Some of you may know that I am a supporter of Luton Town FC and after years in the doldrums, we have been enjoying a renaissance this year, culminating in winning the Conference title as champions last week.
This turnaround is pretty close to miraculous as only a year ago the club was tearing itself apart, results poor, supporters at each others’ throats and the team in free fall………….and then a miracle happened.
At halftime and losing at home to Lincoln, the players were subjected to particularly unpleasant abuse from a section of the crowd. The team were upset and angry and, although they turned it around to comeback and win that match 3-2 , after the match there was an ugly confrontation on the pitch between a supporter and the club captain.
The miracle was not just the comeback and doing what in Luton has become unheard of for years, namely snatching victory from the jaws of defeat – but that somehow all the anger, the mistrust and pent up frustration from years of relegations, unfair points deductions, and pitiful performances on the pitch, somehow from that day forward, that angst got channelled in a quite different direction. And the fans no longer worked against the team but got behind them – even when we were losing. It was almost as if that abusive confrontation finally stirred up the good in people. And the team on the pitch responded, turned it around and went on to what became a record-breaking 27 game unbeaten run, scoring a record number of goals and on Easter Monday were presented with the championship trophy in front of 10,000 emotional supporters.
Alongside that however, something else fascinating has started to happen. As well as cutting out the negativity, the fans have started to show their appreciation to other teams – in the last few weeks alone I have seen things I thought I would never see again at Luton. We have clapped off opposing teams and given standing ovations to two – firstly Aldershot who went down fighting 1-0, and then Braintree who had the nerve to turn us over at home in front of the TV cameras and deprive us, for a week or so, of the Conference title! What did we do? Well, we didn’t boo them, we stood up and gave them a great ovation. And then on Saturday, down in SE London we applauded a stunning goal by Welling’s Ross Lafayette even though it made it hot and uncomfortable for us in the last 15 minutes. The good in people spawns more good. And I believe creates goodwill and strengthens self-belief. And it certainly has helped to create a ‘feel-good’ factor and pride in supporting everything that is Luton Town FC.
There are some great leadership lessons in this remarkable turnaround, and one day someone will write a book about them. One of them though is about a man called John Still. He is Luton’s manager, appointed a year ago from Dagenham & Redbridge ( who?), an unassuming fellow and a bit like the granddad or uncle that most people would like to have. He talks a lot of sense and he works hard, very very hard. He is down to earth, approachable, no airs and graces and doesn’t suffer egos. He also doesn’t go in for long speeches. But what he does say, you listen to every word. And one thing that has been his mantra since arriving at Luton is this : the team is everyone – the players yes, but the groundsmen too, the cleaners, the people making up the half-time sandwiches, the directors and every single fan too. Every single person matters and every single person is part of ONE team – the Luton team.
You can well imagine that this is music to my ears. It is, I believe, the single most important factor in our renaissance and it has united everyone to get behind the club and be proud again to wear the orange & white colours of Luton. On Monday John Still was asked to say something to the adoring fans. He didn’t say much as in his words ” I am knackered”, but as well as thanking everybody, he reminded us all :
“THE STRONGER THE TEAM, THE STRONGER THE TEAM ”
All football teams (Manchester United included), all organisations, all businesses and all teams everywhere would do well to heed that. The more every single person pulls together, the stronger the unit, and the stronger the unit, the better the results on the pitch. The picture below is one I took on Monday, it’s of the whole team that is now Luton.
#LutonFC #COYH #Hatters