Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

A Football Tourist’s Guide To Luton – Part Two

If you missed Part One, you can find it here.

Premier Inn, Luton Town Centre

I woke up this morning with one thing on my mind: those elusive match tickets.

Lee was already up and using the bathroom so I turned on the tv. Happily, it’s the Corrie omnibus on a Saturday morning, so I started catching up on what I’d missed last night, when I’d been at The Bear Club.

Lee soon appeared and announced that he was ready for breakfast, so I felt pressured to start getting ready even though we had plenty of time and I wanted to get to the end of Corrie.

We headed down to breakfast around 0900 and I helped myself to the usual.

I only picked at my breakfast this morning. I wasn’t particularly hungry but I was also experiencing waves of stomach cramps. Was it something I’d eaten last night? I hadn’t had anything particularly spicy. Could it have been that mystery sauce? Roelof and his dad appeared but I didn’t feel up to going over for a chat. Oh I wished these cramps would subside! I remember many years ago we played away at Tranmere and I had them all day – throughout the journey and the match – and it had been horrific. I’d been so careful with what I ate the night before a match ever since. Had I got lax? Or was this anxiety because I didn’t have the match tickets yet…?

The cramps got worse so I made my apologies to Lee – who had barely started his breakfast – and made a dart for the room. Come on lift, come on lift. Finally it arrived and slowly climbed through floors 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, PING! I tazzed it down the corridor, round the corner, halfway down another corridor and finally reached the door to our room.

The key card didn’t work.

I raced back down the corridor, round the corner, down another corridor and called the lift again and waited. Then down through floors 4, 3, 2, 1 and finally reached the ground floor. PLEASE let there be someone on reception!

Mercifully there was. My key card was reactivated and then it was quickly back into the lift. I could see there was a man approaching but ain’t nobody got time for that so I closed the doors on him (sorry) and head back up, up, up and FINALLY I was back in the room, breathing a sigh of relief as I got to the bathroom.

As I sat here contemplating whether this was just trapped wind, Karen rang to discuss pre-match plans. You may recall from yesterday’s antics that I’d not only forgotten mine and Lee’s tickets but I’d also cancelled Karen’s ticket because I’d bought hers too and didn’t know which two of the three I’d left behind. Hence we needed to arrange a rendezvous before today’s match.

‘So what’s happening about the tickets, then?’

‘Well we’re heading to the ticket office shortly and hopefully they’ll let us have them when we get there.’

‘Ok well I’m going to the pub to meet Houstie and Stee if you fancy joining us? There’s a pub quite near the ground.’

‘I don’t really fancy the pub today.’

‘Ok well I’ll be at the ground around half an hour before kick off so shall I see you there for my ticket?’

‘Well I like to be in the ground about an hour before kick off…’

Which I do, to avoid the concourse when it’s busy, which triggers my anxiety. But this sent Karen into rant mode.

‘Well you’re the one who cancelled the tickets, Jane, and I want to go to the pub because I haven’t seen Stee in ages so it’s hardly fair that I should change my plans and get to the ground early…’

I pulled the phone away from my ear and placed it on the bathroom floor. This was exactly the situation I had been trying to avoid in attempting to collect the tickets last night. See what you’ve done now, Little Miss Computer Says No?

I gave it a minute or two, considered hanging up, decided that would probably make the situation worse, braved putting the phone back to my ear and eventually interrupted Karen’s tirade long enough to say I hadn’t even got the tickets yet, so lets talk again once I’d crossed that hurdle.

There was nothing doing in the bathroom so I returned to the bedroom to finalise packing and preparing to leave. I lounged for a while on the chaise longue that Lee insisted wasn’t a chaise longue.

I checked Twitter to see what was occurring. Ooh a message from Kelly. What was this?

This cheered me up no end. I’d been wanting to hear Percy Pig oink since Carlisle away pre season and it looked like today was going to be the day. Whoopee!

And just like that my stomach cramps vanished. Thank you Kelly and Jacob.

Groundbound

Having checked out and packed the car, we set off on foot to Kenilworth Road.

It was colder than Alexa had indicated before we’d set off yesterday so I had to borrow Lee’s spare hat, as I’d left mine at home. Would Lee’s hat be luckier? It was unlucky for him, apparently, which is why he was wearing a different one. Perhaps it would work on my head though? It was tangerine but I felt ok wearing colours in Luton because they play in a similar colour.

Indeed this was a bone of contention for Lee, who was livid that Luton had ‘stolen our colour’. I tried to explain that Blackpool don’t own the colour because that’s not a thing.

‘But the song clearly states we’re “the only team in football in tangerine and white”’

‘Yes but Luton play in orange and black. And what about AFC Blackpool? Are they allowed to play in tangerine?’

Our argument was interrupted by a stranger who stopped us and asked for directions to the ground. He had assumed from our colours that we were Luton fans. We invited him to walk with us. This was Richard, a groundhopping Wanky Bolton Wanderers fan from Warrington and Kenilworth Road was to be his 83rd ground of the 92.

I didn’t really know the way to the ground and we were just heading in the general direction of the sea of tangerine that was making a noise further down the road. However, as we neared this group, we realised that they weren’t football fans at all – and we soon found ourselves in the middle of a Sikh festival.

A man beckoned us over.

‘Here take this.’

He handed each of us a bottle of water and a cup of Chai.

This was yet another fine example of the kind and generous nature of the Luton folk. I swear Little Miss Computer Says No must be from the Terran Empire. And oh my that chai was delicious!

Luton Town v Blackpool

It turned out the ground was only round the corner and we were soon back at the ticket office.

We weren’t allowed in today but instead there were people serving from a couple of hatches at the front of the portakabin. As we approached, I could see a woman’s arms at the second hatch. Please please let this not be Little Miss Computer Says No…

Mercifully I never found out, as the queue at the other window vanished, so I was able to find someone else to serve me.

‘I’m a Blackpool fan and I left my tickets at home. Blackpool should have put my name on the list for collection today?’

‘Ooh we’ve just sent them round to the away turnstiles. They’ll have them there for you now.’

This was around 90 minutes before kick off so that was earlier than expected.

Lee was off filming stuff so I had a bit of a mooch and took a few notes and photos for this blog. I was excited to see a Caribbean food outlet in addition to this one but I still wasn’t hungry – plus I wasn’t risking setting my dicky tummy off again with ANY food.

We turned left down an alley, where we stopped to chat with Tony before continuing on. As we approached the end of the alley, we were surprised to see an abandoned sofa.

Heading the other way into the alley was a man leading a group of people he was clearly trying to impress (I’m guessing people in hospitality or maybe from Sky) and he profusely apologised, saying that sofa wasn’t usually there.

And finally here we were at the away end, which is famously in the middle of a row of terraced houses.

I immediately approached a steward at the gate and, after confirming my name and address, he handed me an envelope containing three tickets. Phew!

But I still needed a solution to the Karen problem. I dug my pen out of my bag, wrote Karen’s name on the envelope, took our two tickets out of the envelope and returned it to the steward for Karen to collect her ticket from him when she arrived. Now everybody’s happy. Karen gets her time in the pub and I get to enter the ground nice and early.

We had a nice natter with the stewards before the gates opened and we headed into the ground. I was surprised to see a man on the turnstile as it’s usually just scanners these days but of course Luton had a friendly face to greet visitors to Kenilworth Road.

I needed a wee after drinking water and chai all the way here so I made the Ladies my first pit stop.

Bonus points for kittens on the toilet roll and free lady products; however the tap was a bit quirky, requiring two presses to release a stream of (cold) water (I got the hang of this by my third visit).

