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And so rapidly to Kenilworth Road, Luton, for a Tuesday evening game under the lights. We shall be looking to avoid back-to-back defeats there for the first time since 1958 and searching for our first win at ‘the Keny’ after six draws and four defeats since February 1986. 

The two teams last met in the BPE (Before the Premiership Era). On Boxing Day 1991, Mick Harford, Luton’s sometime manager and now chief recruitment officer, beat David Seaman 10 mins from time to give the hosts, then at the foot of the old 22-club First Division, a 1-0 win. 

Luton would clamber to the giddy heights of 20th but come up two points short of securing a place in the inaugural Premier League the following season. Thus, the Hatters ended ten seasons in the top flight, which included winning the League Cup in 1988, its sole major honour. I won’t need to remind anyone here whom they beat or how.

A river runs through it 

Lygetun (likely pronounced Lewg’tun) is one of the earliest known transcriptions of the town’s name. Old English recorded in the 9th century, it means ‘a village by the River Lea’, which rises as Chilterns’ chalk streams in modern-day Luton’s outskirts. Its roots are more likely Brythonic than Anglo-Saxon. The Saxons often adopted Celtic toponyms with religious connections. Scholars think the river’s name derives from the Celtic god, Lugus, sometimes depicted as three-faced and three-phallused.

Lugus was sacred to shoemakers and not, surprisingly, multitasking lotharios. Nonetheless, he got about a bit. He also gave his name to Lyon — a contraction of the Gaulish Lugudunon — and many other places in Europe where Celts once ruled, including Carlisle, known to Britons as Luguwalion. Some authorities speculate that Irish leprechauns also derive their name from Lugus. Are those three shillelaghs, or are you just pleased to see us?

But we digress.

The Domesday Book records the place as Loitone, and by the time the football club was founded in 1885, Luton was famous for its millinery. Hence ‘the Hatters’. It would also become known for making motor vehicles. The Vauxhall works opened in 1905, the same year the team moved into Kenilworth Road. The ground has outlasted the factory, which closed in 2002. 

The Keny

Plans to relocate from the cramped, antiquated ground — whose Oak Road entrances is, famously, through a terraced house and over its garden — have been around since at least the mid-1950s. A move to Milton Keynes was considered in the 1980s, almost two decades before the MK Dons wombled in from Wimbledon.

The club spent £13 million bringing the Keny up to Premier League requirements after winning promotion via a playoff penalty shoot-out last season. Yet, it will finally be moving. It has outlined planning permission for a 17,500-seat stadium, expandable to 23,000, on a 20-acre site at Power Court next to the railway station in central Luton. 

The target completion date for construction is 2026, so the 11,600-seat Kenilworth Road is in its sunset years. Another intimate old-school ground will fade into history, along with Woodbines and cloth caps. Given our dismal record there, Played 21, Won 6, Drawn 8, Lost 7, that can’t come too soon.

Up and down

We first played Luton in October 1897 and won all six games during Luton’s three-year sojourn in the old Football League Division Two before financial difficulties forced them to drop to the Southern League. We beat them four times in the FA Cup before the next league encounter on their first arrival in the First Division in October 1955 (they had returned to the Football League in 1920). 

However, we would win only five of the ten league games before Luton was relegated in 1960 despite reaching the FA Cup Final the season before. They had lost to Nottingham Forest in a final in which Forest’s Roy Dwight, Elton John’s cousin, scored and broke his leg.  

Two more demotions within five years dropped Luton into the old Fourth Division for the 1965-66 season. The climb back to the top flight was relatively rapid, returning in 1974-75. However, they went straight back down despite beating us at home and drawing at Highbury. Oh, that Luton had won and not drawn their final game of the season. That would have relegated the neighbours and the mob at the Bus Stop, not just the latter.

We were scarcely more dominant during Luton’s next spell in the top flight, 1982-1992, winning 11 of 20 league matches, with, as mentioned above, no wins in the final ten encounters.

