PICTURE SPECIAL: A new chapter in the 118-year story of Kenilworth Road will be written when Luton Town host West Ham in their first top-flight home clash since 1991-92 on Friday night
Friday night will be a memorable one at Kenilworth Road as Luton Town take on West Ham in their first top-flight home game since relegation in 1991/92 – the season before the Premier League began.
The history of the soil is told.
Home to Luton since 1905, it has hosted games from the old Division One to the Southern League and welcomed a high attendance of 30,069 (against Blackpool in 1959) to a low of 875 (an EFL Trophy clash with MK Dons in 2018 ).
To celebrate this rich history, we’ve scoured Mail Sport’s archives and picked out some of the most evocative images of this famous site from the past 118 years…
Your browser does not support iframes.
1. December 8, 1990 – Alan Smith scores for Arsenal
In this photo, taken by Mail Sport’s Andy Hooper, Arsenal striker Smith sees his header hit the back of the net from a corner. He opened the scoring before a penalty from John Dreyer gave the hosts a point in front of 12,506 spectators.
Arsenal went on to win the First Division title and Luton survived on the last day of the season, only to be relegated a year later.
Notably, it was one of the last games played on Luton’s controversial artificial pitch, which they had to tear up the following summer when the surface was banned in the top flight.
That same year, 1991, also marked the summer when the ground went all-seater.
Arsenal striker Smith watches his header hit the net from a corner in 1990
2. February 15, 1969 – Champions train in the snow
Led by Alec Stock, the stars of Luton are put to the test in the cold. They finished third that season, narrowly missing out on another promotion after rising from the Fourth Division under Allan Brown the previous summer.
He was sacked two months before this photo was taken when the club discovered he had applied for the managerial position at Leicester City.
His departure is referenced in the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, in which a character reads a newspaper with the headline ‘Why Brown Had To Go’!
The stands in the background are decorated with advertisements for sponsor Whitbread, who opened a brewery in Luton that same year. It closed in 1984.
Luton’s stars are tested in the cold at Kenilworth Road and it would pay off as the Hatters finished third in 1968-69
3. January 16, 1935 – The ladies of Luton are ready for the Cup
Female fans take center stage on Wednesday night, as the field is packed. A total of 23,041 people turn up for the third round of the FA Cup of the Division Three side against top class Chelsea.
Supporters have found vantage points at the top of the stands and this is when the crowd celebrated Frederick Roberts scoring the second goal in a 2-0 win a month after coming over from Birmingham.
Four days earlier, the teams had drawn 1-1 at Stamford Bridge. Luton’s run ended at Burnley in round four.
A whopping 23,041 attended the Division Three side’s FA Cup third round against top-flight Chelsea
4. July 17, 1973 – Thomson brings the wins… Eric brings the sunshine!
Comedian Eric Morecambe, pictured here meeting Captain Bobby Thomson, was arguably the club’s most famous fan.
He became a club director and the Kenilworth Road hospitality suite now bears his name.
This photo was taken a month before the 1973–74 season began, which saw Morecambe’s side promoted from Division Two and regain their top flight status for the first time since 1960.
Eric Morecambe was the club’s most famous supporter and would go on to become club director
5.FFebruary 11, 1969 – A rubdown for wing wizard Frans
Winger Graham French made 202 appearances for Luton and many fans consider his solo against Mansfield – four months before this photo was taken – to be one of the greatest in club history.
But in 1970 he was sentenced to prison after a shooting incident in a pub and although he was offered a new contract after his release in 1972, he struggled and left the following year.
Many consider Graham French’s solo offense against Mansfield to be the best in Hatters’ history
6. August 21, 1965 – Crowds decrease in the fourth level
Six years after reaching the FA Cup final, where they lost 2-1 to Nottingham Forest, Luton found themselves in free fall.
They were relegated in 1960, 1963 and then in 1965, regularly playing to crowds of just 3,000.
Here, on the opening day of the season in Division Four, they drew 6,182 players, beat Bradford Park Avenue 3-1 and finished sixth.
The Bobbers Stand pictured received £10 million in investment this summer as part of a stadium upgrade to prepare the ground for Premier League football.
Crown numbers like the team did on the field, with only 3,000 players in the ground on a regular basis
7&8. August 20, 1966 – Manager Martin talks tactics as a new season begins
Photo No. 8 shows George Martin standing by the tactics board on the locker room floor as he reviews his notes before the first game of the 1966–67 season, against Halifax.
The Luton team, pictured changing in photo 7 – note the retro shin guards – consisted of David Pleat, who went on to have two spells as manager, and future Arsenal boss Bruce Rioch, who scored the second on the day in a 2- 0 win.
Martin left three months later in November, with the club second bottom of the table – he was replaced by Allan Brown, a star leading up to the 1959 Cup Final.
Business took a turn for the better and in 1968 Luton were promoted to Division Three as champions. Six years later they were back in the top flight.
Future manager David Pleat and Bruce Rioch – who would go on to become Arsenal boss – were part of the squad in 1966
George Martin stands by the tactics board on the locker room floor prior to a duel with Halifax