I then headed up the stairs to the stand. I usually head straight to my allocated seat but today was Unallocated Seating and this confused me greatly. I had to make a decision that I wasn’t used to making. Plus this was an old stadium with stanchions partially blocking the view from seemingly every seat. I tried out a few before finally settling on this one.

We were soon joined by a few others, including the couple from Hull who we’d met at Cov (‘the toilets here are like a museum’), Kelly and Jacob and our new groundhopping friend Richard.

There was much grumbling about the lack of legroom in this stand but that’s not a problem I ever encounter with my short legs.

Someone pointed out the Away Fans Bar so I mooched over there for blog research purposes.

On my travels I bumped into Phil and we discussed the restricted view issue.

‘I’ve just seen Gill, who’s tried most of the seats, trying to find one with a good view. A steward told her “you’re in the wrong ground for that”.’

Shirley stopped me to tell me she enjoyed my blogs and wanted to buy me a pint for my efforts and spent a good few minutes rummaging around for five pound coins to hand to me, bless her. Here’s a link to do the same if you want to follow Shirley’s lead.

Meanwhile MG nicked my hat but quickly replaced it.

We’ve got a lovely little Tangerine family forming at these away games. Many of us first met on Twitter but have transferred that friendship across to real life. Now at every away game we’ll see the same friendly faces. Many of these are people we didn’t even know pre-boycott. The football family is very special because it evolves over time. Only recently I’ve bumped into Geoff, who I used to see at every home game in the 1990s but haven’t seen for 20 years. Some people I’ve seen regularly for the last 20 years. Others have joined the family more recently. I love variety and variables – not knowing when you wake up in the morning who you’re going to bump into today or what the result is going to be or what the food is going to be like – and football is perfect for that. I never get bored, even if I do lose the will to live sometimes…

After another visit to the Ladies (I’d almost finished another bottle of water since entering the ground), I returned to my seat. The PA system here put Blackpool’s to shame. And I had a phone signal in the ground! How about that?

Bob and Lester headed over for first hand news of the ticket debacle, having heard all about it from Karen, who’d seemingly been telling everyone about it. Bob went on to tell me how he’d bought the third copy of the first ever Blackpool fanzine I edited, what must have been 20 years ago. How people remember things like that baffles me. I only remember what I’ve had for breakfast because I take a photo of it.

Karen eventually arrived. She’d spent the morning querying if her existing ticket would actually work and eventually managing to hunt down someone with a spare ticket. All of which could have been avoided if we’d been given our replacement tickets last night.

Anyway, onto the match..

Luton actually DO play in tangerine! And that’s a better shade than our kit, too. Maybe Lee had a point…

Luton took the lead pretty much straight away, so that was the end of our fun weekend as usual, then? They were really going for promotion and this was a feisty encounter.

At half time – and still 1-0 down – David hunted me down to hand me the obligatory sweet, as he does at every home game.

The music was blasting out through the louder than loud PA and I particularly enjoyed this tune.

We get Morrissey at Bloomfield Road…

Lee continued to marvel at the quirkiness of the ground – the like of which we rarely see these days (certainly at this level of football).

‘Look at that floodlight in front of the stand!’

I spent much of the match amused by the conversation from the couple behind us.

‘Is that a clock?’

‘No. I’m pretty sure it’s a washing machine.’

I chuckled and managed to resist asking what on earth they were talking about because I liked the air of mystery surrounding this anecdote.

Blackpool were awarded a pen on 55 minutes and Big Gaz Gary Goals Gary Madine Goal Machine doesn’t miss from the spot.

Pool fans: ‘Premier League: you fucked it up.’

Luton fans: ‘Premier League: we fucked it up.’

Good bants again.

It remained 1-1 and I supposed we were much happier with the point than our hosts.

Here’s our match vlog:

On my third and final visit to the Ladies, I resumed my match-long battle with the lock on the door in Trap 1. This was a metal lock that took some jiggling to unlock. On every visit I feared either becoming trapped in there or breaking the lock off the door. On this, the fateful final visit, I came away with a bloodied finger, having caught it on the metal as the lock came loose with a jolt.

