From Japan to Kenilworth Road - An interview with Luton Town fan Kei
You may have noticed the announcer's shoutout at halftime during Boxing Day's 2-1 victory over Norwich City to a fan who had come all the way from Japan to watch the mighty Luton Town. This fan was Kei, who runs the Twitter account @hatters_japan. Kei kindly agreed to answer some questions from myself and other Oak Road Hatter contributors, about his experience watching Luton Town, what football is like in Japan and what it was like meeting club staff and legends.
How did you come to support Luton Town?
I originally came across the name Luton while researching Jack Wilshire because I liked him. (Jack Wilshire played one season in the youth team for us.) From there, I started to Google the club's history, players and stadium. I remember the team was in League Two at the time and it was the first year of the Nathan Jones era. It's been a fascinating journey, promotion to League One, Elliot Lee's goal, the Great Escape and last year's play-offs.
How do you feel about visiting Luton?
Great town, great people. Everyone was friendly and welcoming. The fried rice I had in the Mall was so delicious.
What did you think about Luton vs Norwich?
It's hard to put it into words. Rob Edwards said after the game that "I think this is what football can do for us! Sport, team sport, we all love our football." And I really do. Allan Campbell, my favourite at the club, scoring and then the goal coming late on, there's nothing to say, amazing. In this experience, the usual stats and analysis are unnecessary. Also, let's not forget Clark's pass to Woodrow for his goal. Without that, it would have been cleared by the Norwich defence. The lads deserve the biggest praise for their willingness to stretch their legs a few centimetres in the face of fatigue. Great mentality.
What was your impression of Kenilworth Road?
Amazing, great atmosphere. It's a shame for the locals that it was a night game, but for me it's great. Really great atmosphere. I felt the origin of football. Also, the hospitality of the staff is fantastic. Above all, the sense of unity of the fans is hard to replace.
Will you come to see Luton play in the future?
Absolutely. I'd love to move there, haha. I'm going to QPR and Huddersfield during this trip.
What is your prediction for Luton vs QPR?
2-0. As long as I'm in the UK, the magic will work.
How far can we go this season?
This season is chaotic. But we can go to play-offs and Wembley. If that happens, I'll come back for a night or two to see it.
Who is your favourite player?
Allan Campbell, even though he's only been with us for a few years.
What was it like meeting Mick Harford?
I was just so happy. He's a man who knows when the team is going through tough times and when it's going well. I felt a very warm era. I want to be involved with Luton Town for as long as he is.
What was it like meeting Gary Sweet?
It was a big surprise. I read his interviews without fail, but I had exactly the same impression of him from the interviews as when I met him. And he listened to me in a firm and friendly way. I think he has a process for running a club and his unwavering beliefs are what keep Luton going. He really is a wonderful person. It was also a real pleasure to meet Robert Stinger and David Wilkinson, courtesy of him. I never thought I would meet them.
What is it like being a Luton fan in Japan?
The Championship is slowly growing, but the Premier League is still very popular. But the number of fans is gradually increasing and there will definitely be more fans of this fascinating league and Luton in the near future, that's for sure. It would be interesting if in the near future we could organise a project such as a season's MVP sent by Japanese supporters. Anyway, I will work to increase the number of fans in the future.
What is local football like in Japan?
Tough question. The number of fans is growing, but it takes time for football as a culture to take root. Of course there are many core fans, but overall it is still more a part of entertainment than a part of life. Also, the level of media is surprisingly low. It's a pity that the level is so low and not serious enough. They should just love football.
What did you think of Japan at the World Cup?
It was great. They fought really well and impressed me. Many of the players in the national team have played in Europe and they have experienced if you don't stand out and score, you are out of the starting lineup and you can't lose duels. So they have the ability to shoot and score, and they were able to press Luka Modric all the time. What was really disappointing was that Yuta Nakayama, who plays for Huddersfield, was injured and couldn't play. He is a really good defender.
Once again, thank you to Kei for agreeing to this interview. Let's hope that his presence can secure us wins against QPR and Huddersfield.
By Samuel Roy