18 July 2012

A love letter to Kenilworth Road, Luton

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways...


We walk briskly from pubs, bladders bulging with anticipation. Streams of men in questionable coats converge with teenagers in shiny haircuts to cross the once ivy-covered bridge above Luton’s Saturday traffic.

On the other side we walk in the middle of the road, the traffic bowing in submission to the match day crowd. Rounding the corner of Hazelbury Crescent past the iconic Zobra Auto Parts, we recount tales of seasons past and dig deep for the final climb through the home cooked haze of Bury Park.

At the brow of the hill she appears like a used car dealership bolted to the shoulders of a housing estate. Portacabins, chip board and blue metal. Kenilworth Road.

I’ve walked the concrete concourse beneath the Main Stand with almost every member of my family. With friends, girlfriends and people I’ve just met drinking in the Nelson Flagship (RIP).

I’ve been drunker than you should be in the daylight, and more sober than anyone wading to the urinals at the back of the enclosure should ever advisedly be.

I’ve been a child in a fake replica shirt with the badge sewn on; an adult with things to do on a Saturday afternoon.

But once I climb the stairs that lead to the back of the stand - appearing between the wooden PA box and a disinterested steward - I take a breath and always feel exactly the same.

The main stand creaks and groans as seats are filled or flipped up to make way for soon to be bruised shins and calves.

The pitch is obscured by pillars from almost every seat in the ground. The leg room encourages standing and the proximity of the away fans can pull your eyes from the pitch.

In the daylight the years have been unkind. The wrinkles and the bags beneath her eyes squeal through the taps in the toilets and the turnstiles.

But at night she glows like a battered beacon in the Bedfordshire night, switching off all around her.

The old ground is the warm embrace of the house you grew up in.

A childhood sweetheart.

Your worst hangover.

A monument to our disappointment, and our best spent time.

5 comments:

  1. Love it... especially the bit about the battered beacon!
    ROB H.

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  2. Cheers Rob. There's a copy of Staring into the abyss on my shelf.

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  3. As you enter the stadium, the atmosphere hits you. The lush grass, freshly painted white lines and patterns through mowing the turf are in stark contrast to the battered surrounds. If only the coats of many colours, many times painted surfaces could speak, the stories they could yell out.
    The pylons which stand erect and on gaurd at the four corners of ground bath us in light on those cold Tuesday evenings soon to be upon us.
    Only a fool would dare say unkind things about Kenilworth road, steeped in history, passion, disappointment and Keano's goal v Oxford.
    Yes its tight, run down. Little ground but full of wonderful memories for me since 1967.
    Home is where the heart is, Kenilworth Road

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  4. All very true. Glad to hear so many of us think like this. One of 2020's best decisions was to make sure LTFC stay put for the time being and don't rush into sorting out a new ground. ('Rush' never likely to be the operative word - it was first talked about in the late 1950s!). New football grounds, in my experience, are not always all they are cracked up to be. Luton in a new stadium like Northampton's? or Colchester's? No thank you.

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  5. That memorable afternoon of 26th January 2013 was the first time I had been to Carrow Road since 1990, when I stood on the River End terraces and watched the Hatters score three goals, sit back and allow Norwich to score one by way of consolation.
    As I walked round the back of the new River End stand to join the 3,999 other mad Hatters I looked up at all the new(ish) construction and thought: Where's the heart? Where's the soul? I'd rather be in the Kenny, with its minimal headroom under the stand, crumblimg steps but with its 100+ years of history. And as you quite rightly say, on a weekday evening when the daylight has gone and the floodlights come on...

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