The Opposition

Every entrant in the GHF Predictathon has Luton pegged for an immediate return to the Championship. Most predict a last-place finish. That Luton goes into Tuesday evening’s game two points and a place clear of the drop zone is a tribute to the battling spirit that manager Rob Edwards has instilled into his charges. Since the opening two league games, they have lost only twice by two goals or more, including Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Brentford, and should probably have got at least a point out of the games lost 1-0 to Burnley and the neighbours and more than a point from a 1-1 draw with Wolves.

Edwards played his favoured 3-4-1-2 for most of last season in the Championship, switching to 3-5-2 for the final games and playoffs. This season, he started with 3-5-2 but then tried a back four and a back five before reverting to something close to last season’s successful formula, a. 3-4-2-1 that got him points at home to Liverpool and Crystal Palace. 

He will undoubtedly flood the midfield against us to constrain space and double up on Saka and Martinelli. Given that Edwards has nine injuries to contend with and centre backs captain Tom Lockyer and Teden Mengi face late fitness tests, predicting his lineup would be a fool’s errand. Whoever plays will be urged on by raucous home support.

French-Polish goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski, at 2.9 million euros, and midfielder Ross Barkley, who arrived on a free from Nice, have been Edwards’s standout bargain buys so far of the baker’s dozen of new players brought in at similar prices to bolster the squad for the Premiership. However, few save for Barkley, Zimbabwean international Marvelous Nakamba, whose last season’s loan from Aston Villa was made permanent in the summer, and Andros Townsend, picked up after being released by Everton, had Premiership experience. 

Kaminski has been playing well enough to earn a call-up to the Belgium national squad, while Barkley has added 240 Premiership games’ worth of experience to stabilise the midfield since his return from injury. Nakamba has earned good reviews at DM, but was crocked during he the last interlull, and will likely miss the game. Our own Sami Lokonga definitely will. While ineligible against his parent club, he is also recovering from a thigh injury that limited him to two appearances in mid-September.

As in the Championship last season, goals are a problem for Edwards’s side, just 13 in 14 games. Only the hapless Sheffield United has fewer. Luton ranks last in shots per 90 mins in the Premiership (2.36) and last in shots on target (21%). The second-lowest conversion ratio, 7%, compounds those shortcomings. Carlton Morris, a £2 million pick-up from Barnsley in the summer of 2022 and who netted 20 times in the Championship last season, is the top-scorer this term with three and top-assister with two, but has not scored since September. One-half of Luton’s goals have come from set pieces.

The Arsenal

We arrive at Kenilworth Road after a curate’s egg of a performance against Wolves. With a potentially tricky trip to Villa Park next Saturday, Arteta might rest Jesus, Trossard and Tomiyasu — the last by necessity after picking up an injury against Wolves. With Tomi facing a late fitness test, I will hazard as the starting XI:


White, Saliba, Gabriel, Zinchenko

Ødegaard, Rice, Havertz

Saka, Nketiah, Martinelli

Counting on the form book to count for little after three decades (only Cedric and Jorginho in our squad were born when the two sides last met, with Jorginho only six days old) and given the gap in quality between the two sides, it will be hugely disappointing if we don’t leave Kenilworth Road as we arrived, as league leaders, albeit after a scrappy 2-0 win.

Enjoy the game, ‘holics, near and far.

52 Drinks to “No time for cock-ups at the Keny”

  1. 1
    TTG says:

    You have achieved the impossible- making Luton seem a halfway interesting and attractive place. I’ve never watched football there but I have visited it on a few occasions ( I once delivered a bed to my secretary there . A double bed and mattress which fitted into a Volvo Estate . She had just got married and presumably had a use for it )
    Anyway I digress , I never liked them as a side . My first encounter was Boxing Day 1958 when we lost 6-3 there . We won the next day at Highbury 1-0 . I’ve covered it in my column on Christmas matches in the next Gooner .
    Never liked their fans, their ground, their ghastly right-wing chairman when they were half decent, their plastic pitch , Dirty Mick Harford and their jammy win in the League Cup Final which led me to have to comfort a sobbing nephew on his first trip to Wembley .
    We must score early but whatever I take us to win 1-0

