League Cup Final of the Day: Luton Town vs Arsenal, 1988
The 1980s were a busy decade for Luton Town. Promoted into the First Division in 1982, the club had installed an artificial playing surface, banned away supporters and stabilised as a top flight club, and in 1988 they added some silverware to their list of achievements by surprisingly lifting the League Cup after a thrilling final at Wembley against the favourites, Arsenal. They had beaten Wigan Athletic, Coventry City, Ipswich Town, Bradford City and Oxford United to get that far in the first place.
Arsenal, meanwhile, were just showing signings of emerging from the shadows after a the best part of a decade in the wilderness. Although the club had made the League Cup its first trophy in eight seasons a year earlier against Liverpool, the club had not seriously challenged for the league title for more than a decade whilst Liverpool had swept all before them. A second successive League Cup win would prove a point, it was felt at the time, though history would go on to record that it bounced back from this match quite effectively, winning the league title on the last day of the 1988/89 season at Anfield against Liverpool. They’d beaten Doncaster Rovers, Bournemouth, Stoke City, Sheffield Wednesday and Everton to make it to Wembley.
There would be no reward beyond prestige for Luton Town after winning this match. The ongoing ban on English clubs playing in European competition meant that the UEFA Cup that would ordinarily have come with winning the League Cup was useless. And Luton Town would come to miss out on the formation of the Premier League as well, finding themselves relegated from the First Division at the end of the 1991/92 season. All that, however, was the future on that spring day in 1988 as the club lifted its first major trophy. Commentary comes from Brian Moore.
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