So Gary Johnson has departed Sixfields as last night’s rumours became reality this morning with the former Bristol City, Yeovil and Peterborough manager leaving the club by mutual consent.
I have to be honest and say that when Johnson was appointed I was one of those that were getting excited about the future. His previous successes meant that he was the best man for the job, on paper at least. But after thirty four games in charge yielded just seven victories David Cardoza has finally ran out of patience.
Back in March when Sammo was sacked I was pretty devastated and remember finding it so difficult to write about the departure of a man loved by the club and who loved us just as much back. The run of draws and the one defeat that ended his long association with the club was harsh and had we turned a couple of those stale mates into victories it’s likely that he would have at least last until the end of the season.
But after a time of mourning, as such, came a bright light. The man we didn’t think we could get or afford, Gary Johnson, came in to seemingly lift the spirits of the club once again. His first interviews were bubbly and full of the humorous charms we had seen in him during his spells with other Football League clubs. We were on to something, it appeared.
But a first victory didn’t come until the penultimate game of last season and it was one that kept us in the league, a 2-0 win over Stevenage at Sixfields. That, combined with a final day win at Morecambe glossed over a terrible start to Johnson’s tenure that had seen the Cobblers lose five and draw six of his first eleven games.
The summer brought us a fresh glimmer of hope. With popular players, most of which were Sammo’s signings, being told their future lied elsewhere there was a massive rebuilding job to be done. It began with Bayo’s return, through Jake Robinson’s ‘marquee’ signing and on to Arron Davies creating more excitement about the season ahead.
A 2-1 Carling Cup victory at Ipswich was the highlight of another disappointing start to a season with three points at Aldershot followed by a barren run of three defeats and two draws in the next five games. During that time came the shady transfer of Shaun Harrad, one of the better players at the club. Harrad had been injured for the start of the season but his return was looked at as a chance to kick start the campaign. Whatever happened behind the scenes was clearly the reason for Harrad’s deadline move to Bury and Johnson was left with just the loan market to play with.
Johnson had to do something to change the fans’ opinions of him but instead chose to sit on the bench and not go out into the technical area during games. If he was trying to endear himself to the public once again it wasn’t the best way to go about it and there were even rumours that he had handed in his resignation at half-time at one point!
The circus continued with the recent transfer listing of TEN players including the popular Jake Robinson. That made you think that Johnson was being given time to sort things out and that he might well get another transfer window to do more dealings. A harsh 4-3 defeat at Gillingham changed some minds as to the spirit in the squad but a first round cup exit at Luton on Saturday was the final straw and Johnson was sent on his way.
I’m left to reflect on another managerial exit and this time there’s nowhere near as much sadness as there was in March when Sammo said his goodbyes to the club. Johnson never got to grips with appealing to the public of Northampton. His stubborn manner did little to connect with us and, quite possibly, his playing squad. I do feel for a man who was once so close to managing in the top flight and wonder where he goes next on his footballing journey.
As for the Cobblers, David Lee and Andy Holt take charge for now but I see no need to list a group of potential candidates here as I’ve previously done on managerial changes. Johnson, as I said before, was top of the list last time out. His record spoke volumes and you can lay no blame on the chairman for the appointment.
What we need now is someone to bring the supporters back to the club, literally and figuratively. The connection has been lost and while there will be a lot of people who come to Sixfields no matter what there’s still an element who were put off by Johnson’s regime. The new man for the job has to, in my opinion, know what Northampton Town is all about, know our history and be a figure with whom we can relate.
Despite Johnson’s reign coming to an abrupt end with no signs of a massive pay out there’s still likely to be less splashing out by the Cardoza’s in January. Time will tell whether that’s even needed with the likes of Robinson getting a second chance here. There’s also a question of Ryan Gilligan, out on loan at Newport County, who can still play a part in any new bosses’ plans. Tadhg Purcell will be licking his lips at having another bite of the bullet at Sixfields and he also gets a chance to do that.
Ironically, the next game comes against the side who were Johnson’s first opponents back in March – Shrewsbury Town. Perhaps the timing is just right with the club publicising a Family Day at Sixfields for the fixture. It’s time to look forwards once again and get behind the players that make up the team we love.
Time to once again, move onwards and upwards as we try to save another season!