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Fixtures and fittings

At last, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The sign that summer is over. The fixtures are out.

And I bet like me, when you heard the opening fixture, you thought “fuck me”.

It’s the biggie that we all wanted but thought we’d never get. Think about it – Luton Town. Not Luton United or some other small variation that we’ve faced over the last seven years. The Luton Town. The team we beat in the FA Cup semi in 1988. The team that plays at Kenilworth Road, who won the League Cup in 1988. The team who had Mick Harford when he wasn’t old, Brian Stein and the plastic pitch and the away fans ban.

Bet you’re still saying “fuck me” aren’t you?

Actually, there are quite a few “fuck me” fixtures there, but then that’s why we’re so excited about being in the Conference, isn’t it? Got to say, it’s not going to be the easiest opening set of games, and we’re really going to have to nail down pre-season pretty well.

But is that a bad thing? We’ll certainly be up for it, probably more than Luton who are starting to realise what division the FA put them in. For them, going to KM on the Saturday/Friday/Sunday (TV deal notwithstanding) is going to be a no-win : they’re expected to beat us, but if we have a good game and they don’t it’ll be a difficult baptism for them.

If Setanta (RIP) were about, the club would already be fielding phonecalls working out the TV gantry and where to park the OB units. As it stands, it’s a fixture without an audience. But trust me – this is one helluva fixture even for a once-off for Sky or ESPN or the BBC to show. It’s marketable on so many levels it’s unreal – two sides shafted  by the FA, a regular top-flight fixture over a decade ago (who can forget the 3k attendances at Selhurst?), and Luton’s first foray into non-league.

Those booking Saturday 8th August off for whatever reason may need to hold fire…

Needless to say, SW19 totally ballsed up its predictions except for Handy over Xmas. But even so, there are some succulent looking ties. Firstly, Stevenage away in that strange week between Xmas and New Year will be a nice one. It’s dead easy to get to by road anyway. Barrow away is at a time when it will sort out the men from the boys. And Gatesheed will be a rather nice last game of the season, which lest we forget will be a  Sunday fixture once the TV deals get sorted. Assuming we’re not fighting relegation.

Looking up and down the fixtures, we seem to have done all right out of them. Most of the tricky-to-get-to ones are on Saturdays, and Kiddy/R&D/Oxford are do-able for midweekers. That said, we do have quite a tricky run-in if it came to it – we have to travel to Mansfield, Cambridge and York at the back end of the season, though by that time we should be quite settled…

Oh, and it’s more than likely your editor will be missing Luton away. Hope the Kenilworth Road press box has facilities for WDON.

All in all, it’s a mixture of trepidation and excitement. We’ll either get tonked  by Luton or we’ll give them a shock they’ll never forget. If you’re worried about the enormity of the upcoming season though, just bear this in mind – the Axewounds host Basingstoke and Woking travel to Welling…