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Tim Breacker talks memorable matches and the family feeling at Kenilworth Road

Described as a fast and strong full back who loved to overlap and create opportunities, Tim Breacker was the sort of team player that every club needs on their books.


Tim Breacker playing for Luton Town FC
Tim Breacker spent eight years with the Hatters.

He never stopped running in a Luton shirt, and is possibly best-known for his mammoth contribution in the 1987/88 season, where the Hatters achieved a ninth-place finish in the top flight, won the Littlewoods Cup, and reached the FA Cup semi final and Simod Cup final. He played all 56 games that season, with the FA Cup final being the only other match he could have possibly been involved in if the Town had made it there.


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Ever modest, Breacker said: “I know it’s an old cliché but as a footballer, you do go from one game to the next and before you know it, you’ve played all these games. I do remember a match at the very end of the season, I think it was Nottingham Forest away, and in the warm up, I felt like I had already played. My legs were tired and I just couldn't get going.


“That was in the days of no hydration - hydration probably meant a couple of pints afterwards!”

There was no real scientific approach that you get now, you just went out, played a game, then played again and again. But it was an amazing season, even if it was a shame we missed out on the FA Cup.” 


Les Sealey, Tim Breacker and Rob Johnson in the Luton Town changing room
All smiles from (L-R) Les Sealey, Tim Breacker and Rob Johnson after gaining three points.

It wasn’t meant to be in the FA Cup for Luton, narrowly missing out on a day at Wembley after losing 2-0 against Wimbledon’s Crazy Gang in the semi final at White Hart Lane.


Tim continued: “It doesn't sink in until the final is on and Wimbledon are there against Liverpool and you’re just filled with disappointment that it should have been us. Obviously, by then we had won the Littlewoods Cup which helped, but you can’t help but think about the what ifs.”


Luton fans at White Hart Lane in 1988
Luton fans travelled in their numbers to White Hart Lane in an FA Cup semi final to forget.

Luckily, Tim and the team did bring home silverware during that season in the Littlewoods Cup final. The defender can still remember the moment that Brian Stein notched the winner in stoppage time to beat Arsenal 3-2 on that historic day.


“You get little memories and flashbacks,” he said. “But one of my biggest memories of the day was when we scored the winning goal. I was right next to Mal Donaghy on the halfway line and the ref came back towards us as we were celebrating. We were thinking we need to shut up shop, so we said to the ref, ‘how long?’, and he replied, ‘that's it’. 


“We looked at each other in disbelief. I think it was a couple of seconds later that he blew the final whistle.”

“All I was thinking when the third goal went in was, 'we've got to defend this’. But it wasn’t until the full time whistle that I thought about what we had actually achieved.”


Luton team celebrating at Wembley after winning the Littlewoods Cup in 1988
The former defender (left next to flag) celebrates with his team mates after winning the Littlewoods Cup at Wembley.

“Back then you never got to Wembley unless you played for England really, other than getting to the Simod Cup final which didn’t go well, I had only ever been to Wembley as a fan. We had nothing to lose because we were underdogs. We just wanted to enjoy the day out and obviously it went well for us.


“We knew we had confidence in ourselves that if we had the chance, we could beat anybody on our day.”


A frightening night at Kenilworth Road


Breacker admits that when Hatters' fans would pack out Kenilworth Road for a big match, the “atmosphere was electric'' to play in front of.


“It’s just a small, tight ground which makes it intimidating for other teams to come and play,” he said. “I’ve always felt that it was a great atmosphere to play in, obviously if you were not playing well they would let you know, but that’s football. I had some great, great games there.”


Tim Breacker taking on Mitchell Thomas at Kenilworth Road
The defender loved playing in front of a full house at Kenilworth Road.

However, one match which stands out for the wrong reasons was Luton’s FA Cup quarter final versus Millwall in March 1985. Hooliganism was rife, and Tim recalls that eventful night which even saw Luton goalkeeper Les Sealey discover something shocking in his penalty box.


“It was a surreal day," he said. “It was horrendous, but it was the quarter final of the FA Cup so it was a massive game. We always stayed in hotels before a match, and there were stories coming through to us that Luton was already being smashed up during the day. 


Football hooligan gets arrested at Kenilworth Road match between Luton and Millwall
Fans stormed the pitch and police battled with hooligans to restore order at Kenilworth Road.

“We were saying to our families not to come to the match, and we didn't even know if it was going ahead. Then we heard stories that the game had to go ahead because that was the only way that the police could get the hooligans in one place so they could sort them out. They were storming the pitch before the game, and even in the dressing room, we weren't sure if we would play the match.


“When Les Sealey was down at their end of the pitch, I remember him calling the ref over and he literally passed him a big, long dagger that somebody had launched onto the pitch. We were thinking ‘what is going on?’, it was just crazy.”

“I can vividly remember Mitchell Thomas trying to take a throw in, but he couldn’t get close to the touch line as the police were already on the pitch. He backed himself up to the back of the police, so he was already 2-3 yards on the pitch, and the ref was just waving play on. 


“When the full time whistle went, we just sprinted to get off. Historically, I don’t know of any other hooliganism cases anywhere in the country that were as bad as that day. From start to finish, the whole day isn’t a great memory but you have to look back and think well, we won and we got through.” 


Thunderbolts and last day survival


It wasn’t just cup finals that Breacker would experience during his time in Bedfordshire. The defender also lived through a few dog fights at the wrong end of the table, most notably in his final season with the club, when a win away at Derby County in 1990 could see the team safe in the top flight for another season. 