Outside the ground, while Lee was filming the post match reactions for the match vlog – and being asked for a selfie by CJ Hamilton’s nephew – I took the opportunity to have a catch up with some pals.

I’d really enjoyed my visit to Kenilworth Road today. The warmth offered all across town was if anything magnified here. We were made to feel like part of a special family. I now understood why Roelof had fallen in love with Luton Town all those years ago.


This was our soundtrack for the journey home.

And there was only one place we were stopping off…

Rugby Services (Moto)

‘Rugby Services? I’ve never heard of it. Are you sure that’s a thing?’

‘Yes – that’s what Kelly said. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard of it either but Waze seems to be directing us there so it must be a thing.’

And here she is in all her beauty: this brand spanking new service station, which opened on 1st July 2021.

Of course I headed straight for Percy Pig and pressed his trotter.

Dear reader, he oinked. I couldn’t have been happier if we’d won 7-0 and Josh Bowler scored all seven. This was a special moment indeed.

It was a few minutes before I snapped back to my surroundings. And my what a stunning services this was! I was keen to explore but, first things first: I needed food.

I was chuffed I’d managed to maintain healthy food choices this weekend. Could I muster a maintain on the scales on Monday?

Of course I had to check out the loos. These were ace, with mirror lighting that changed colour AND (I’ve just noticed) a smiley face on the mirror.

There were even lockers outside.

Even t’Greggs were posh.

Once I’d finished exploring, I joined Lee in the pod seating(!) where we were eating our tea. It was a good job I’d just been to the loo, else I might have wet myself when I spotted this phone charging pad on the arm of my seat.

Of course I popped my phone on there straight away and was amazed at the magic of it charging (I’d never seen one of these in real life before and I felt like I was on Tomorrow’s World).

On our way out, my eye was caught by some sweets, which I trotted over to photograph and share with you.

Whilst I was doing so, my eyes were drawn to an advert on the nearby screen for my absolute favourite chocolate bar of all time ever. I absolutely could not resist. Now where was it?

Why is this chocolate so good? Well you bite into it and get refreshing lime. Then, after quite a delay, you get a WHOOSH of heat. So you need another bite for that refreshing lime. Then WHOOSH more hot chilli. Et cetera. This isn’t just a chocolate bar, it’s an experience. And it’s exquisite.

Dear reader, I cleared the shelf. I also bought a box of Montezuma’s truffles, which I hadn’t tried before. A box of chocolates is a rare treat.

I’ll confess I found Rugby Services hard to leave. I wanted to live here! But I had a gig to get to back in Blackpool so time was of the essence.

Back on the road, the conversation turned to seating pods.

‘One of those pods would be great in our garden.’

‘Ooh yeah. And we could plant peas around it and eat them from the pod in the pod. And watch The Poddington Peas.’

‘The what?!’

I burst into song, in disbelief that Lee didn’t know The Poddington Peas.

I then had to play him the song to prove it was an actual thing, which led us to a brilliant album, which accompanied us the rest of the way home.

I’d never heard this song but it was my favourite.

The Treatment @ Waterloo Music Bar, Blackpool

You might recall that I’ve been convicted of witchcraft twice in my lifetime. Now I don’t know if it’s bona fide witchcraft or simply the power of positive thinking but, when I saw that The Treatment were playing The Waterloo on the day we played Luton away – and none of their other tour dates were remotely doable – I simply KNEW that this fixture would be moved, enabling me to attend both. And, lo and behold, today’s match was selected by Sky and kick off was brought forward to 1230. This is simply the sort of thing that happens to me.

You see, I’d been looking forward to The Treatment’s return to Blackpool ever since I’d seen them here supporting Buckcherry back in 2019. And they were headlining here tonight.

Lee dropped me off just after 1930 – in plenty of time for the gig, as confirmed by the stage times helpfully listed on The Waterloo’s FB page.

I’m beginning to get to know a few people in here now, including the gaffer, the lighting tech and the fire safety officer from Bloomfield Road. Tonight I made a new friend, Denise from Chorley, who took me under her wing when she saw I was here alone. This was very much appreciated. I was beginning to realise there was a very special family feel to this place, too. How wonderful that people are finding each other again in their little communities.

Oh the beers?

I started with a pint of the Cross Bay Blonde because I remember enjoying it very much on my visit to Poulton.

Gaffer Fletch engaged me in beer chat and told me the Dark Lord’s Red Knight Stout was the fudge stout I’d apparently enjoyed in here on a previous visit. I have no idea how people remember what I’ve had to drink when I don’t even remember but I was impressed and took his word for it. I later moved onto this beer and can confirm it was lush.

But now for the music! I followed my new friend Denise down to (near) the front. She showed me a safe place where I could store my coat during the gig, which was really handy, as it was pretty warm in here, with there being such a big crowd tonight.

‘I’ve forgotten my ear defenders tonight. I usually wear them so I don’t go deaf from those speakers.’

‘Well I’m a bit deaf anyway so I don’t notice any difference.’

(Dear reader, I was even more deaf the next day…).

The opening act was South of Salem, a band from Bournemouth who had formed a month before lockdown. And bloody hell they were good! It has been a long time since I have totally fallen in love with a band I’ve never even heard of, let alone heard play before. And it was a beautiful moment. Here they are for your enjoyment.

This is one of the joys of live music, that you get to see and hear music that is new to you. I rarely listen to the radio so the only other way I tend to pick up new music is from TV soundtracks (or, in the case of Spongebob, background music in pubs). Thinking back to the artists I have first seen and heard as opening acts at gigs, there’s been David Ford, Duke Special, Thomas Truax, Beth Rowley, Sweet Crisis…and not forgetting The Treatment, who I was here to see tonight.

Not only were the songs well-written and easy to pick up, but I especially loved that singer Joey did little mimes to act out the lyrics, which is exactly what I do when I’m dancing (a rare sight). He also did a good job of engaging with the crowd, talking to us and getting us joining in with the songs. I was pleased to hear they’ll be back here headlining Rockmantic on 7th October and I’ve already got my ticket for that.

Next up were Piston but, quite frankly, I now had The Wurzels Syndrome (see The Big Bash) and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not a real thing because it is. I had been so blown away by South of Salem – and was so looking forward to The Treatment – that the middle act had pretty much no chance of holding my attention (sorry, Piston). I took this opportunity to return to the bar and watch the gig from a different perspective, on the screen in Lemmy’s Bar.

Here I got chatting to a chap who’d been taking photos in front of us during South of Salem – and had been following this tour for the last two nights – and he showed me some of the amazing shots he’d taken. It really put mine to shame.

Finally it was time for the main event: The Treatment. Oh it was so lovely to see them again! I knew all their songs because they had been my music of choice on my static bike these past few months. They’re simply a great rock band. Less gushing here because I was already in love with them before I came, as opposed to falling in love with them tonight. Suffice it to say, if you’re able to get to one of their forthcoming tour dates, get down there.

At the end of the gig I called Lee to arrange safe passage home, as walking home from the pub when there’s another option probably isn’t the best idea, much as I don’t mind. While I waited I said hello to Mark in the mobile Bedrock Pizza hut who was catering for tonight’s gig, as well as a man from Preston, who was waiting for a taxi home. It was brilliant that people were travelling in to Blackpool to go to gigs, which is testament to how good a venue The Waterloo is. Indeed, it has only this week won yet another prestigious award.

What a wonderful weekend that was. It was such a joy to spend the time in the company of these very special families. And I’m already looking forward to being back amongst them.

Next Up: Barnsley v Blackpool & Blackpool v Derby County.

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Thanks to Shirley for buying me that lush fudge stout.

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