Luton great Mick Harford has welcomed greater regulation in football, with his club’s journey from the Conference to Championship promotion contenders showing just what can be achieved on the pitch with careful governance off it.
The Hatters – who reached the play-off semi-finals last season under former boss Nathan Jones – head into this weekend’s fixtures sitting sixth in the table, with Rob Edwards’ side above the likes of Watford, Norwich and West Brom.
It has been a remarkable rise for the Bedfordshire club, who dropped out of the Football League in 2009 following a 30 points deduction for financial irregularities under previous ownership.
After a five-year exile, Luton worked their way back up the pyramid, with former striker Harford stepping in for another stint as manager to help finish the promotion push to the 2018-19 League One title following Jones’ departure to Stoke.
Harford, part of the Hatters’ team which won the 1988 League Cup and who is now Town’s chief recruitment officer, believes after everything the club have been through that maintaining long-term stability will now always remain a core value.
“We are having a great season and it has been a good run for us at the moment, but we need to stay consistent,” said Harford, who is supporting Prostate Cancer UK’s new Prostate FC campaign as he continues to receive treatment for the disease.
“It has been seamless here since Rob (Edwards) came in when Nathan left (for Southampton) and he has done a great job.
“The club and the team are in a good place. We feel we are strong enough to compete at the top of the league, but we must keep it up.”
Harford told the PA news agency: “This club has achieved a lot of things down the years, winning trophies then having coming back from being in the Conference and to now be in the top six of the Championship.
“It is a magnificent achievement, but to achieve the dream of Luton getting into the Premier League would be the biggest story in the history of this club.”
The Government White Paper on football governance was published on Thursday.
It will act on a recommendation from the 2021 fan-led review for an independent football regulator, which will oversee a licensing system to ensure clubs are run sustainably following the collapse of Bury and Macclesfield in recent years.
“There is nothing worse than seeing clubs like Bury go out of business, the legacy of a great football club (lost). It is terrible,” Harford said.
“All we can do here at Luton as a club is do our work. We do self-regulate ourselves in terms of budgets and player salaries.
“But for the goodness of the game (as a whole), I do believe there should be some kind of regulation brought in so that clubs do not get into trouble.
“The support from fans is immense here, from what they have been through.”
Harford was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December 2020, and following a course of radiotherapy continues to receive hormone treatment.
The 64-year-old is calling on football fans to join Prostate FC, helping to raise awareness of the risk factors, fund research and save lives in every club across the UK.
“As a footballer, you think you are invincible at times, that you are never going to be diagnosed with such a disease. It was a real body blow for me, but you have to deal with it,” said Harford, who won two England caps and also had spells at Birmingham, Derby, Chelsea and Wimbledon before moving into coaching.
“By signing for Prostate FC and supporting the work of Prostate Cancer UK, it is an opportunity to raise awareness and get the word out there throughout the game.
“If we can just help one person get the cancer detected before it spreads, then we have done our job.”
Luton’s head matchday hospitality host Les Turton was also diagnosed with prostate cancer, undergoing successful surgery.
“Mick was our star centre-forward. He would run through a brick wall for you, but you would never have thought that he would have prostate cancer,” Turton said. “It is only once you have had it that you realise prostate cancer can strike at any walk of life.
“It is really important to catch it early, which I did, and I would urge anyone with concerns to take the 30-second risk checker on the Prostate Cancer UK website.”
:: Prostate FC is the biggest team in football taking on the most common cancer in men. Find out how you can help save men’s lives and join Mick and Les at Prostate FC by visiting prostatecanceruk.org/prostatefc
Published: 24/02/2023 by Radio NewsHub