Meet­ing the Real LUTHER BLIS­SETT

STEPHEN ROBERTS re­calls the time he came face to face with one of his heroes – and the odd in­spi­ra­tion for hun­dreds of ac­tivists

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - Memories -

THERE are many peo­ple who mas­quer­ade as him, but as the ter­race re­frain goes, “There’s only one Luther Blis­sett” and it was my plea­sure to meet the gen­uine ar­ti­cle quite a few years ago.

It was Sun­day May 9, 1993. I was at­tend­ing the FA Tro­phy Fi­nal be­tween Run­corn and Wy­combe Wan­der­ers at the old Wem­b­ley Sta­dium. It was a fi­nal that Wy­combe would win hand­somely 4-1, to com­plete a Con­fer­ence and FA Tro­phy Fi­nal dou­ble, as they headed into the Foot­ball League for the first time un­der the ste­ward­ship of Martin O’Neill.

This was all very much a post­script though. For me, the main event had hap­pened be­fore the game when I caught sight of the un­mis­tak­able fig­ure of Luther Blis­sett. Well, hav­ing been a reg­u­lar at Dean Court, the home of AFC Bournemouth, he was un­mis­tak­able as far as I was con­cerned. Not only did I meet him, but I had my pic­ture taken with him too.

You may be won­der­ing, why get so ex­cited about this? Well, for many of us, Luther Blis­sett, or Luther Loide Blis­sett, to give him his full name is a bit of a cult fig­ure. Born in Fal­mouth, Ja­maica on Fe­bru­ary 1, 1958, Luther was to en­joy a foot­ball ca­reer that brought him a sack-full of goals, three stints at Watford, a spell in Italy, an Eng­land hat­trick and then the “Luther Blis­sett Project”, of which more later.

I re­mem­ber telling him that we were miss­ing his goals at Bournemouth, which was very true. He’d har­vested 56 goals in only 121 games for the south coast club, the best strike-rate that he achieved dur­ing his ca­reer, as Bournemouth briefly rode the crest of a wave in the old Sec­ond Di­vi­sion un­der Harry Red­knapp. Blis­sett left at the end of the 1990-91 sea­son though and it wasn’t long be­fore life be­came a strug­gle with­out him.

Luther scored on his Bournemouth de­but, grab­bing one goal in a 5-2 away de­feat at Barnsley on Satur­day Novem­ber 26, 1988. Three days later on a mis­er­ably wet Tues­day evening at Dean Court, Luther bagged four goals in a 5-1 thump­ing of Hull City. The first chants of “Loofer, Loofer” rang out around Dean Court and we had a phe­nom­e­non on our hands as our new No 11 contributed eight goals in his first five games.

There was an ex­cit­ing FA Cup fifth round tie to come later in the sea­son when Manch­ester United were held to a 1-1 draw at Dean Court and Blis­sett came per­ilously close to elim­i­nat­ing the First Di­vi­sion giants right at the death. We had caught Blis­sett to­wards the end of his ca­reer, yet he could still “cut it”.

He had made his name at Watford, where his prolific goalscor­ing helped a lit­tle known club rise from the Di­vi­sion Four to the First. In the process Luther set both club ap­pear­ance and scor­ing records.

Blis­sett’s prow­ess around the penalty area se­cured a big money move to Italy, when he signed for AC Mi­lan in 1983 for £1mil­lion. The “Ital­ian dream” didn’t work out though and find­ing goals hard to come by in the de­fen­sively-minded Ital­ian game, he re­turned to Watford the fol­low­ing year.

There were ru­mours that the Ital­ians had mis­taken Blis­sett for his Watford team-mate John Barnes.

When Luther pitched up at Bournemouth in 1988 to help the club’s Di­vi­sion Two ad­ven­ture, he scored at very nearly a goal ev­ery two games. Some­times he was mock­ingly lam­pooned as “Luther Mis­sit”, yet there was very lit­tle sign of this mis­fir­ing Luther at Dean Court.

Although he was born in Ja­maica, Luther played vir­tu­ally all of his foot­ball in this coun­try and he was to go on to make 14 ap­pear­ances for the se­nior Eng­land foot­ball team, scor­ing three goals.

Rather typ­i­cally of Luther, all th­ese goals came in one match. He was mak­ing his full de­but against Lux­em­bourg, hav­ing come on as a sub­sti­tute pre­vi­ously against West Ger­many.

In the process Blis­sett be­came the first

Blis­sett AC Mi­lan

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