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    An excavated Luton piece

    Posted by BlackPrinceThe on 7/6/2023, 19:46:57

    During a recent laptop clearing sweep I found something I was working on for a friend's website ( Or maybe it was for D3D4's blog. Can't remember. Here it is and look how far we've come. Not everything has changed, but everything has in fact changed completely. Complete with unfulfilled notes of course

    “What a ####ing place”
    Screaming managers don’t make lasting managers. They’re too entirely understandable. When passion overcomes rationale in the dug-out a sixty-hour work week is more than capable of crumbling into a two-week headache within the blink of an eye. Football is, after all, a brutal numbers game. Despite this, far too often within the seemingly ‘brutal’ English game prevalence still find itself directly equated to managerial quality. A collective debt sought for executive incompetence. It’s Big Sam giving it large to a circle of desperately ambitious reporters. Ed Woodward’s warm breath on Jose’s neck as he falls asleep in an immaculately clean, yet perennially overpriced, hotel room. It is also, of course, Richard Scudamore dragging a briefcase stuffed full of cash across the waterlogged pitch of some provincial town’s aspiring U-11’s. A kaleidoscope of disappointment and shit slinging. Corporate fish out of water. all movement and self-preservation, simultaneously rotting from the head downward. Nonetheless, shit, like all matter, rolls down-hill and faith in the very concept of the ‘manager’ is fighting a rear-guard action across Europe. As Billy Beane’s progeny spread their XG (Expected Goals) and possession slathered tentacles further and further across the receptive erogenous zones of increasingly lowbrow clubs a sense of unease must be overtaking a certain class of former players and provisional pundits across the land. Managers find themselves an increasingly rarified breed. As clubs became brands and, somehow, brands became clubs (#### you Red Bull) all is flux. Brands above all demand consistency, and consistency demands forward planning. Into this corporative demand vacuum steps the Director of Football, the board meeting and the ‘decision taken out of my hands’. Despite all of this, the brutal reality of life on the furthest edges of the technical area screams two cold, fundamental and eternal truths; you bear the responsibility and you take the blame.
    Pep Guardiola, for example, is a remarkable manager. A graduate of Barcelona’s famed La Masia and dyed in the wool football-hipster (he moved to Brooklyn for a year FFS) complete with salt-and-pepper beard and chiselled jaw, he somehow inhabits both the role of professorial mastermind of and sartorial advocate for his remarkable team. The squad he currently oversees is undoubtedly the best playing on English soil and, in as far as these things are quantifiable, one of the best teams in the world. However, the vacillation between nonchalance and passion displayed by the Spaniard is indicative of a manager-who-wasn’t-always-a-manager. After all, in his prime Pep donned Catalonian stripes and played, trained and lived alongside Figo, Luis Enrique and Ronaldo. He earned his ideological stripes under the long shadow of Johan Cruyff and honed razor sharp political instincts during the periods of philosophical navel gazing under Bobby Robson and van Gall.
    While regularly displaying an almost definitive cool, Pep is nonetheless capable of absolutely losing it. Underneath the studied calmness, the poetry-in-motion Amazon would have us believe, is a thoroughly explosive genius. On seeing his team entering the changing rooms level and down to ten men at the DW Stadium Guardiola reverted to the snappy, aggressive company man he had been in a certain Englishman’s midfield. Fabian Delph’s reckless lunge suddenly felt like it made sense. Underneath the rigorous, calculated tactician still lies the driven, passionate spectre of the screaming manager. So, while the entire concept of the ‘gaffer’ yields a gradual capitulation within the English game, there is space yet, even at the highest levels, for the character of coaches to leave an indelible mark on the players in their charge.
    After an early November 5-1 victory over Plymouth saw Luton maintain a near eight-month undefeated home record Nathan Jones largely reverted to type in his post-match interview. Yes, he would be enjoying the result in the usual fashion with a bottle of red and his dog. Glen Rea was, as always, immense. His side could’ve scored more. Indeed, he did develop a selection related headache watching his side playing in free scoring fashion as five established players sat waiting in the wings due to a combination of injury and suspension. So far, so usual. However, as the interview drew to a close a speculative line of enquiry clearly struck a chord with the Welshman. When the question of the increasingly likely allure of contracts and horizons anew was raised, Jones’ response was as immediate at it was astonishing:
    “Well look I’ve got no fear of that, we’re building something here. I’m very proud of my club, I’m very proud of the work we do because this is my life’s work. This is my life’s work. I was thinking as I was coming in in the car today, and I don’t want to over egg anything, but when you look at Mozart and you look at things it’s their life’s work. This is what I will be remembered for, because I won’t be remembered for anything as a player. I guarantee you that. This is what I will be remembered for and I want it to be a success. I wanted to build something, I wanted to make sure I was remembered for the right reasons. Right now we’re in a great place and the club’s in a great place. I’ve got a great board, a great staff and an amazing group of players who want to do well. Look, it’s a great place to be. I don’t want to talk about anything else let alone be anywhere else.”
    And who can blame him. Beyond this sodden, chest thumping caricature of the screaming manager sits a highly calculated and calculating leader. While there may now be a temptation to re-interpret Jones’ arrival in 2016 as a mere staging post within a pre-ordained revival, it is worth stopping to consider that on his arrival in Bedfordshire he was yet to take charge of a senior side on anything more than a make-shift, temporary basis. A stop gap solution to bigger problems. The human hyphen. At Luton the official announcement of Jones’ incoming tenure was most commonly perceived as less of a declaration of war on the league than yet another boardroom-fudge. A sign of lacklustre ambition and the fiscally viable outcome of a survival instinct perfectly honed in the hungry realms of the National wilderness. Luton as banana republic. We’ve been here before. Money, Brabin and Buckle’s trans-Atlantic flight. Despite this, and indeed in-spite of this, go to the Kenny. Ask anyone in any one of the many snaking queues which perfectly delineate the arteries of its decaying concourses exactly why they are excited. Why they bring their kids. Ask them why they didn’t come five years ago and ask them why they changed their minds. You’ll get the same answer. What a ####ing place. Nathan Jones has already done something here and he isn’t stopping. Whatever the opposite of inertia is in a speedball. In five games.
    Portsmouth(a): Saturday 4th August
    A caustic start to life in anything other than the basement division in the Football League. Ten years since we were here last. A decade. All sun, noise and disappointment augmented by the incredible shade of green that only the earliest games of the season every really capture. Despite the occasion and the nostalgia, all it required was a direct run into the area that new boy Matty Pearson bore at least nominal responsibility for before Pompey secured the win. A well worked manoeuvre for Lowe to bundle over from close range just after the fifteenth minute. An incredibly deflating gut punch to the 2,000 away fans and yet totally par for the course. We really, really don’t do well against them in the league. However, despite the obvious disappointment of conceding the first three points of the season within the first quarter of an hour, this trip to Fratton Park (in hindsight) is laced with the low hanging fruits of future progress. Harry Cornick was a persistent, yet untamed, threat down whichever straight line he chose to barrel down. All gangly legs and Bondi-bleach blonde, seemingly Alan Brazil’s angry approximation of a what an U-23 player is. Elliot Lee is there, dropping at least ten yards behind the wider, more advanced players, all head down, quick feet and already showing a preternatural awareness of exactly where this prick in between the sticks doesn’t want it. Hungry. Pelly is there too. No need for any of the other of his three names. His uncontrollable forward ramble ever sacrificed by to an increasing awareness of his colleagues’ movements and a growing technical ability that quietly argues we have mostly misunderstood him all along. Watch him again. The upper body strength had always been there, always palpable but never so intelligently deployed. It didn’t happen on this day but he will weaponize this new found physical intelligence, deploying it both frequently and effectively. By the time the weather turns he’ll be one of the first names on the team sheet. Sometimes, however, it just doesn’t happen and you set off home. It’s promising, but disappointing and desperately unlucky. If you would have predicted that club captain Alan Sheehan wouldn’t scrape more than a handful of appearances by Christmas I would’ve laughed you off. Strange as it is to consider in hindsight
    Oxford(a): Tuesday 2nd October
    Football is a numbers games so, of course, all games are equal. Despite this, to paraphrase Morrisey in his heyday, some points are indeed bigger than others (ask your Dad). Midweek games have always had the ability to separate the footballing wheat from the chaff; the devotees from the merely devoted. It was for this reason I found myself role playing Chinese dissident, pinging my internet connection around Eastern Europe via VPN in an increasingly desperate effort to make good on my £5 iFollow match pass and witness a heavily pixelated, woefully out of sync approximation of whatever Luton Town had been doing five minutes previously. Hardly a return journey to Oxfordshire but enough of a battle on a Tuesday night.
    By this relatively early point in the season Jones’ side was already approaching the concrete form it has by now assumed. Collins and Cornick operating respectively as bludgeon and rapier. The talismanic Danny Hylton notable by his absence. Lee slotting in behind at the tip of the preferred diamond, honoured with a surprising degree of positional freedom, supported in midfield by an increasingly confident Andrew Shinnie and increasingly consistent Pelly. Hindsight is a bastard though and it would be grossly inappropriate to describe Luton’s performance in this fixture as either indicative of their future form or deserving of three points.

