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Alec Chamberlain at Luton

Alec Chamberlain at Luton

Alec Chamberlain at Luton


It's possibly not a part of his career that too many Watford fans might want to dwell on, but for four seasons - between 1988 and 1993 - Alec was Number One at Luton Town.

Ray Harford was then the manager of a team who'd finished sixth in the table the year they signed Alec from Everton, initially as cover for Les Sealey.

As before, Alec served his time in the reserves for much of his first season. And though Sealey was a talented goalkeeper, you always felt Alec's chance would arrive sooner rather than later. Indeed, Alec almost made his debut in that season's League Cup Final. We'll let Alec explain:-

"Les and the gaffer had a massive argument in the dressing room - in front of all the lads - the week before we were due to play Nottingham Forest at Wembley. Things were said: Les - God rest his soul - was a volatile character and never a shrinking violet in the dressing room and I really thought Ray Harford was about to tell him he was dropped.

"I must admit, the thought of where our next game was wasn't lost on me, so I was an interested observer to the argument, but maybe Ray thought better of chucking me in at the deep end, and Les duly took his place at Wembley...but the following weekend I was in the team!"

And that's where Alec stayed - with the exception of a brief spell out of favour under David Pleat - until he left for Sunderland in 1993. So much so, that Sealey left that summer for Manchester United as cover for Jim Leighton, and ended up getting himself an FA Cup, European Cup Winners Cup and a League Cup winners medal in a remarkable three year stay.

But back to Alec. Ray Harford left Luton, to be replaced by Jim Ryan, and in Alec's first season the team were tottering on the brink of relegation throughout - until the final day, when Alec played a blinder at Derby County; Luton won away for the first time that season, and against all the odds, stayed up. Alec was named Player of the Year!

The following season Luton struggled again, but stayed up, ironically, beating Derby again on the last day of the season, this time at home. Again, Alec was given much credit for their survival.

But the year after that, under David Pleat, relegation finally caught up with them, though they stayed in Division One - the year Luton got relegated the Premiership was launched! The following season wasn't Alec's most memorable - he lost his place in the team, was loaned to Chelsea, and though he returned to Luton, and first team action, he had already come to the conclusion his future was away from Kenilworth Road.

Not surprisingly, Alec's performances were catching the attention of other managers - and at the end of the season he was persuaded to uproot, and move Up North. The expanding Chamberlain's - baby Natasha was born in August 1992 - were heading for Sunderland!

Written by Peter Jones, of the PR consultancy Red Alert Media.

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