  2. 2
    bt8 says:

    A rather bawdy preview, I must say. And I haven’t even gotten to the footballing part of it. 😂

  3. 3
    bt8 says:

    For Luton it’s all about beating expectations in this game, which as you pointed out (“Every entrant in the GHF Predictathon has Luton pegged for an immediate return to the Championship. Most predict a last-place finish. That Luton goes into Tuesday evening’s game two points and a place clear of the drop zone is a tribute to the battling spirit that manager Rob Edwards has instilled”), they have already managed to do. Time to nip that battling spirit in the bud, starting from the kickoff if not beforehand. Very entertaining and informative preview Ned.

  4. 4
    Bathgooner says:

    A most enjoyable and informative preview, Ned. The monks in Castle Ned have dug out some fascinating history of a settlement that has become somewhat dismissible in the 21st century.

    The only pearl that I can add is that Luton Town were famous for being the much beloved Eric Morecambe’s favourite team which he proclaimed with a characteristic chuckle on a regular basis.

    We ought to beat Luton, as we ought to have beaten them at Wembley, so there’s a bit of trepidation but we really OUGHT to beat them and if we are going to do what we want to do, we HAVE to beat them, even with Eddie leading the line.

    2-0 will do nicely, thank you.

  5. 5
    OsakaMatt says:

    Exactly what TTG said, except I have watched us at Luton. We drew on their annoying plastic pitch which unfairly kept them in the 1st Division for several seasons longer than they deserved. I hope we win 9-0 thus severely disheartening them for the remainder of their too long a season back at the top level.

  6. 6
    Uplympian says:

    That’s a terrific preview Ned, full of unknown facts with a lace of humour. Please give the monks an extra 5 mins rest as a reward. Luton have been a team I’ve always disliked not only for that cup final defeat, but also the plastic pitch they got to keep far longer than they should have.
    No doubt they will be up for it with a vociferous crowd under the floodlights. I expect it will be a hard physical slog – hopefully the boys will be up for it and it’s the start of a sequence of revenge results against them. A good 3-0 win to make them Mad Hatters will do very nicely but a scrappy 1-0 quite acceptable.

  7. 7
    bt8 says:

    As a rather more recent supporter this is the first time I recall any match between Arsenal and Luton. May we dispatch them quickly, royghly and rudely so as to help ensure it will be many more years until we have to worry about them again, no matter how quaint their ground or how appealing their underdog story.

  8. 8
    Trev says:

    The monks have done you proud again, Ned – a century and a quarter of history.

    I have a regular patient who is a die hard, home and away Luton fan, so I have been loosely aware of their travails from Conference, promotions and near misses, all the way back to the top flight. The points deductions that sent them spiralling downwards were harsh and so I do have some sympathy for them. But not tonight !

    My patient told me, re the Oak Road entrance, that when West Ham played there this season, their fans were singing on the way out – “we can see you in the bath” – a rare bit of humour from a historically unpleasant bunch.

    I can beat your three-phallused Celtic god. I used to know a man who had five willies – his trousers fitted him like a glove – boom !

    Bath is right too that Eric Morecambe was a big fan of Luton – he was actually also a director of the club. You can decide whether that was Wise ……

  9. 9
    North Bank Ned says:

    Trev@8: Boom boom!

  10. 10
    OsakaMatt says:

    I forgot to add that it was an excellent preview Ned!

    Your XI looks about right too though I would like to see
    ESR featuring soon if Vieira is going to be out for a while.
    He need to start playing but I suppose PSV may be seen
    as a more reasonable timing for that.

  11. 11
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Fabulous preview Ned!

    A close friend of mine is from Lyon, and I am quite certain he has no clue about this magnificent three-phallused god’s connection to his home city. Greek or Indian mythologies are filled with very horny (and often misbehaving) gods and goddesses, but none can match in virility with this Celtic divinity.

