It’s one of two big times of year in the football calendar when supporters, pundits and ‘experts’ make their predictions for the coming months. The start of the season is check point one with January typically the time for rejigged thoughts on the season based on the opening few months. So I thought I would take a (light hearted) look at what might (or might not) happen in 2013.
The transfer window sees David Cardoza take a dip into his wallet to bring Robbie Savage out of retirement thanks to his fine showing in the recent charity match at Sixfields. Following a review of the DVD of the same game, Adam Woddyatt (Ian Beale) is also offered a contract until the end of the season. Moving in the opposite direction is Lewis Wilson, who is sent to look after the market stall for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, Bayo Akinfenwa is signed to a new deal at Sixfields with a three year contract and a book of Nando’s vouchers.
On the pitch, the Cobblers continue their impressive home form with victories over Chesterfield and Burton whilst draws are picked up at Chesterfield and Aldershot, where Luke Guttridge scores a hat-trick against his former club in a game that ends 3-3.
The first match of the month sees a trip to Rotherham abandoned because Steve Evans “doesn’t like the look of the referee” meaning that the Cobblers are handed an automatic 3-0 victory and Rotherham are deducted 10 points thanks to Evans’ actions and their supporters’ subsequent protests on the pitch. Town move above the Millers in the table but Evans insists that his side will still finish above Northampton.
A fine 5-0 thumping of Rochdale features a second hat-trick of the season for Bayo Akinfenwa and lifts the Cobblers into the top three but there’s a set back at Southend as the Shrimpers re-sign Adam Barrett for one game only to head in the only goal of a 1-0 win. Two more home games follow, though, and the fortress stands firm, putting us in fine form going into the final couple of months of the season.
En route to Exeter, the Cobblers team coach is stopped by a lunatic in a tracksuit who has ran into the motorway. Luckily the individual is fine and only wanted a lift to St. James’ Park. After getting him onto the coach, the Town squad are stunned to find that it’s Alistair Slowe who is holding a letter from his Dad that got him a trial with the Cobblers’ opponents for the day. Unfortunately, on arrival Slowe realises that he’s at the wrong St. James’ Park and that his father intended for him to be helping out Newcastle’s fledgling campaign.
The Cobblers earn a solid 2-2 draw in that one and in a busy month pick up enough points to remain in the top three. Highlights include a win at Morecambe, who have replaced Jim Bentley with Dennis Wise “just for the headlines of Morecambe and Wise”. Wise lasts just four games in charge.
With five games to go, the Cobblers are on the brink on automatic promotion with just six points needed to earn promotion. One of those is earned at Cheltenham but there’s a set back at Bradford as the Bantams win for the first time since their stunning League Cup final victory to send the Town natives home as nervous as ever. A home game with York City ends in a 1-1 draw ahead of a last away game at Port Vale.
All is going to plan at Vale Park with Bayo’s early goal putting us to within touching distance of the points target but John McCombe heads in a stoppage time equaliser to keep his own side’s hopes alive. That means it’s down to a final game of the season at home to Barnet who have been through their own drama. Gillingham’s dramatic fall from the top of the table sees them sack Martin Allen with one game to go and suddenly Edgar Davids mysteriously disappears from Underhill with Barnet two points from safety going into the final game. Surprisingly enough, Martin Allen turns up back at Barnet and leads his new club into the big clash at Sixfields.
With the Cobblers needing all three points to earn promotion and Barnet desperate to avoid the drop again it’s a tense encounter but the deadlock is broken with twenty minutes to go thanks to Clive Platt’s amazing overhead kick. Platt goes on to clinch a hat-trick in a 3-0 win that gives the Cobblers promotion. Despite some still berating Platt for not scoring five, there’s a mass pitch invasion with Bayo mobbed by hoards of fans and Barnet supporters crying into their Bovril. That is until they hear some shocking news – Wrexham, winners of the Conference, have fielded an ineligible player in their final game and have been stripped of their crown meaning that Barnet have somehow survived yet again. The ineligible player was suspiciously named Alistair Low.
Rotherham end up in 15th place in League Two but Steve Evans still thinks that his side will finish above Northampton.
