Hatters Heroes

Luton – The Legends Series – Jimmy Ryan

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For the latest in our ongoing series covering those who have achieved legendary status among the support, we feature another former Luton figure who became a fans favourite.

Following on from those already covered – John Moore, David Preece, Mal Donaghy, Brian Lewis, Bruce Rioch, Fred Jardine, Brian Horton, Kevin Nicholls, Tony Read, Steve Foster, Mike Keen, Ian Buxton, Lars Elstrup, Peter Anderson, Graham French, Alan West, David Moss, Terry Branston, John Aston, Paul Futcher, John Ryan, Syd Owen, Marvin Johnson, Malcolm MacDonald, Bob Hatton, Steve Buckley,Chris Coyne, Ron Baynham, John Still, Jack Bannister, Ricky Hill, Chris Nicholl, Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu, Don Givens, Gordon Turner, Brian Stein, Jesse Pye, Raddy Antic, Joe Payne, Max Dougan, Alan Slough, Ray Whittaker, Dave Pacey, Milija Aleksic, Ron Davies, Sandy Davie John O’Rourke, Les Sealey, Bob Morton and Wally Shanks, Gordon Riddick, Billy Bingham, Herbert Moody, Adrian Alston, Reg Pearce and Keith Allen

The latest ex-Hatter to be granted status in our legends hall of fame is Jimmy Ryan as nominated by Peter Walker.

When it comes to footballers, who doesn’t love a winger.

Seeing a winger approach a defender, ball at his feet, always gets me excited, a bit of skilfull trickery, the defender left on his backside and a quick burst of space always gets a response from the crowd.

Jimmy Ryan was one winger who was perfectly capable of doing just such a thing.

Ryan came to Kenilworth Road, after beginning his career at Manchester United, who had noticed his considerable talent when he was spotted playing for Cowie Hearts.

He was signed at a time when transfer business with Manchester United was, almost, an every day occurrence, with the signings of John Aston and Don Given instantly springing to mind.

Despite having huge potential, Jimmy found it hard to establish himself, at Old Trafford, with the likes of George Best blocking his way into the first team, with the result that a move to Kenilworth Road, in 1970, was seen to be a plausible escape route. In fact the record books show that while at Manchester United, Jimmy only made 27 league apearances in five years.

Upon joining Luton Town, Jimmy was to go on to make 184 league appearances scoring on 21 occasions.

For me, his most exciting times with the Hatters came during the period whereby Luton Town had persuaded John Aston to also make the move south from Manchester United.

With Aston on one flank and Ryan on the other flank, often switching and sometimes drifting inside, Luton Town possessed a potent attacking option and one that was to trouble numerous opposing teams.

Ryan’s time at Kenilworth Road ended in 1976 when he left Luton Town to play in the North America Soccer League.

During his time in the USA, Ryan was to play for Dallas Tornado before switching to play for, in the Indoor League, Wichita Wings.

However, Ryan’s association with Luton Town was far from finished.

In 1990, Ryan returned to England and took charge of the Hatters reserve team, but after the sacking of Ray Harford, Ryan found himself promoted to manager. In his 18-month tenure as the boss, Ryan completed the remarkable feat of guiding the Hatters to safety, from relegation, on the last day of two consecutive seasons.

Sadly, Ryan was axed as the Luton Town manager in 1991 and replaced by one David Pleat.

Ryan wasn’t out of work long though, a month later his career turned full circle when a certain Sir Alex Ferguson appointed him as reserve team coach, at Manchester United. Ater several years in that role, he was promoted to coach the first team, a last appointment at Old Trafford, saw Jimmy appointed as the club’s Director of Youth Football, a position he filled until he announced his retirement in 2012.

Jimmy Ryan – Mini Fact File

Name – James Ryan

Date of Birth – 12-May-1945

Place of Birth – Stirling, Scotland

Position – Forward

Youth Career – Cowie Hearts, Manchester United

Playing Career – Manchester United, Luton Town, Dallas Tornado, Wichita Wings

Managerial Career – Luton Town, Manchester United (reserves), Manchester United (assistant)

If you feel able to share any of your thoughts or memories on the Hatters career of Jimmy Ryan, please feel free to do so in the comment facility beneath this article.

If you can think of anyone who deserves nominating for coverage in this ongoing series, please drop their name into the comment facility beneath this article.

My thanks go to those who have already nominated faces from the past, they will all be covered, in time.

Next up in the series will be George Cummins as suggested by Victor Crisp.


Previous article by Mad Hatter

Luton Town – Too Many Games Spoils The Broth Conundrum

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  • David Cook says:

    Remember Jimmy Ryan as the youth coach I played under. An excellent coach who was always really positive and encouraging to pass and play.

  • Terry Emm says:

    I remember selling Jimmy Ryan records when I worked at Record City in Bury Park. We used to supply the records that John Buttle the stadium anouncer at ‘The Kenny’ used to play.

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