It was clear from last night's friendly with a Luton XI that we are starting to have the makings of a reasonable team for the forthcoming campaign. A few more players added to the effective spine and who knows, we could be in the frame this season.
The Luton team were game enough and gave our defence a good work out. I was more concerned for the handful of Luton fans who made the trip. Their last three visits to us have taken in stately old Rockingham Road, shiny soulless Nonce Park and now cabbage patch Latimer Park. Our recent nomadic existence has been enough of a challenge to us, without inflicting it upon outsiders!
It was amusing to hear some of our old and not so old duffers bemoaning the lack of Luton Town first teamers on view. As if we would recognise of name one of them if they stood right in front of us! The days of us spotting a handful of former top-flight players, or heaven help us, the odd ex-International, are long behind us! It's doubtful we'll again see the heady days of excitedly nudging our fellow fans and pointing out the likes of Andy Sinton. Or watch stars like Stephen Hunt delicately hug the touchline, quietly staying out of the way whilst his agent puts the final touches to his new contract elsewhere.
But it soon became clear that once again our biggest challenge this season wouldn't be coming from another club. Our toughest opponent will be our pitch. The Latimer Park surface knows only two conditions. Dry and hideously bobbly. Or wet and unplayable.
Early on the Luton players realised this wasn't going to be a night to impress the boss and land a lucrative contract. It was a night for not being caught out by a chin-high bobble and look a dick. In the first ten minutes one Luton player attempted that most dangerous footballing manoeuvre - a Latimer Park backpass to his goalie, right between the sticks. The crowd held it's breath. The Poppies players stood off out of respect for the audaciousness of the feat. The goalie girded his loins. He managed to get enough shin/knee/boot onto the ball to safely clear. I felt like applauding.
Whilst I entirely understand we are where we are and beggars can't be choosers I recalled with bitterness the stonking quality of the playing surface we had at Rockingham Road. We used to moan about the odd ball deviating and the curious goal-mouth mounds, where, at it's most pronounced, the bar in the centre of the goal was several inches closer to the ground than at the posts. But, bloody hell! It was Wembley compared to the rough field we play on now.
How can Marcus be expected to judge players on such a surface? How can you demand football played on the ground, when the pitch is your biggest enemy? Ironically, to excel at Latimer Park, you have to a player of such quality that you should never have to play on Latimer Park!
What can be done to improve the surface? Yesterday a bloody good watering would have helped. And then what? Best suggestion is to borrow the roller from the local cricket club and spend a month rolling the f*cking thing flat.
Ah well. The pitch may be horrible, but at least the sunsets are pretty.