On November 30th 2011, Aidy Boothroyd was assigned perhaps the toughest task of his managerial career to date – to revive a club that were on the brink of disaster and who faced the very real prospect of relegation to the Blue Square Conference. The Cobblers were in complete disarray following Gary Johnson’s spectacular mismanagement and had too many players on the books that simply weren’t good enough or passionate enough to compete at League Two level.
Boothroyd now sits in place, one year on, able to look back on a job well done. Not only has the deadwood been taken care of but we are now watching a team that has real prospects at the other end of the division. Young players are coming through and being handed a chance, goals are flying in all over the place and there’s been a few individuals reinvigorated by the new boss.
The former Watford man’s first job was to get through the January transfer window with a squad able to at least hold its own in League Two. Three defeats in his opening four games was inevitable as Boothroyd tried to make the most of what he had but performances were at least gradually improving. The transfer window saw Clarke Carlisle come in to bring steel and much needed experience at the back, Ben Harding sign a full contract and Luke Guttridge re-sign at Sixfields.
There was still immense work to be done, though, and at the end of February Town were still deep in trouble. But suddenly there was resurgence and Boothroyd got his results, particularly getting it right at Sixfields on some vital Tuesday nights and scraping past Dagenham away. Somehow we were out of trouble before the end of the season and the job was now on to complete the transformation of the club.
The manager had a busy summer with seven new permanent acquisitions and the sale of Michael Jacobs as well as a whole host of others being released. The start to the season was inconsistent but then things really started to pick up with three wins in a row preceding last weekend’s defeat at Oxford.
So how’s he done? To me, Boothroyd has been fantastic. In his approach, manner, tactics and honesty he’s exactly what Gary Johnson wasn’t. Loan signings haven’t been made on a whim and to fill gaps – instead they’ve been well thought out and timely. A leader has been made in Kelvin Langmead which is something we thought we would never say, Bayo Akinfenwa is back to his very best and the likes of Lewis Hornby and Louis Moult have broken into the first team under his stewardship.
Boothroyd has taken charge of47 league matches, winning 16 or 34% to put it another way. It’s not massive but considering the resources he’s had to work with I reckon that’s a decent return. We’ll be looking for more from year two of his reign but what’s been more important than statistics in these last twelve months has been the growth of the club, the improvement of individuals and the optimism of supporters in general.
It’s been a long, hard twelve months for Boothroyd but there’s plenty to be positive about as he begins year two, starting tomorrow…