During the first half, the Hatters were awarded a free kick 30 yards from the target. Tim, despite not being able to feel his foot due to an ongoing injury, decided he was going to strike it and test the former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton standing in his way. The rest is history. 


Watch Breacker's amazing strike which helped Luton avoid relegation...


He said: “I had hurt my foot underneath my big toe on Boxing Day that season, and the only way I could play was to have an injection in my toe. In those days, sometimes we had the doctor with us and sometimes we didn't. For home games there was no problem as the doctor put the injection in my toe and I could play. 


“Anyway, on this day, I don't think he was there. So Derby’s doctor gave me the injection and my foot was still completely numb. It was like when you go to the dentist for a tooth out and you can't feel anything.


“David Preece was standing over the ball, and I remember saying to him, 'you know what Preecey, I fancy this'. He just knocked it to the side, I hit it and it just flew in - but it could have gone anywhere!”

The Town went on to win 3-2, with Breacker scoring that first half stunner, followed by a brace from Kingsley Black, which ensured top flight survival for another season.


Tim continued “It was an unbelievable day because we weren’t expecting to stay up. We had a great run towards the end of the season - the great escape if you like. Even on that last day, we still needed Nottingham Forest to beat Sheffield Wednesday and they did so it was all ifs and buts. 


The team congratulate Breacker after opening the scoring with a wonder strike against Derby County in 1990.

“We were dead and buried. We beat Crystal Palace at home, then we thought we might still have a chance, so I've got great memories and it really was like winning another cup final in some ways. 


“Jimmy Ryan was the manager at the time and I remember him saying to us, 'if you pull this off, you will never forget it'. I'll never forget that feeling we had amongst the group - backs to the wall and huge pressure. That pressure is far, far greater than it is at the other end of the table because there is so much more for you to lose. But we had a great team spirit and a good party on the way back.”


“It’s a family feeling”


Tim began his Luton career as a 15-year-old apprentice, but quickly slotted into a first team spot after making his debut away at Ipswich Town at the age of 18 under David Pleat. It was his upbringing around the club that Tim looks back on as possibly one of the main reasons that he succeeded in the professional game.


He said: “It’s the family feeling of the club. From George Rogers the kit man, through to Jim McCabe the coach driver, there were all these people who had been there for donkey’s years who helped you through.


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“There’s probably still people there now from my time, and because we trained at the ground, it made it better because you were mixing with everyone at the club and talking to them on a day to day basis. They would always be encouraging you if things weren’t going right so it always just felt like one big family. 


“I went to Luton from school and moved into digs so it was a big thing for me at the time, but the people there couldn’t have helped me more - I was very lucky. The senior pros looked out for me, as did my youth team manager Joe Moore and many others. It’s a family atmosphere and I’m sure it still has that feeling at the club now.”


Tim Breacker scoring a goal against Oxford United
Tim Breacker scores against Oxford United in 1987 to restore the Hatters' lead in a 5-2 win at The Manor Ground.

Breacker says he was lucky to be brought into an environment where everyone pulled together for the good of the team, and that being able to work with the senior pros from a young age only helped his progression.


He continued: “I was lucky to be around the team that got promoted to Division One in the early 80s as an apprentice. David Moss, Mick Saxby and Mark Aizlewood were the three senior players that I looked after as their boot boy. 


“I would clear snow off the pitch, sort out the players’ bits, be responsible for their boots, make sure they had everything they needed, and they would be making sure that I wasn’t getting too big for my boots, so it was great to mix with those pros.


Tim Breacker takes on Arsenal's Tony Adams
The full back leaves Arsenal's Tony Adams in his wake.

“There were some unbelievable characters in the dressing room like Brian Horton, Ricky Hill, Mal Donaghy, Brian Stein and many more. You were just in awe of them, and the fact that you were allowed to be around the dressing room and making the tea for them. I loved every minute of it. 


“You can pick up more from those senior pros than any coach or manager can tell you. Ricky Hill was an unbelievable player and an even better person. He might give you a little tip about something, or have a little word in your ear, and it was so powerful, especially as he made it look so easy on the pitch. But you learn it’s not that easy, a lot of mental and physical preparation goes into it.”


Saying goodbye


Keeping Luton up at the end of the 1989/90 season was to be Tim’s final contribution to the club, leaving early the following season to join West Ham United. In his words, the defender “gave everything” to do his best for the badge, and only left Luton with one regret.


He said: “My one nightmare that I have is that I never scored at Kenilworth Road. I can still picture this time against Wimbledon when we were playing on the plastic pitch. The ball came over and I remember putting my leg up quite high to control it.


I was about to put it in, and as my foot came down, my legs crossed over and I fell on the floor in front of an open goal. I've never seen a picture of it, but it's just in my memory that I never got to score at Kenilworth Road.”


Hatters’ fans will forgive that miss, even if it still irritates the former defender to this day. Breacker was a true professional, and although he may not appear in the goal scoring record books, or appear at the top of the all-time Luton greats, no one can dispute the immense contribution he made in arguably some of the most successful years for Luton Town Football Club. 


He said: “I enjoyed my time there immensely and hopefully that came over to the supporters and the players I played with. I gave everything I had to try and do my best, and if I didn’t play my best, it wasn’t for a lack of trying. I always worked on my game and tried my very best to be a good professional and a good person.”


We don’t think anyone can argue with that. 

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