Kingsley Black: It was a privilege to play with my heroes at Kenilworth Road

Kingsley Black swings over a cross as Luton beat Arsenal 3-2 in the Littlewoods Cup Final
Kingsley Black swings over a cross as Luton beat Arsenal 3-2 in the Littlewoods Cup Final

Former Town star Kingsley Black described it as a 'privilege' to play with his heroes at Kenilworth Road during his time with the Hatters.

After coming through the ranks at Luton, aged just 19, Black was handed his first team debut at QPR in September 1987, with Luton losing the Division One encounter at Loftus Road 2-0.

He stayed in the team for the 1-1 draw against Wimbledon, going on to play 13 times that campaign, finally forcing his way in towards the end of the season.

It was no mean feat either, with Luton having a team packed full of stars in those days, finishing ninth in the top flight, while they also won the Littlewoods Cup Final beating Arsenal 3-2, Black playing a full part that day too.

He said: “It was fantastic.

“I had the pleasure in the early days, when I was maybe the youngest player in the side, myself and David Oldfield came through.

"I was playing with Steve Foster, Mal (Donaghy), Mick (Harford), Brian (Stein) and Ricky (Hill), David Preece, senior pros really who had lots had lots of experience.

“So it was a pleasure and a privilege to play alongside that group of players and add to that I was a hometown player, so these were sorts of heroes for me.

“I’d been watching them for a number of years, and you find yourself alongside them, so there were some amazing memories."

Black opened his account for Town the following year, scoring in the 2-2 draw against Wimbledon at Kenilworth Road.

He went on to net nine goals that season and 31 in total during his 156 outings, including notching at some of the biggest grounds in the country, including Anfield, Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge.

The midfielder continued: “That’s who were were playing against, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, Arsenal.

“That was many years ago now, but I think fondly remembered by Luton fans of that age, and they are lovely memories.”

One of Black’s best moments in a Town shirt came at the Baseball Ground, home of Derby County back in May 1990.

Then with Luton needing to win and Sheffield Wednesday needing against Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough for the Hatters to stay, they did so with a 3-2 triumph, Black himself scoring twice, including what proved to be the winner, as Hatters avoided relegation on goal difference.

It led to an interesting meeting between the Hatters and Owls players in the close season, as he said: “There were a few changes as some of the senior boys moved on and you find yourself in a position of more responsibility.

"That Derby game when we were fighting to stay up, Wednesday had to lose that day if you remember.

“Going into that game, us to win away and them to lose at home, you wouldn’t be putting too much money on it.

"But both scenarios happened, Sheffield Wednesday unfortunately were relegated that day and fortunately for us we stayed up.

"The funny thing was, we both found ourselves in Marbella, unbeknown to each team and we ended up there at the very same time for a two or three day end of season trip.

"For the two teams to end up a week later in the same place for two or three days, I don’t know if that was good planning or not!"

Black, who also won 30 caps for Northern Ireland during his career, is still close to a number of players from his Hatters days, particularly striker Mick Harford, who is now the club's head of recruitment and also led Town to the Championship last season as interim manager.

He said: "Mick’s a personal friend, so I every now and again I congratulate him, just text and I bump into him very often anyway.

"We’re old friends really, I'll always send him a message saying, 'well done today Mick,' and it was great as he got some good results, kept the team going forward, so that was fantastic what we achieved last year."

With Luton now back in the second tier and hosting Black's old club Nottingham Forest this weekend, they are finally crossing swords with the kind of sides that the midfielder was used to coming up against on regular basis during his playing time.

It seemed a long way off just a decade ago when the club were stuck in the Conference after being relegated from the Football League, so Black is thrilled to see them back where they belong.

He added: "It was just a tough league, no real margin of error and wasn't easy to get promoted.

“Sometimes playing at Kenilworth Road for a lot of teams was a cup final, so they maybe hadn’t had the chance to play somewhere like that with the history of that ground and the club, so teams do raise their game.

"The biggest thing I remember from that was all the Luton fans got behind the team when they needed them the most and that was the start.

"I know its difficult to get out of the Conference, but certainly the fans played their part in turning up, supporting and getting behind the team."