Arsenal v Luton: a meeting of unequals



By Sirs Hardly Anyone

Not to put it too bluntly Luton Town are a club that quite likes the current rounds of enquiries into the irregularities of the doings of other clubs such as Nottingham Forest and Everton.

Last season they came up from the second tier but finished 21 points below Burnley and 11 points below Sheffield United who were also promoted, and I think many of us thought all three of those promoted clubs would go straight back down again.

The idea that Luton seemed to have was that instead of promoted clubs spending all their Premier League money in advance by buying new players in order to stay up, they would in fact accept relegation if it happened, but then have a sell-out follow up season in the Championship and then get promoted again.

A risky strategy of course, but then so is spending every penny that one might earn in the Premier League on players to keep the club there.   Fine if it works, very dangerous in the longer term, if it doesn’t.

Of course a big part of their problem is the ground: capacity 11,594.  Or maybe 10356, depending on which source you use.   Either way it seems to be the smallest in the league.

I have been to see a league match between Luton and Arsenal – but only the once.  The conditions were not good and I suspected there was a real chance of catching dysentery, although decency forbids me from going into more details.  Even by the low standards of away support facilities in the 20th century, it was awful.

But then the smallness of the ground is hardly the club’s fault – it is where the ground was built and as recently as 2018 the club was in League Two and thus not exactly pulling in vast amounts of cash. Or big crowds.

In fact go back to 2013 and Luton were in the Conference, when I would imagine they actually had one of the biggest (if not the biggest) grounds in the league.

Actually, they had quite a few years of decline before returning.  In 2003/4 they were in Division 2.  By the middle of the decade they had two years in the Championship.  Then it was League 1 in 2008/8, League 2 in 2008/9 and The Conference in 2009/10.  Quite a slide.

They took the journey back slightly more carefully before spending four years in the Championship, getting third place and coming up last season.

Thus staying up is the prime concern and in this the deductions of points going on thither and yon as the Premier League tries to come to terms with the way clubs have been fiddling their books means no one quite knows what the bottom three is going to look like. 

After all if Manchester City were to be found guilty of benefitting from transfers made with money from sponsors which are actually directly connected to the club’s owners, in  just17 matches this season that could send Manchester C down and save Luton Town.  And maybe Nottingham Forest. 

Arsenal have of course beaten Luton more times than the reverse – 28 wins to Arsenal and 10 to Luton with 11 games drawn in the league.

But Luton have won those 10 games, including in the last ever League Division One game between the two sides which Luton won 1-0 at 1 Maple Road (which is the actual address of the ground, despite anything you may have been told.)

And we should not forget that the most recent game (5 December last year) saw Arsenal only win by 3-4.  All previous games shown were in League Division One.  Since I am focussing on Luton Town the “Res” column is from a Luton perspective.


Date Game Res Score
13 Feb 1988 Arsenal v Luton Town L 2-1
25 Oct 1988 Luton Town v Arsenal D 1-1
25 Feb 1989 Arsenal v Luton Town L 2-0
16 Dec 1989 Arsenal v Luton Town L 3-2
21 Apr 1990 Luton Town v Arsenal W 2-0
29 Aug 1990 Arsenal v Luton Town L 2-1
8 Dec 1990 Luton Town v Arsenal D 1-1
27 Aug 1991 Arsenal v Luton Town L 2-0
26 Dec 1991 Luton Town v Arsenal W 1-0
5 Dec 2023 Luton Town v Arsenal L 3-4


The closeness of that score on 5 December 2023 was a bit of a surprise given that on 4 December Arsenal were top of the league and Luton were 17th.  The gap between them was, and still is, quite large!


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Arsenal 14 10 3 1 29 11 18 33
17 Luton Town 14 2 3 9 13 26 -13 9


So at that point Arsenal had a points per game rate of 2.36 and Luton had a points per game rate of 0.64.

Still we did win, which is what really counts.


6 Replies to “Arsenal v Luton: a meeting of unequals”

  1. Tony

    Luton Town FC are quite close to my heart really. I was brought up in Hertfordshire, and although Luton is of course in Bedfordshire we were within their scouting range, as well as Arsenal’s, Spurs and Chelsea’s.

    I played at a reasonable level in my youth, and although I was never good enough to be ‘scouted’ some of my team mates were. One, Phil Driver, ended up playing a couple of times for Chelsea but unfortunately succumbed to injury after only a couple of appearances. Three were picked up by Luton, and one of those, a goalie by the name of Allen Judge played for the first team for a few seasons back in the late 70’s early 80’s.

    By best friend back in the day was a Luton fan so I went there with him a few times to support Luton, so I’m well aware of the ‘facilities’.

    Back then they had a very famous supporter by the name of Eric Morecombe.

    Happy days.

  2. Talking of Allen I thought I’d see if my memory served me well, and indeed it had. This from Wiki:

    “Alan Graham Judge (born 14 May 1960) (So he was 6 months younger than me) is a retired professional footballer, who is the seventh oldest player to play in the Football League.[3] He played as a goalkeeper. He was at Luton between 1978 to 1982, but only played 11 times”

    “During his career he played for various clubs at all tiers of the League. He was part of the Oxford United team that won the Milk Cup in 1986. He also briefly served as a backup goalkeeper for Chelsea in the European Cup Winners’ Cup.”

    I forgot all that. Blimey, a claim to fame I never even knew I had!!!!

  3. Another couple of pieces of Luton Town trivia if you are interested is that, along with QPR they were pioneers in the ultimately doomed use of Artificial pitches back in the 1980’s.

    This again thanks to Wiki:

    In 1985, following the lead of Queen Park Rangers’ experiment at Loftus Road four years earlier, their grass pitch was dug up and replaced with an artificial playing surface. The surface, called Sporturf Professional, was manufactured by En-Tout-Cas, and cost the club £350,000. The first match on the new pitch resulted in a 1–1 draw with Nottingham Forest.[18] The new surface quickly became unpopular with both players and fans, and was derided as “the plastic pitch”.[19][20] Protests about the quality of the pitch from other teams resulted in a meeting with a number of major clubs in 1989, mediated by a Football League Commission. The Commission concluded that the pitch had suffered excessive wear and tear from too much use, and Luton installed a replacement artificial surface, at a cost of £60,000, during the summer of 1989.[21] The second artificial pitch was itself removed during the summer of 1991, following the banning of such surfaces by The Football League, and the club returned to a natural grass surface.

    Also, David Pleat, who famously managed our neighbours 4 times, the last time as recently as ’03/’04, played for Luton between ’64 and ’67 as well as managing them twice between ’78 and ’86 and ”91 to ’95.

  4. And of course one last piece of trivia if you don’t mind is that Luton Town did in fact beat us in the 1988 League cup final by 3 goals to 2.

    Our goals from Hayes and Smith were replied to with one goal from Wilson and 2 from Stien, the last of which was a 90th minute winner. I remember it well as I was there unforetuneately.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *