Tues 18th January 2022 7:45pm – Beds Senior Cup – Creasey Park, Dunstable
“Football is nothing without fans” is often used in the press to make a point about fans being forgotten or ignored when it comes to decisions about ridiculous kick-off times and dates or the restrictions on capacities. The quote, attributed to the late, great Jock Stein is actually quoted incorrectly. What he said when asked about “Without fans who pay at the turnstile, football is nothing. Sometimes we are inclined to forget that. The only chance of bringing them into stadiums is if they are entertained by what happens on the football field.”
But for clubs in the Non-League game it isn’t just the fans who make the game special, but those who put in long hours, life savings and physical hard work. Those who frequently operate behind the scenes, without fuss, acclaim or praise, working tirelessly for their clubs, improving facilities and trying to stand out in the cut-throat world of football.
A couple of years ago I was approached by a group of fans from Dunstable Town, concerned at the state of their club, at the time facing a second successive relegation from the Southern Premier League Central Division and having issues on and off the pitch. Lewes had played them at Creasey Park in the FA Trophy and the group of fans were interested in our community model and the approach we had taken.
Fast forward four years and the club may be now playing at Step 5 but they are as a community-owned club, having taken control of the club last summer and planning for a brighter future for the club. Andrew Madaras today, in true community club style, wears multiple hats including Chairman and Club Secretary. As we enter the ground on a chilly Tuesday night, he’s there to welcome fans, wearing a badge that says proudly he is a volunteer first, a fan second and a Chairman (and secretary) third.
Whilst some teams will have wanted to avoid a game against The Hatters, for the clubs who enter the Beds Senior Cup it is the plum draw. Luton Town are the only professional side in the competition and whilst they only field their Under21s, they are the plump draw in the competition as it almost guarantees a bumper crowd. And so it is that on a chilly Tuesday night nearly 350 are in attendance as the Blues look to banish their league woes and pull off a cup shock.
Madaras is highly apologetic that their popular Caribbean food hut is out of action, due to the owner having COVID. Creating something different is one of the pillars of success for any community club because you aren’t just competing with other clubs, but also with cinemas, bars, restaurants and other leisure activities come 3pm on a Saturday. You got the feeling of belonging when you walked into Creasey Park and that is so important.
Whilst the home side had a couple of early chances it was no surprise when Luton took the lead half way through the half. Two nil at half time and a chance to talk football with Luton’s CEO Gary Sweet over a sausage roll and cup of tea.
Luton ran out 5-0 winners in the end, their fitness shining through in the last twenty minutes but Dunstable Town were also the winners here with a decent crowd, bar and food sales. Hopefully, a few fans also liked what they saw and will come back and even join the cause by signing up to be an owner themselves (here).
The Premier League may have grabbed the headlines on Tuesday night with Brighton’s draw with Chelsea, and Burnley’s inability to find 13 fit players from their squad of 51 players (Under23s and above) but Dunstable Town were the real winners in my eyes.