Between May and September of 2023, life for anyone associated with Luton Town Football Club was likely a blur of delight and intrigue after the Hatters’ promotion to the Premier League via the Championship play-offs.
After a highly progressive few seasons that was rocked by Nathan Jones’ attempts to deviate his career unsuccessfully first through Stoke City and then Southampton, the club somehow managed to keep intact a brilliant ethos and state of calm. Rob Edwards guided Luton to the promised land with the intention of putting the cat amongst the Premier League pigeons.
The idiosyncratic nature of Luton Town is the embodiment of what football is about. The club arrived at the English pyramid’s summit with a new-take on ownership after learning from past mistakes. There was also the slashed budget, the TV money saved away for the tempting lure of Power Court.
Then, of course, there was the stadium. A home for classic route-one industry, this dated ground juxtaposes its image with its very PL surroundings. Almost like that of forward Elijah Adebayo, there’s that towering physical play – but then like the Kenny’s winding bowels and tight changing rooms – there’s a delicate touch, burst of pace, or snide finish reflecting the beloved nuances in football that keep bringing us back. There’s more than meets the eye.
Rival fans sneered at Luton. The away end. Going residential. Yet this is the disappointed forefather of your ‘soulless bowls’. What happened to our game? This is a stadium that reflects its rough-around-the-edges, enveloping town.
Amidst these ramblings, there’s a point in here somewhere as we encroach this article’s topic – and that is even if you reach some state of notoriety in life, you don’t forget the imperfections or where you’re from.
For these famous few, Luton Town and Kenilworth Road have either reared them into footballing fandom, or embraced them warmly within their non-linear dimensions. Football FanCast takes a look at some notable names who are proud to call Luton their club.
Former England cricketer
Our first famous face that supports Luton is England Cricket’s former captain, Alastair Cook. Considered one of the best opening batsmen in English history, Cook was born in Gloucester and raised in Essex. However, he’s the first example of Luton’s powers at drawing outsiders in.
At 13 years old, the future Test and ODI captain was a boarding pupil at Bedford School. Clearly, it was here that he took the surrounding county to his heart – and being an avid sportsman, football too.
Alastair Cook has been seen at Kenilworth Road regularly through the years, and after his retirement, settled down in Bedfordshire with a small farm just outside of Leighton Buzzard.
Former England cricketer
Where his former England teammate was adopted by Luton’s Hatters heritage, Monty Panesar is Luton born and bred. An avid fan outside his consummate cricket career as a spin bowler, Panesar still resides in his hometown to this day.
Such is his love for the club, it was rumoured he had a season ticket for a time. He was notably at Wembley when Town won the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy against Scunthorpe United back in 2009, and the year before, even joked that he’d buy the then-Conference side if he pocketed the $1m prize from the Twenty20 international.
Linus Udofia is a British-Nigerian Boxer from Luton. The 30-year-old’s record is near-impeccable, with 18 wins, two losses and nine knockouts seeing him represent his hometown as proudly as the football club.
Football itself is said to be an important sport among Linus’ other interests. The eventual 2019 English Middleweight Champion was initially a latecomer to boxing, picking the sport up at 18 after playing and watching football from an early age. Supporting his hometown team, his career rise has enabled him to strike up a great bond with the club and its players.
At Kenilworth Road, he’s appeared on the pitch at half-time to promote his local fights, and back in the summer he, of course, celebrated the Hatters’ promotion against Coventry City.
Sports Journalist at TalkSport and Sky
Our next featured individual sparks the beginning of a journalistic double-header. Faye Carruthers is another Lutonian who has carved out an excellent career for herself.
Currently working as a broadcaster for talkSPORT, Carruthers has previously worked with Sky Sports, and features on women’s football show, Women’s Football Weekly. Faye was also talkSPORT’s England Correspondent during Euro 2020.
Her unwavering support for her hometown club has always been part and parcel with her work and (especially) her social media presence.
Nick Owen will likely be known to most Midlands readers. After presenting the original Good Morning Britain show between 1983 and 1986, Owen became synonymous with Midlands Today. He has presented the BBC local news show since 1997, but in his esteemed career has taken time to go back to his home roots.
Born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire – Owen is a lifelong Luton fan, and became the chairman of the club when he was asked to represent the Luton Town Football Club 2020 consortium when they purchased the club in 2008 following a period in administration. He stepped down in 2017, yet from the video below, it can be seen just how much the club means to the infamous broadcaster.
With an indomitable spirit and outward positivity, it was great news that Owen beat prostate cancer in April 2023. Here’s hoping the 76-year-old’s love for presenting and Luton continues for years to come.
Actor Colin Salmon is known for a plethora of memorable roles yet the one that most quickly springs to mind is that of Charles Robinson in the Pierce Brosnan-era James Bond films.
Other roles have of course come in Eastenders, Doctor Who, and the Resident Evil film franchise – yet in the formative stages of his creative career, Salmon was the drummer for punk-rock band Friction.
It was at this time that the Bethnal Green-born Salmon played around his adopted town of Luton in 1979 and 1980. He also toured with another band around the town as a jazz trumpeter. His love for the Hatters was confirmed with a proud guest appearance on Soccer AM in 2007.
Former England goalkeeper
This article’s penultimate name comes in the form of ex-shot-stopper David James, and there’s a little bone of contention with his inclusion, as he got his start to footballing life with bitter ‘M1 Derby’ rivals Watford. After the Welwyn Garden City-born James left Watford and embarked on his journeyman career, he never actually played for Luton, yet always held a soft spot for the club. Back in 2013, he was quoted by the club’s media team:
“I’m a Luton fan and have been since I was a boy when I was taken to Kenilworth Road by my uncle.”
Last and certainly not least, famed half of 1970s comedy elite double act Morecambe and Wise, Eric Morecambe was known as a big Luton fan. He became entwined with the club’s history when his prominent TV career saw him and his family settle in Harpenden – 20 minutes away from Luton. Immediately, Morecambe found himself welcomed at the club and took to the atmosphere when following the team with his son, Gary.
Eric became a passionate supporter and Luton Town would receive frequent references on the Morecambe and Wise show, as seen below. Eric was a regular at Kenilworth Road in the ’70s and became a director of the club as well as a one-time president. Morecambe sadly died from a heart attack back in 1984, but went down as one of Britain’s finest comedic minds, as well as one of Luton’s most beloved adopted sons.