    The Hatters too should not be able to match the Gunners in the department of scoring. I think your team is the likeliest. Eddie needs to find his best version soon. But even if he doesn’t, the Ødegaard-Martinelli-Saka triangle of magic should be enough.

    Come on Arsenal!

  12. 12
    Noosa Gooner says:

    Excellent thanks Ned
    Luton – meh. Nothing less than 3-0 will do, whoever starts.

  13. 13
    North Bank Ned says:

    And we have a winner!

    Dr F Jnr was the only GHF Predictathon player to have Paul Heckingbottom as the first PL manager to leave his club this season, so he wins our inaugural Tin Tack Award.


  14. 14
    Countryman100 says:

    Well done Faustus junior. Congratulations!

  15. 15
    Ollie says:

    Fabulous instructive preview, Ned!
    Congrats Dr F Jr.

    4-0 tonight. hopefully.

  16. 16
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Thanks NBN and Countryman on behalf of the Jnr who is right now in school, but his school will end before the match starts. I know he will be thrilled to have won this award. 🙂

  17. 17
    Doctor Faustus says:

    And thanks Ollie!
    Instead of the Eurostar, are you chartering a flight to the Luton airport? 🙂

  18. 18
    Esso says:

    Cheers Ned!

  19. 19
    Ollie says:

    Sure, Dr F. I fancy Easyjet for their reliability too :-p

  20. 20
    North Bank Ned says:

    Dr F@13: First prize is bragging rights over his father. 😉

  21. 21
    Doctor Faustus says:

    Ned@20: Brag he will. 🙂
    Ollie — I think the team’s Europe bound Emirates charter sometimes depart from Luton.

  22. 22
    bathgooner says:

    Congratulations to Dr F Jr. Clearly a young man with a gift for predicting the future.

    Ned, what is the vintage of the illustration?

  23. 23
    BtM says:

    Entertaining preview, Ned, although the stats left me a little less confident than I was before I read it. If Eddie starts tonight may he perform like the tri-phallused god himself “he put it in once, he put in in twice then put it in again, just to be nice” – second hat trick of the season coming up.

  24. 24
    North Bank Ned says:

    Thanks for all the kind words about the preview. A fun one to research, much more fun than actually going there.

    I remember plastic pitches in London in the ’80s. Horrible to play on. Ball bounced like a yo-yo, and skin abrasions every time you went over.

    Dr F@11: As the erudite Classicists here will no doubt know, but your Lyonnaise friend may be unaware, after Julius Caesar defeated the Gauls, that part of the world became the Roman province of Gallia Lugdunensis and its capital, Lugdunum, became the most important city in the Western reaches of Rome’s empire.

  25. 25
    North Bank Ned says:

    Bath@22: I did not supply the photo, but from the look of the kits, I would guess December 1957.

  26. 26
    Esso says:

  27. 27
    scruzgooner says:

    it’s actually spring of 1952, in the sixth round of the fa cup. we beat them away 3-2, with a lineup of Swindin, Barnes, Smith, Shaw, Daniel, Mercer, Cox, Milton, Goring, Lishman, and Roper. this looks to be doug lishman as the luton keeper gathers the ball.

    ned, great job on the preview. i learned more about luton and the keny than i thought there was to know 🙂 good on the monks! i am looking forward to bt8 and lugus singing their chorus of “we’ve got super mick…” i am sure they can cobble something together.

  28. 28
    Esso says:

    Arsenal: Raya, White, Saliba, Gabriel, Kiwior, Rice, Havertz, Odegaard, Saka, Martinelli, Jesus

    Subs: Ramsdale, Cedric, Zinchenko, Walters, Jorginho, Elneny, Nelson, Trossard, Nketiah

  29. 29
    North Bank Ned says:

    scruz@27: thanks for the date of the photo. On a closer second look, the Luton shirt is the tell-tale clue; they stopped wearing button-up shirts in 1954.

  30. 30
    OsakaMatt says:

    Great time to nick a goal!

  31. 31
    OsakaMatt says:

    Good to get to half time 2-1 up, I still don’t like Luton.

