Town great Hill recalls his first ever Hatters strike

Ricky Hill celebrates scoring one of his 58 goals for the Hatters
Ricky Hill celebrates scoring one of his 58 goals for the Hatters

It may have taken place well over 40 years ago, but legend Ricky Hill still remembers with perfect clarity scoring his first ever goal for the Hatters.

The date was April 19, 1976, the opponents Bristol Rovers, the ground Kenilworth Road.

Hill, then 17 years of age, was on the bench, the one substitute allowed in those days, entering the field of play during the second half.

His impact was immediate too, setting up Bryan Chambers for Town’s second, after Paul Price had opened the scoring for the hosts.

The stage was then set for Hill to net the first of his 65 goals in 508 games, as on what happened next, he said: “I’d been buoyed in terms of confidence as I managed to put a through ball in earlier on for Bryan Chambers who has done magnificently to flick it over the keeper and finish the through pass.

"So I’d created a goal, was feeling confident in myself, and I remember playing in midfield with Alan West.

"Alan had the ball and I sensed that Alan was going to make a forward pass, which he would always do.

"I see a lot of negative passing in this day and age, for me, that was never allowed as a Luton player.

"You would always try to play forward, as often as you could, without being reckless and giving it away.

"I thought it was an opportunity for Alan to pass forward and I can recognise that Jimmy Husband was going to be the recipient of the pass and I thought I will make a run off my man to see if I can get a one touch pass back from Jimmy.

"So Alan played it forward, I gambled and made a forward run, Jim laid it into my path, and it was kind of right hand side, going down to the Oak Road, outside of the box, probably two yards outside the box.

"The ball’s rolling across my body and I thought 'okay, I was taking in my stride pattern, this is okay to hit first time, I’ll be able to run across it and hit it with my left foot.'

"I struck it really well, I know the experts now would say he’s beaten the goalkeeper at his near post, but I think it caught him by surprise because of the distance and the velocity that I hit it with, and the trajectory.

"It didn’t touch the grass, but it didn’t get higher than two or three inches, I’ve caught it sweetly, the timing was perfect and then before the keeper realises, it’s gone into the near post.

"He’s not got a hand on it, it hasn’t gone through him, it’s just beaten him for pace.

"That’s the first goal, the crowd’s erupted, I just put my hand up as was my customary celebration generally, put my hand to the sky.

"I turned round and all my team-mates were jumping on me and going crazy.

"What I remember was thinking, I’m going to get part of the win bonus now!

"But I was an apprentice and apprentices weren’t allowed to get part of the win bonus, as we didn’t sign bonus forms.

"I remember having to do my jobs after which was to clean the bathrooms and clean the showers.”

That was how it was for Hill in those days too, as although he felt it was the ideal grounding for any young player trying to make a name for themselves.

He added: “The saying we used to have at Luton Town when I was an apprentice was, 'welcome to Luton Town, come and play football in your spare time.'

"We were doing everything other than playing football, getting the kits for players, helping sort the sand when it used to be brought down to Dick Wassall who was the groundsman then.

"It would be dumped outside the ground and we’d have to bring it in wheelbarrows, sieve it, take it on to the ground.

"We’d do the painting, the Kenilworth Road terrace on a Monday afternoon after Saturday games, I had to sweep that whole terrace on my own.

"It was a lot of menial kind of jobs as well as fitting in the training, but it was not a hardship, it gave us that discipline we needed.

"Danny Bergara was the youth team coach at the time, that was a great upbringing for me.”