On Boxing Day, Fulham travel to Kenilworth Road to play Luton Town. For many, the match will be a great chance to pick up three points against a side in 21st position. But for me, the trip to Luton will hold a greater significance.
As an American Fulham supporter, it is often difficult to explain your loyalties to other football fans who follow the big clubs. Relegation is an alien concept to them. Few fathom why one would support a team in the Championship.
Following Fulham’s relegation last spring, the derisory comments flooded in. Mixed in with the banter was a familiar refrain — “you’ll be playing Luton away next season.” The dig was simple. Instead of mixing it up with Liverpool or Manchester City in the top flight, little old Fulham would be facing off against Luton Town — a team that hadn’t appeared in the top division since the early 1990s.
Group chats were even named ‘Luton Away’ in recognition of the relegation. But far from an insult, the Boxing Day trip to Kenilworth Road will be one of the highlights of the season. What the American fan can’t understand is that the away days to old-fashioned, atmospheric stadiums like Luton’s are priceless experiences. And in modern football, these grounds are rapidly going extinct.
Ask most Whites supporters and they’d tell you they would prefer the Championship over the Premier League. Why? The sanitised Premier League experience, the drastic gap between the top and bottom clubs, and the exorbitant ticket prices all contribute to the top flight losing its luster.
In the Premier League, you could never get a day out at Luton Town. Where else would you walk to the away end through a row of houses?
When I take my seat in the away end (unreserved of course, another Luton specialty), I’ll be buzzing for the festive match. Luton away isn’t an embarrassment — it’s the best away match of the season.