At the risk of not being invited for a second time to contribute to BSaD, I'm going to put the case as to why we should not hate Luton Town. Before I start, I should explain that this is not a psychological argument around the irrationality of the concept. There are multiple lists of activities, people, and events that I hate with stomach-turning anger. I can give any number of reasons as to why our society would be a better place without Ian Paisley, Noel Edmonds, the Countryside Alliance, dogs and pro-lifers.
To muddy the waters (if only to confirm my Watford allegiance), I can point to once having hated Luton but we need to go back to the ill-fated 1987-88 season. This was the first season I started attending Vicarage Road on a regular basis. Having turned sixteen in the close season, I experienced an earnings bump in excess of 650% having graduated from paper boy (£3.15 p/w) to shop boy (£21 p/w), thus giving me enough money for match tickets, under-sixteen travel-card from Hayes and Harlington and, most importantly of all, independence. I could stand under the scoreboard and join in what singing there was during a season when our top scorer managed four goals. The songs about Luton from memory where no different than today but it felt good to hate them and there was, of course, just reason to do so: the Conservative MP chairman in support of ID cards, plastic pitch and knuckle-dragging meathead fans.
This animosity lasted well into the early nineties but started to change when a Luton fan started working in the same office as me. As he was the only other person in the company under thirty and interested in football, I was prepared to put my previous prejudices aside in the interests of my new-found friendship. By this time, the Luton Chairman had been consigned to history along with ID cards and the plastic pitch. I even attended a Luton game, having lost a bet stating that GT knew what he was doing and would not only qualify for the 94 World Cup but probably win it too.
Subsequent to my unfettered belief in GT and my first trip, I have visited the kennel at least once a season. Unlike Watford, trading on past glories like an ageing boxer, Luton really is a family club. My limited empirical evidence suggests that matchday tickets are cheaper and more families attend games than I ever witness at the Vic.
Another difference is the number of ethnic minorities who go to games. Not in their thousands or even hundreds but again more significant than can be seen at Watford. Clearly, it is no measure to a club's worth in how successful it is in attracting the local population but it is a perhaps an indication of the effort a club makes with the local community.
Like us, Luton have been on a rollercoaster ride over the past ten years and in many ways, they came closer to extinction than we did. We were only threatened with becoming the Manchester United of the south, while they where set to embark on becoming a combination of the Nürburgring, Bluewater shopping centre and the San Siro.
Yes, Luton still have their share of thugs who attach themselves to the club...but I'm afraid that so do we. Like Watford, Luton is a small provincial town on the outskirts of London with its fair share of social problems.
It's fun to hate your nearest rival but let's not get things out of proportion. Therefore, let's embrace Matthew Spring like we have Alec Chamberlain and not make the 2nd January 2006 a day either club might be ashamed of.