Plus, Toronto FC-Montreal, and can Serie A sweep Europe?
I have a friend whose home town football (soccer) club is tiny Luton Town FC in the town of Luton, Bedfordshire, England and because of that, I have a soft spot in my football-loving heart for them. They’re known as the Hatters – which is awesome in and of itself.
They play at Kenilworth Road, which seats 10,356 and where you can literally kick a ball out of the arena and hit someone’s home. Thanks to recent successes, they are planning to build a new, larger stadium in a few years.
So, when the first match of the Hatters’ home-and-away, two-legged EFL promotion playoffs semi-final kicks off on Saturday, I’ll be full on in support mode for the club that was founded on April 11, 1885 (138 years ago).
Okay, so they’re not as old as a certain Hollywood-backed Welsh club, but if they can do the improbable and win their semi-final against Sunderland, then also defeat the winner of Middlesborough-Coventry in the final at historic Wembley Stadium, the story will be infinitely better.
Here are a few reasons why it’s not only a great story, but why you should be cheering Luton Town on during the next few days.
Luton Town will be heading to the Premier League for the first-time ever. Yes, they once played in England’s First Division, but not since the Premier League was founded in 1992 has the club tasted those sweet waters.
They’re not a rich club and still somehow rose from the fifth tier of English football (relegated to that place in 2014 due to financial issues) to knocking on the door of arguably the best domestic league in the world.
That’s less than 10 years and doing it through quality recruiting and development, good coaching, passion, and pride.
Despite having finished third in the EFL table, ahead of the other three promotion playoff clubs, not many pundits or prognosticators are giving them a chance. Most are picking Middlesborough to win promotion to the Premier League with Sunderland losing in the final.
For those not in the know, the first and second place teams in the EFL Championship automatically earn promotion to the Premier League (this season it is Burnley and Sheffield United). Then the next four teams take part in a playoff for the final promotion spot.
Luton Town plays Sunderland on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in the first leg, with the return leg set for Tuesday at 3 p.m. (Canadian EST). All EFL Playoffs matches can be seen on DAZN Canada.
Let’s hope they get the job done and keep the good times rolling!
TORONTO FC – MONTREAL – Round II
For the second time in less than a week, this time on Saturday in the MLS regular season and at Stade Saputo in La Belle Province, Toronto FC will take on Montreal. Game time is 7:30 p.m. and is available on Apple TV MLS Season Pass.
This one will be different because there will be no away fans after Round I – figuratively and literally – took place on Tuesday night.
The first round on Tuesday at BMO Field in the Canadian Championship Quarterfinal round didn’t go so well for TFC. Not only did they lose the match 2-1 to be eliminated from a competition they’ve won eight times over the years, but incidents in the stands grabbed the negative attention of the national media.
As a season ticket member, I was there with three friends (one of whom had never been to a TFC match before).
For a full TFC experience, I borrowed my friend’s seats right behind the net in the South End Supporters section where the full passion and energy could be felt. At half time we moved up to my seats in the upper level – which still has a lot of energy, but a better view of the full field.
Overall it was a great experience for everyone and my buddy who was attending his first TFC game said he would go back.
While early in the first half we did notice some fighting at the top of the stadium, it seemed to be over relatively quickly.
Then a video from a Montreal supporter on Twitter came out and in the tweet, the poster wrote (among other things), “they came right at us.” After the match, someone from the supporters section through a megaphone onto the field after a verbal altercation with TFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye.
You’ve probably seen the coverage by now, but if not, here’s a Google search with plenty of links (but only after you read my whole column – hehehe) . . . TFC Violence.
Let’s get this out of the way: Neither situation is acceptable. There is no place for that at any stadium where many families go to enjoy a football match (or soccer, whatever you prefer to call our beautiful sport). Cheer, sing, chant, even yell at the players and officials for poor plays and bad calls, but keep your body to yourself.
And definitely don’t throw stuff – especially a megaphone (though I’m fairly confident in saying he knew he wouldn’t hit anyone when he threw it). Hey, sometimes we all make mistakes and hopefully learn from them.
From a fan’s perspective who has attended more than a couple Montreal matches sitting in section 204 (where away fans are allotted seats), the following are some thoughts on the occurrences from Tuesday.
Any match between Montreal and Toronto brings a different vibe no matter where you are. There is a bit of tension, a bit of aggression, a bit of an “anything can happen” feeling around the stadium.
Add in the fact that TFC has been underachieving in both results and in recent play on the field, and it was the perfect recipe for something not appropriate to occur.
I’m not painting all Montreal supporters with one brush, but over the years I have seen some unseemly and unruly behaviour within their ranks (like you would find with any groups – always a few bad apples spoiling everyone’s fun).
Without nitpicking every incident, there were more than a few times over the years where away fans from Montreal were going over the line and pretty much looking for an altercation.
So, when I see all the reports coming out with everyone pointing their fingers at the TFC fans and just believing the Montreal fan’s post accusing those supporters of “coming right at us,” I take it all with a grain of salt.
Unless there is hard evidence to fully support one story over another, no one should assume complete guilt or complete innocence from either side of a fight … especially involving multiple people.
The Montreal fans may have been just doing normal fan things on Tuesday, or maybe they weren’t and the Toronto fans reacted.
The truth is, at least at the time of this writing, we really don’t know the whole story – only a few seconds of a video clip mid-fight that doesn’t really indicate who started the situation. Taking the word of a video made by a Montreal supporter of a bunch of people fighting is jumping the gun a little bit.
I don’t know exactly what happened, but I do know from experience that when fights occur at stadiums, it’s not just one person – or one group’s – fault.
Let me reiterate what I previously wrote, just so we’re clear: fighting in the stands is nonsense and doesn’t belong in what is otherwise an amazing atmosphere at BMO Field.
However, as the saying goes, “it takes two to tango” and we shouldn’t immediately put all the blame on one group over the other without the full story.
Hopefully the Reds can find a way to get three points on Saturday despite the ever growing injury list, turn this season around and we can go back to talking about the play on the field rather than ridiculous occurrences off of it.
SERIE A SWEEP STILL ALIVE
I know, I know, it’s unlikely that all three European club trophies will be picked up by an Italian club. But, with five clubs representing in the six semi-finals and only one having a small deficit after the first legs, there is still a decent chance.
One Milan team is guaranteed to be in the Champions League final – likely Inter after picking up a 2-0 win over AC in the first leg on Wednesday.
Yes, I realize they’ll be taking on one of the two best teams in the world – either Real Madrid or Manchester City (tied 1-1 after leg one) – but it’s not that big of a stretch that big team like Inter can win a one-match final.
And in case you missed them, both first legs featured stunning strikes. Here are the highlights …
Meanwhile in the Europa League, our beloved AS Roma hold a 1-0 lead over Bayer Leverkusen after the first leg on Thursday with Juventus scoring a very, very late header to draw Sevilla 1-1, thus keeping dreams of an all-Italian final alive and well.
P.S. There is not many places better than the Stadio Olimpico (only when Roma plays) on European nights.
Couldn’t find one of Inno della Roma from this week’s match in time to post, so enjoy this from the QFs just before extra time began …
And in the Europa Conference League, Fiorentina dropped a 2-1 decision at home to Basel, but overcoming a one-goal deficit away from home is not unheard of. They play Thursday at
All European matches are available for streaming on DAZN Canada.
On that note, C’mon Luton Town! C’mon You Reds! And DAJE ROMA!!!
[…] you need more motivation, check out a bit of the background at Luton Town Dreams Big. Or read this story about this DR Congo midfielder who has represented Luton Town every step of the […]