  32. 32
    scruzgooner says:

    yeah, they won’t have that energy for the last quarter of the game.

    jesus got a yellow for that? their whole back line should have yellows, then. hope barkley gets a second.

  33. 33
    OsakaMatt says:

    I really don’t like Luton now.
    Get in Kai!

  34. 34
    OsakaMatt says:

    I went off to make a needed coffee and suddenly we were losing 3-2, it triggered bad memories. Good to to see Kai getting another, now crack on for the 3 points

  35. 35
    OsakaMatt says:

    @32 yeah, they’re a cheap stoke scruz

  36. 36
    North Bank Ned says:

    Never in doubt from the 97th minute on.

  37. 37
    North Bank Ned says:

    How much of a bargain does Rice look now?

  38. 38
    OsakaMatt says:

    Just stopped screaming yes yes yes get in rice baby

  39. 39
    OsakaMatt says:

    Wednesday morning in Japan is looking so much brighter now 😂😂

  40. 40
    OsakaMatt says:

    Yeah, big goal Ned from a big player.
    Kai is looking a little bit better now too 😃

    Never thought this Luton would get three against us even
    in their dreams but this side is not one to settle for
    the draw.

  41. 41
    OsakaMatt says:

    And we’re all done and dusted on a Tuesday, giving us an
    extra day to recover for the next tricky one.

  42. 42
    North Bank Ned says:

    OM@40: They wouldn’t have if Raya hadn’t given them a helping hand.

  43. 43
    Esso says:

    Lovin’ it lovin’ it lovin’ it

  44. 44
    Depressedgooner says:

    Awesome result against the new dirty Stoke, refereeing team being their usual useless self, the camera caught the referee telling Saka “what” after he upteenth time of being fouled and then Gabriel gets almost pulled off the pitch (oo-er) but no penalty either, I’ll be delighted to see Stoke….sorry Luton get relegated and please can’t we just return Raya, its almost Christmas and we must have kept the receipt.

  45. 45
    Countryman100 says:

    Oh my word.

  46. 46
    TTG says:

    Nobody foresaw that sort of game. Borrowing from Mike M
    We never gave up
    Gabriel Jesus
    Havertz fitting in much better
    Declan Rice – what a man!
    David Raya – not a Raya of sunshine .
    Ramsdale won’t be willing to understudy a bloke playing like that
    Our set piece coach isn’t impressing me this season
    But three beautiful points

  47. 47
    OsakaMatt says:

    Unfortunately Tomi is going to be out “for a while” according to Mikel, which is a bit of a bastard. On the other hand, we are top of the league,

  48. 48
    OsakaMatt says:

    Just to add another plus to TTG’s list as I toddle towards the 50, I thought Ode was really good again offensively today. Maybe that’s related to recovery from a knock but I think Jesus’s return is also a factor.

  49. 49
    OsakaMatt says:

    A yellow for MA for being happy or whatever bollocks the rule says means he will be sat in the stands for the Villa game.
    Talking of bollocks, the plucky Luton deserved a draw narrative made me laugh out loud.
    As did the other narrative I saw in two mainstream match reports – the ref played too much additional time bollocks.

  50. 50
    OsakaMatt says:

    Raises bat on an excellent day for The Arsenal

  51. 51
    North Bank Ned says:

    Well in for the half-ton, OM.

    Just before the end, the ref signalled to Luton that he was stopping his watch because they were wasting time, so they can have no complaints that he ran over the originally indicated six minutes of additional time.

    I agree that MØ8 was excellent. He didn’t shirk from the physical side of the game or let himself get kicked out of it. Rice, too, was outstanding. Not just for his goal but for rolling up his sleeves and putting in a shift. Imperious is as imperious does.

    Jesus also needs to be mentioned in dispatches, both for his goal and his touch to set up Havertz’s, which was out of the top drawer.

    Arteta has a testing choice to make over who keeps goals at Villa. Keep faith with Raya or make good on his word that the competition for the jersey is genuine?

  52. 52
    scruzgooner says: