dwindle and in November 1966 the club arguably reached its lowest ever point, as Luton crashed 1-8 to bottom club, Lincoln City.

Phoenix From The Flame (1968 – 1978)

The roots of recovery were showing as Luton clinched the Fourth Division championship in 1968 and, two years later, achieved promotion once more. Having been at the lowest ebb in the club’s history a few years earlier, the team were once again in Division One in 1974.

The Hatters only remained there for a season before being relegated once again; reinforcing the directors’ feeling that promotion was achieved too quickly. The club’s brief return to the big time had financial repercussions and the club came close to folding in the late seventies.

Pleat Era (1978 – 1986)

After Luton’s close call with the creditors, the club welcomed in a new era, with the appointment of David Pleat, who had started the 1977/78 season as reserve team coach.

The recovery began under Pleat who, despite a close call with relegation in his first season, strengthened the side with astute signings and tactical acumen. Playing a riveting brand of attacking football, the club achieved promotion under the tutorship of Pleat, winning the Division Two championship.

In Division One the attack-minded Hatters became the darlings of the television companies, but only a last gasp win at Manchester City kept them up. However, this slender escape from relegation could not be built on, as Luton struggled in the early part of the 1984/85 season.

Pleat, however, staved-off relegation once more, having made several key signings, and despite many of these being cup-tied, led the Hatters to the FA Cup semi-final.

By the mid-eighties the club had become notorious for an away fan ban, following a pitch invasion and hooliganism by Millwall fans, and for the introduction of an artificial playing surface.

Despite the controversial moves made by then chairman David Evans, the club continued to enjoy the most successful years in the club’s history under Pleat, who led the side to ninth position by the end of the 1985/86 season.

Moving Onwards & Upwards (1986 – 1990)

Pleat found the calls of Tottenham Hotspur too alluring to turn down and the Luton reins were handed to coach, John Moore, who continued the side’s recent successes by leading them to a seventh place finish. Soon after, Moore tendered his resignation and Ray Harford replaced him at the helm and inherited an impressive side.

Under Harford, the club’s progression continued and he led them to the club’s most famous moment as they achieved a 3-2 victory over Arsenal at Wembley, to win the League Cup in 1988. The League Cup triumph, still Luton’s only major trophy, would have seen them qualify for Europe but, unfortunately, all English clubs were banned from European competitions due to the Heysel Disaster.

Luton reached the Littlewoods Cup final once again the following season but lost to Nottingham Forest 3-1 and the club only escaped relegation on the last day of the season.

Downward Spiral (1990 – 2004)

Harford was sacked less than two years after the League Cup triumph and replaced by Jim Ryan, who himself only lasted 16 months. The club were still hanging on precariously to their Division One status as Pleat returned as manager to the club. However, their luck ran out at the end of 1991-92 and, after ten years in the top division, Town were relegated.

Since then the club have remained outside the top division. Pleat remained in charge at Luton until the summer of 1995, when he moved to Sheffield Wednesday and his successor, Terry Westley, was sacked months after being appointed. Despite the best efforts of his replacement, Lennie Lawrence, the club were relegated in 1996.

The club came close to promotion out of Division Two in the 1996-97 season after a great third place finish but lost in the playoffs to eventual winners, Crewe. The Hatters were soon flirting with relegation before entering mid-table obscurity in the late nineties, being forced to sell most of their star players.

Brief Respite (2004 – 2007)

In years gone by the Town had failed to hit the heights due to several reasons, in particular the fact that they suffered two periods of receivership. By the summer of 2004, the club had come out of this period and under manager, Mike Newell, the Hatters ran away with the League One title, amassing 98 points.

Luton took the Championship by storm in their first season, surprising fans and pundits alike, finishing in mid-table, before, like so many other times, finances dictated the club’s progression. The lack of money saw the club relegated at the end of the 2006-07 season, with Mike Newell being relieved of his duties towards the end of the season.

