Hatters legend Ricky Hill: A 5-5 draw between Luton and Leeds would be ideal!
Hatters legend Ricky Hill is hoping that his two beloved teams, Luton Town and Leeds United, share the spoils in a 5-5 draw at Kenilworth Road this weekend.
Despite being born in Paddington and spending 15-years with the Hatters, playing 508 times and scoring 65 goals, the 60-year-old has been a staunch Whites follower since a young age.
On just how it actually happened, Hill told the Luton News: “It came from just one vision.
“It was the FA Cup Final in 1964, Liverpool versus Leeds, on a black and white TV.
“I’m in Cricklewood and I’ve got my slightly older brother with me, and we’re waiting for the cup final.
“I loved football even though I was a kid, I didn’t know anything about it, but I just saw someone in the white kit that looked like me.
“It was a black player in a white kit, and I thought ‘that’s me.’
"So I said to my brother, ‘which team is that?’ And he told me it was Leeds, so I said ‘that’s my team.’”
On just who the player was that caught Hill’s attention, he continued: “It was Albert Johanneson, the South African left winger.
"From that vision and because I superimposed myself into that body, ‘that’s what I want to be, that’s what I want to do.’
"The Leeds team was fantastic when I was growing up at the age of nine, 10, 11, 12, winning the league, going to the European Cup Final, so I didn’t need to change, it was embedded in me.
“Then it went even more crazy when it was Leeds Rugby League team, I supported anything to do with Leeds, despite being born and raised in London.”
Johanneson went on to play over 150 times for the Whites, scoring almost 50 goals, before retiring from the game.
He sadly died in 1995, aged just 55, but Hill got to live out his dream of following in the winger’s footsteps during his lengthy stint at Kenilworth Road, once the Hatters swapped kits.
He said: “Funnily enough, they wore white up until I joined and then it was orange with the white and blue.
“That’s when I joined as a schoolboy, that was the kit I had when I got into the first team, the orange, with the white and blue stripe down the front of it.
“Then we went to white and blue with Bedford and everything else.”
Town meet Leeds United in a league fixture on Saturday for the first time since a 1-1 draw back in League One in January 2008.
Hill is torn on the outcome, saying: “A 5-5 draw would be ideal!
“I will try and get to that one, I haven’t seen Leeds play live for a number of years, because Luton were never playing Leeds in recent times.
“I played against them twice, and they beat us 4-1 at Elland Road and Tony Currie put on an exhibition in the League Cup in 1978.
“We beat them on our run to the cup final in 1989, 2-0 at Elland Road, so I have played there and won.”
Both sides go into the contest with hugely differing aims this season, Leeds hoping to return to the top flight for the first time since 2004, while Luton are aiming purely for survival.
Hill knows that has to be the goal, saying: “I think that’s got to be the plan for everyone connected to the club.
“I know we have nostalgic days and we always have those memories in the back of your mind, but there has to be a certain amount of realism.
“There’s so many big clubs in the Championship now, who have spent large amounts of money on players.
“I don’t subscribe necessarily to the theory that just because someone’s costs a lot of money that they’re better than anyone that hasn’t cost a lot of money.
“But it does give them an advantage of perhaps having a great depth of quality in the squad, being able to change frequently, if something’s not working and replace that with someone of a similar quality if not more.
“So those things are important factors. A clean bill of health for the squad would be ideal, finding the right personnel, a consistent side, where you know your best 11, that’s also important.
“Back in our time, the Championship was very competitive. It took us four years to get out of it, with what I consider to be a good side with quality players.
“Players that went on and played for England, and for other countries.
"Mal Donaghy won 90 caps for Northern Ireland, but we were still in the Championship for a number of years."
Although the squad in place doesn't quite have the stars from recent years in terms of a Brian Stein, Steve Foster or Mick Harford, Hill has been impressed by the playing personnel that has been brought in, saying: "I’ve seen Luton this year and a little bit last year, the philosophy that they try to play, the players are attune to trying to play a passing game.
“A build up from the back game, which is a modern phenomenon at this moment.
"I like (James) Collins up front, who leads the line very well.
“They’ve got some creative players in midfield with (Andrew) Shinnie and (Jacob) Butterfield when he plays, I do remember him from his earlier days and always thought he was a creative footballer.
"I think the nucleus of the squad is good, they do have a mixture of experience, coming down from the Premiership, along with the Championship.
"So it’s not as if it’s totally unknown to them at this level and hopefully they will grow through the season and maintain a high level of performance.”
Meanwhile, Hill, who is an ex-Luton manager as well as player, having taken charge for four months between July 2000 and November 2000, believes Town are in good hands with current boss Graeme Jones at the helm.
He added: "I was introduced to him the night against Middlesbrough, just in passing, he came into the boardroom to say hello before taking charge of the team.
"He seems to be a very level-headed person, understated in regards to his own importance.
"He comes across to me as someone who is supportive of the players more so than his personal PR campaign for himself, which I always like.
"There might be no right, there might be no wrong, but for me, a manager should always be semi-understated and let his team to do the talking for him and I do think he tries to do that."