Monsieur Salut writes: our Luton Town interviewee, Richard Armstrong*, is Hatters through and through: ‘I guess it was just in my blood. All my family have supported Luton. There never was any other team for me.’ He readily agreed to answer Salut! Sunderland‘s questions about his club, ours and football in general.
Richard writes for D3D4football.com, at first glance a very deserving site about Leagues One and Two. We’d rather be somewhere else, but we’re among his list of ‘proper’ clubs helping to populate the third tier ….
Salut! Sunderland: Promotion in second place last season – can Luton go on and make an Impact in League One? your assessment of the kind of League One campaign that awaits you ..
Richard Armstrong: it was about time we got out of L2. In all seriousness, we could and should have got out sooner. I would like to think that we can push on. For the first time in 10 years there’s no pressure on us going up. Which in all honesty is a bit bizarre. L1 looks fun. There’s what you see I would call proper clubs in this league. The likes of Sunderland, Pompey, Bradford and Charlton. We’ve waited a long time to play these teams.
Sunderland certainly got a shock in the Championship where some – not all – of us expected wins and goals, Are we in for another shock in League One , and of course are you?
It’s so difficult to judge, you being in L1 will be similar to us being in the Conference. Everyone including us expected us to walk it. In reality of course it’s a lot harder than that.
Luton’s history is a remarkable one. Top flight, cup finals, the involvement of the likes of Malcolm Macdonald as player and Eric Morecambe as director, but also relegations, financial crises and a spell out of the league. How has it been for you as a fan and how do you see the immediate future unfolding?
Well it’s never boring being a Luton fan that’s for sure. It’s been bumpy, it’s really hurt at times as well. But there really is no other club like Luton. As for the future, the future will hopefully be bright. It’s been an awful long time since we’ve been so secure financially, hopefully a new stadium on the horizon soon as well. The stadium vital for the long term success of the club. Without it we can’t really compete at a higher level.
Talking of cup finals, you’ve won the League Cup once and were beaten FA Cup Final finalist at my first Wembley game, as a boy of 10 in 1959 (my dad, as an amateur club secretary, had access to tickets). Do you have any interesting handed-down memories of either?
The league cup win in 88 is seen by many football fans as the best league cup final of all time. It had everything and will more than likely go down as our greatest day. But we got to the final again the year after and lost to Notts Forest. In 88 we also got to a semi final of the FA cup, losing to Wimbledon at White Hart Lane. It was a wonderful time to be a Luton fan.
I vividly recall us beating you 5-0 at your place to win the Championship title and then losing not long after in a league cup game. Any memories of those ties?
The league game was bizarre, if I recall you went up as champions that day, our owners at the time sold a load of tickets to Sunderland fans. All a bit bizarre and made it interesting shall we say.
Looking at your squad, there are not many names that ring a bell with me – and if I am honest, the same applies to ours as being reassembled by Jack Ross. Who are your best hopes for a good League One season and where do you need strengthening?
Going forward we were wonderful last year. We have goals all throughout the team and if Hylton and Collins click again then we could do very well. Watch out for Sheehan and his set pieces. He can whip in a fine ball. We needed to recruit well at the back and we did this by getting Bradley in from Plymouth from Barnsley. Personally as I write this I would like one more midfielder in before the window closes.
Tell us about your current ownership structure and about David Wilkinson, your chairman, and Nathan Jones, the manager.
We are very lucky to have a board that cares about the club now. We’ve been through torture with previous owners and it really does feel like we’re in a good place. As for Jones, no one had really heard of him when he came in. What he’s done is change the way we play, we’re very attack minded. You get the feel he truly loves the club. I have no doubt he will be ok the championship in two years. Hopefully with us of course.
What have been your personal highs and lows at a Luton fan?
The League one champions campaign was fantastic in 04/05. The JPT Win in 2009 where 42000 of us went to Wembley and shall we say told the Football League where to go. And finally getting back into the league after 6 years in the conference in 2014
As for the lows, well there’s been many.
My dad will always say losing the 1985 cup semi final to Everton at Villa Park. For me. Losing our top flight status in 92 and missing out on the Pl
Going out of the FL all together due to no fault of any of the players/fans was heartbreaking and then spending 5 years in the conference.
Then whilst in the conference we then lost three straight playoff campaigns. One in a semi final to York, one on penalties to Wimbledon and then in the final against York the year after to the worst offside decision you’ll ever see.
The Blackpool playoff defeat in 2017 was horrible as well. A nightmare last 15 minutes cost us a game we were in full control of.
And the players who have given you most pleasure in Luton colours – or who you wish you were old enough to have seen?
I’m just too young to remember Ricky Hill who pretty much classes him as our greatest. For me David Preece and Mick Harford without a doubt are up there as the greatest I’ve seen.
Who should have been allowed nowhere near Kenilworth Road?
This could go on forever but Dean Morgan is up there, as is Paul Carden and Pavel Besta. Jamie Hand gets a mention as well. Chris Kamara, Paul Peschisolido gets a mention.
Thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city and region, Jack Ross?
Sunderland are a huge club, and as I said earlier a proper club who are going through a really tough time with great fans. I don’t know much about Jack Ross , I’m afraid, but it’s a huge football city
Hand on heart, where will our two clubs finish the season?
The World Cup: a great tournament and source of exhilaration, or something you’ve already forgotten?
It was a cracking tournament, helped of course by England’s run to the semi final. I was in Mexico for the first two weeks and saw fans of all nations coming together. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it and if I’m honest I’m still a bit gutted.
The Neymar question: where do you stand on diving, play-acting, crowding refs, wrestling at set pieces and other forms of cheating or dubious play?
Neymar takes it too far and really doesn’t need too, he has so much talent, but it’s now part of the modern game. It’s not for me but it won’t ever change.
Will you be at our game? What will be the score?
Yep, and I’m going for a 1-1 draw.
Richard Armstrong on himself: so I was born in Luton in 1982. My grandparents lived a stone’s throw from Kenilworth Road and I guess it was just in my blood. All my family have supported Luton. There never was any other team for me. As I said earlier it’s been bumpy and full of ups and downs and wouldn’t have it any other way. I now work in the financial industry and have a four-year-old girl who I hope will follow in her family’s footsteps and support the town. I write for a website called D3D4 and sometimes appear on their weekly podcast. If you want to follow me on twitter I can be going @habbyhatter and they can be found @https://twitter.com/D3D4football. I’ve been a Luton fan since the age of three. I was born an bred in the town and lived a five minute walk from Kenilworth Road in my early days. My other interests include ice hockey and I’m a very keen photographer.
Here are some of the answers Richard gave in a quick Q+A at D3D4 …
First Match Attended & the Year: Luton Town v Millwall 1985, yep that one!
Your favourite player of all time: David Preece, a real magician in that midfield
Things you like least about modern football: Drums and goal music
Favourite flavour crisps: Prawn Cocktail but they have to be Walkers
Interview: Colin Randall