This Season (2007 – 08)

This season former Leeds manager and local boy, Kevin Blackwell, took the reins and bolstered the squad with experienced heads to blend with its young talent. As the club aimed for promotion, the Hatters started the season disappointingly, and in late November matters got worse as the club entered administration once again – ten points were deducted as punishment.

As the team played without pay they grouped together and went on an FA Cup run, ending in a third round replay against Liverpool at Anfield, after a fantastic 1-1 draw at Kenilworth Road. Unfortunately, following the 5-0 drubbing at Anfield, the administrator sacked manager, Blackwell, alongside his staff.

After losing numerous players in the January transfer window, Mick Harford was made manager and given the tough job of keeping the club in League One. However, things could be looking up for Luton at long last, with TV presenter Nick Owen’s consortium, Luton Town FC 2020, close to a takeover.

Club Information

  • Address: Kenilworth Road, Luton Town FC, 1 Maple Road, Luton, Beds LU4 8AW
  • General Enquiries: 01582 411622 (
  • Ticket Information: 01582 416976
  • Box Office: 0810 062 0602
  • Commercial & Marketing: 01582 411622 (
  • Corporate Hospitality: 01582 411622 (
  • Merchandise / Shop: 01582 411622
  • Travel Club: 07960 567465
  • Junior Club: 01582 391927
  • Website: Official Website
  • Travel Info: Nearest Railway Station – Luton Railway Station (0.7 miles) & Nearest Motorway Junction – M1 Junction 11 (1.6 miles)

Club Honours

  • FA Cup – Runners-up (1958-1959)
  • League Cup – Winners (1987-1988) Runners-up (1988-1989)
  • Division 2 – Champions (1981-1982)
  • Division 3 – Runners-up (1969-1970 & 2001-2002)
  • Division 4 – Champions (1967-1968)
  • Division 3 (South) – Champions (1936-1937)
  • Simod Cup – Runners-up (1987-1988)

Club Records

  • Record Attendance: 30,069 v Blackpool, FA Cup, 4 March 1959
  • Record League Win: 12-0 v Bristol Rovers, Division 3, 13 April 1936
  • Record League Defeat: 0-9 v Small Heath FC, 1898
  • Most Consecutive Games Without Defeat: 19, 1968/69
  • Most Consecutive Games Without A Home Defeat: 39, from 1925 to 1927.
  • Most Consecutive League Wins: 12 (2001/02)
  • Most Consecutive League Defeats: 8 (1899/00)
  • Record Goals In A Single Match: 10, Joe Payne v Bristol Rovers 1936
  • Record League Goals In A Season: 55 Joe Payne (1936-37)
  • Record League Goals In Total: 243 Gordon Turner, 1949-1964
  • Record League Appearances: 495 Bob Morton, 1948-64
  • Most League Goals Season: 103, Division 3 (1936-37)
  • Most League Points In A Season: 98, League One (2004-05)
  • Record Transfer Fee Paid: £850,000 for Lars Elstrup from OB Odense F.C., 1989
  • Record Transfer Fee Received: £3,000,000 for Curtis Davies from West Brom, 2005

Notable Former Players

  • Raddy Antic
  • John Aston
  • Leon Barnett
  • Ron Baynham
  • Billy Bingham
  • Louis Bookman
  • George Cummins
  • Curtis Davies
  • Mal Donaghy
  • Carlos Edwards
  • Steve Foster
  • Graham French
  • Don Givens
  • Mick Harford
  • John Hartson
  • Ricky Hill
  • Steve Howard
  • Des Lintovn
  • Malcolm Macdonald
  • Bob Morton
  • David Moss
  • Kevin Nicholls
  • Syd Owen
  • Joe Payne
  • David Preece
  • Paul Price
  • Bruce Rioch
  • Les Sealey
  • Alan Slough
  • Kirk Stephens
  • Brian Stein
  • Matthew Taylor
  • Gordon Turner
  • Paul Walsh
  • Alan West