Mad Hatters glee party! We join the Luton fans for their historic day

Mad Hatters glee party! We join the Luton fans for their historic first match in the Premier League… and even a heavy defeat at Brighton can’t dampen spirits

  • Luton lost 4-1 in their first top flight game for over 30 years on Saturday
  • Mick Harford spoke at the train station ahead of a day of partying in Brighton
  • Click here to watch Mail Sport’s brand new show ‘It’s All Kicking Off’ in full

It is 10.30am on Saturday when a familiar voice appears over the speakers at Luton train station. It is Mick Harford, the local legend, with an important announcement for all travellers.

‘Today is the day,’ says Harford, now the club’s chief recruitment officer after years of service as a player and coach. ‘The mighty Hatters are in Brighton taking on the Seagulls in their first game in the top flight for over 30 years. Please remember to put everyone’s safety first and stand behind the yellow line on the platform. Thanks for your support and let’s go you Hatters!’

To get a glimpse of Harford, you only need to cross the road where he adorns the side of the George II pub. At the nearby Premium corner shop, fans are stocking up on supplies. That includes the chap wearing an orange afro wig with tinnie in hand. He is disappointed the Luton Kebab House isn’t open yet.

Those playing it safer — a Premier League away day is a marathon, not a sprint, remember — grab a coffee to go from Caffe Kimbo on Platform One as they await the 10.43am to Brighton.

Not that we can begrudge those choosing to celebrate this occasion by getting sozzled. Luton’s journey back to the top tier was hellishly long. It involved financial oblivion and points deductions and losing 5-1 to Gateshead in front of 382 fans as they spent five years lost in non-League.

Luton legend  Mick Harford led the day of partying in Brighton from Luton train station

The Hatters travelled in their numbers and enjoyed their first top flight game for over 30 years despite the defeat


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Today, that journey is only a two-hour train ride to Brighton, and even the station engineer at the turnstile entrance is sporting a bright orange dickie bow. The ‘Thameslink Derby’ awaits supporters travelling from one end of the network to the other and to mark the occasion, Mail Sport joined them for their historic day. As Harford said: ‘Let’s go.’

While the fanbase are realistic — they realise they are favourites for relegation — they are optimistic of an opening-day win. Max, Luton born and bred, says 2-1. George thinks 1-0. Alex says 2-0. None were born when Luton last featured in the top flight in 1992.

Craig was, and he thinks 1-1, a stoppage-time Brighton penalty spoiling their party. ‘That’ll be our welcome to the Premier League from VAR,’ he laughs. ‘But we’ll turn up. I definitely don’t see us losing.’ His mate texted him earlier: ‘Before you celebrate a goal, remember VAR can disallow it.’

More fans get on at St Albans City, and then at St Pancras, until those standing are squished like sardines. ‘This train has been delayed by overcrowding,’ says an announcement and we are 15 minutes late pulling into Brighton.

It turns out Luton’s optimism is misguided. After catching our connection to Falmer and the Amex Stadium, we watch Roberto De Zerbi’s side show their experience, with their players having racked up 1,621 Premier League games. Luton’s starting line-up have 63 between them and Brighton score, then score again, then again and again.

Brighton showed their experienced as they scored quickly to condemn Luton to an opening day defeat


Brighton (4-4-2): Steele 6; Milner 7 (Veltman 79min), Dunk 7.5, Van Hecke 8, Estupinan 7.5; March 8.5 (Adingra 74, 6), Gross 8, Dahoud 7.5 (Gilmour 74, 6), Mitoma 8; Welbeck 7 (Ferguson 78), Pedro 7.5 (Enciso 88). 

Scorers: March 36, Pedro 71 (pen), Andingra 85, Ferguson 90+5. 

Booked: Estupinan. 

Manager: Roberto De Zerbi 8

Luton (3-5-2): Kaminski 4; Andersen 5 (Ogbene 76), Lockyer 5, Bell 5; Kabore 5 (Brown 64, 6), Mpanzu 5 (Woodrow 88), Nakamba 5, Chong 5 (Berry 88), Giles 5; Morris 6, Adebayo 5 (Doughty 64, 6).

Scorer: Morris 81 (pen). 

Booked: Andersen, Kabore. 

Manager: Rob Edwards 5.

Referee: David Coote 6. Attendance: 31,872.

They are sublime and the consensus is that Evan Ferguson, an 18-year-old substitute here, will become a striker that they are someday slapping with one of their £100million price tags. Ferguson gets the last as Brighton finish with four to Luton’s one, a penalty scored by Carlton Morris.

But Luton were in the game for large parts. At 2-1, an awful mistake by Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu proved costly. Brighton supporters leave singing: ‘We are top of the league.’ Soon followed by: ‘You are bottom of the league.’ Inaccurate, but they’re too delirious to check.

Luton’s fans finally respond: ‘There’s only one Micky Harford.’

After overcoming some atrocious delays on the Thameslink network due to trespassers, they spend the journey home dissecting the first of what they fear might be many Premier League defeats this season. At least the Luton Kebab House awaits.

Luton’s Amari’i Bell (left) faces an FA charge over the Nike headband he wore during the game


Luton’s start to the season could worsen as their defender Amari’i Bell faces a potential FA charge for wearing a black headband with a white Nike swoosh on the front. 

The governing body are looking into whether it contravenes their rules after Bell sported the garment in Luton’s 4-1 defeat at Brighton.

They are likely to speak to the player and club in the coming days. 

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