Published on February 13, 2013 | by Richard Wilder

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Luton and Millwall certain history won’t be repeated

Entrance gates at Luton's Kenilworth Road ground

Luton host Millwall on Saturday for first time in the FA Cup since rioting during a 1985 tie
(Flickr: Dave Gunn)

When Millwall were pulled out of the bag as the away team to face Luton Town in their FA Cup fifth round tie, it’s understandable that football fans from all over the country may have winced for a few seconds.

The riots and hooliganism in the Luton vs Millwall FA Cup sixth round match in 1985, damaged the game’s reputation and the images of both clubs.

Millwall took the biggest chunk of the blame when their fans started a riot, at a time when football and violence went hand-in-hand.

Millwall have fought hard ever since to repair the damage of that night and show the football world that they are club to be reckoned with on the pitch, not off it.

This has been evident for many years with Millwall taking a leading role in the fight against racism in football, along with producing many fantastic award-winning clinics in the local communities for youngsters.

But now more than ever Millwall should be taken seriously on the field. With the longest serving manager in the Championship, Kenny Jackett at the helm, Millwall over the past five years, have continued to grow at a steady pace into a side that are now an established top 10 league side and in with a chance of getting into he last eight of the oldest cup competition in the world, after beating Premier league side Aston Villa in the fourth round.

Improvements

Millwall ‘Fan on the Board’ representative Peter Garston, who has worked extremely hard for the Lions over the last few years to provide a link between the fans and the board members, was delighted with the win against Villa but is slightly disappointed with the forthcoming draw against Luton.

“The result against Villa was amazing, the battling manner in which we won showed true Millwall spirit, the atmosphere was electric and was a major factor in the result.

“The draw wasn’t kind to us but it is winnable, the downside for me is it will give lazy journalists the chance to regurgitate stories of 28 years ago rather than look at the vast improvements the club and fans have made in the past 28 years. I am looking forward to a good game and a hopeful for a smooth passage into the next round.”

For Luton they find themselves as the success story of this year’s FA Cup, becoming the first non-league team to knock a top-flight side out of the competition since 1989, after a fantastic 1-0 victory away at Norwich in the previous round.

In what has been a torrid few years for Luton, this cup run is not just restoring the club’s pride and reputation but it is also providing the club with some much needed cash, something that has been missing in recent years. Between 2007 and 2009, financial difficulties caused the club to fall from the second tier of English football to the fifth in successive seasons.

The last of these relegations came during the 2008/09 season, when 30 points were docked from Luton’s record for various financial irregularities. This ended the club’s 89-year spell as a member of the Football League and the club have been trying to restore their status ever since.

What can certainly be said is that Saturday’s fixture will not be for the faint-hearted. History, financial gain and a possible glamour tie with one of the big Premier League teams will ensure a tough and gritty match for both sides, but one that hopefully lives up to the expectations of the fans, but this time for all the right reasons.

Excited

Andrew Barringer, Media representative for Luton Town expressed his delight at the fixture and his side’s superb FA Cup run.

“We’re very excited. Having beaten Wolves and Norwich in the previous two rounds we are delighted to be in a position to have a chance of reaching the quarter-final of the FA Cup. To reach the fifth round and make history by winning at Norwich is a magnificent achievement for a non-league club and we intend to relish our time in the media spotlight.”

Barringer also believes history will not affect Saturday’s game: “We have the greatest confidence that the match will pass without incident. Millwall are a proud club who have taken extensive measures to stamp out any reputation past incidents have created. We have met with officials at Millwall and planned strategically for any eventuality. It has been a pleasure working with Millwall.

“Luton Town have never pointed the blame at Millwall for the trouble in 1985. There have been 13 meetings between to the clubs at Kenilworth Road since and not once has there been any trouble.”

With both clubs confident of a trouble-free day this intriguing, historic fixture between these two sides, along with the added nostalgia of the FA Cup, could well be the standout tie of the weekend – this time for all the right reasons.

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