Kirk Stephens: Magical Raddy Antic will be forever immortalised at Luton after last-day winner

Former Luton right back pays glowing tribute to Serbian international

By Mike Simmonds
Thursday, 14th May 2020, 10:48 am
Updated Thursday, 14th May 2020, 11:00 am
Kirk Stephens, number 2, celebrates Luton's match-winning strike from Raddy Antic
Kirk Stephens, number 2, celebrates Luton's match-winning strike from Raddy Antic

Former Luton defender Kirk Stephens believes match-winner Raddy Antic has been quite rightly ‘immortalised’ at Luton Town after his stunning goal at Manchester City ensured the Hatters stayed in Division One on the final day of the 1982-83 season, 37 years ago today.

With just four minutes to go at Maine Road, and Luton needing a win to stay in the top flight, it was Antic, sent on by manager David Pleat in the second half, who proved to be the hero, rifling home from the edge of the box to ensure Town emerged 1-0 victors, sending their hosts down instead.

Stephens, who was the Hatters’ first choice right back at the time, revealed that Antic, who sadly passed away last month from pancreatitis at the age of 71, backed his own ability to hit the net, despite the magnitude of the situation.

Speaking exclusively to the Luton News, on what Antic said to him after the game, he said: “‘Basher, the gaffer said to me, Raddy please go on and score,’ so I do as I'm told, I do as I'm told.

“He could strike a ball brilliantly, he's hit the ball and hit the back of the net and the rest is history.

“It’s like when you see your first kid born it’s really, really emotional.

“It just meant so much to so many, the step up (to Division One) and that goal, he’s immortalised at Luton is Raddy.

“We played some good football and we had a couple of chances, they had one or two chances, but they didn't take them and bless him, rest in peace now Raddy, he came on and smashed one in.

“It took a slight deflection off Tommy Caton.

"Raddy whacked it and Tommy Caton just gets his head to it, he’s (keeper Alex Williams) diving for it and he just clips it, hardly anything, but just enough to take it over the keeper’s hand and hit the back of the net and then Raddy gets flattened.”

Antic arrived at Kenilworth Road in 1980 after spells for sides including Real Zaragoza and Fenerbache, playing an important role as Town reached the top flight in the 1981-82 campaign.

He was used by Pleat mainly from the bench in Town's top-slight season, with 13 of his 24 appearances coming as a substitute, as he featured 108 times in total for Luton scoring 10 goals during his four years with the club, although none could match the importance of the effort at Maine Road.

Stephens couldn’t speak highly enough of the talent that the Serbian, who went on to manage both Barcelona and Real Madrid, plus Serbia, had in his boots during his time with the Hatters.

He added: "He was a terrific footballer, he was way above the game, he could have played in today’s game.

“He had the most fantastic ability to do a disguise pass, he was magical.

“He would be about to ping it with his right foot, but all of a sudden ping it with his left foot, to Ricky Hill on the right wing.

“His disguise of passing, his little one-two’s and his ball control, his actual technique was as good as Luton Town have ever seen, I can’t praise him highly enough.

“I don't know if his work-rate was as good as the gaffer wanted, but you've got to remember, we had Lil Fuccillo in midfield, Brian Horton, Ricky Hill, Wayne Turner, so we had some good players.

“Raddy was more of a sweeper position and we very rarely played a sweeper, we always played the four at the back, so it was difficult for the gaffer.

“But Raddy, bless him, was a gentleman out and out. He was one of these guys that always had time for people and a proper, proper man."