    Accrington(h): Tuesday 23rd October (demons behind us)

    Plymouth(h): Saturday

    - Rochdale away/Fleetwood at home (Pearson)

    - Coventry away (Glen Rea-gista)

      Re: An excavated Luton piece

      Posted by Sendero Luminoso on 7/6/2023, 20:34:10, in reply to "An excavated Luton piece"

      Very nice read.

      With all that has been going on in recent times I'd forgotten about Andrew Shinnie, forgotten about Andrew bloody Shinnie!

      We have been spoilt.

        Re: An excavated Luton piece

        Posted by BlackPrinceThe on 7/6/2023, 21:27:22, in reply to "Re: An excavated Luton piece"

        Exactly - how time flies and how stupid we could now be to forget that.

        Re: An excavated Luton piece

        Posted by Leo Tolstoy on 7/6/2023, 19:51:20, in reply to "An excavated Luton piece"

        I am not reading all of that.

          Re: An excavated Luton piece

          Posted by BlackPrinceThe on 7/6/2023, 19:55:55, in reply to "Re: An excavated Luton piece"

          Fair enough - enjoy your dinner pal!

            Re: An excavated Luton piece

            Posted by Cursed hatter on 7/6/2023, 19:51:56, in reply to "Re: An excavated Luton piece"

            Thanks for telling us.

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