On Bank Holiday Monday, there’s a street party in Northampton town centre with the Cobblers squad on an open top bus riding around town. The bus stops for a quick break outside Nandos where free chicken is thrown to the squad before it moves on to the market square to be greeted by thousands more fans and a special concert featuring Badly Drawn Boy and the ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ winners Ashleigh and Pudsey. Pudsey gets a little too excited and jumps up to bite Nana on the knee, forcing him out of action for another four months.
Elsewhere, Liverpool stun Europe by winning the Europa League thanks to a stunning run and finished from 19-year-old Henoc Mukendi who had been drafted in to replace Luis Suarez at the last minute.
The Cobblers squad take a well-earned break and then return for a pre-season tour of Sweden where they come up against Helsingborgs who have just assigned Sven Goran Eriksson as manager. Sven makes a cheeky bid for Bayo after the game but it’s quickly rebuffed by Aidy Boothroyd who instead offers him Tim Flowers on loan for the season.
Back in England, Boothroyd gets to work in the transfer market and swoops for Nigerian midfielder Ayo Saka from Ocean Boys , forming an attacking trio of Bayo, Moyo and Ayo. A similar bid for Spaniard Ruben Royo fails.
Pre-season continues on English soil with a trip to Kettering Town who have relocated to Peterborough greyhound track for the 2013/14 season. Half way through the pre-season friendly, the rabbit used for the races is accidently shot out of its trap and hits Ben Tozer as he lines up for one of his traditional throw ins. Tozer is put on the shelf for three months, forcing Bayo to seriously worry about his goals tally for the coming campaign.
Boothroyd is another to start to panic and orders a reality TV show to be made to find the “Next big throw in taker” where he will audition thousands of players from across the country to try and find someone to fill Tozer’s boots. The winner is 39-year-old Roy Hunter who signs a loan deal from Teesside Athletic to join the club with whom he won promotion to League One in 1997.
The League One campaign kicks off with the expected amount of fireworks as the Cobblers begin against Gary Johnson’s Yeovil Town. The Cobblers go two down at Huish Park and Johnson starts dancing on the touchline and gesturing towards the Town fans who have been berating him all afternoon. But a tremendous second half recovery sees the Cobblers turn the game completely on its head to lead 4-2. For the final ten minutes Johnson hides in his dugout, sending new assistant Dave Lee out to take the flak from the home fans instead. After the game, Johnson leaves the stadium straight away and sends a text to last season’s top scorer James Hayter that he’ll be transfer listed immediately.
It’s a good start to League One football for the Cobblers who win twice more in August to sit in the top half of the table. In the League Cup there’s a fine win over Rotherham United at the New York Stadium with Steve Evan’s reaction being that his side will “progress further than Northampton” in the cup.
It’s a strange month for Town who draw every single league game and go out of the League Cup on penalties to Bradford City at Valley Parade. One of these league draws is a good one, however, as it comes at recently relegated Leeds United who were docked 15 points for going into administration at the end of the previous season.
The one everyone’s been waiting for takes place in October as the Cobblers make the trip to London Road to meet relegated Peterborough United in the derby. Before the game, Ben Tozer returns to Peterborough greyhound track to have a photo shaking hands with the rabbit that took him out in pre-season. Tozer makes his return to action against the Posh that afternoon and replaces Roy Hunter in the side to launch a 60 yard throw in that sets up Bayo for his first goal of the season to send the 4,000 strong travelling support wild. The Cobblers seal a memorable win when Boro’s summer signing Sean St. Ledger slips and lets in Ayo Saka for his first goal in the claret shirt.
That victory kicks the season well and truly into gear as Town win three out of four in the month to move into a playoff place.
The FA Cup pairs the Cobblers with AFC Rushden and Diamonds, now managed by former Rushden and Diamonds player Onandi Lowe. After a comfortable 7-0 success for Town, Lowe quits the club and disappears from England completely. The goals come from Bayo (2), Carlisle, Langmead, Hunter and recent loan signing Billy McKay (2).
The cup is a distraction for the Cobblers, however and the only other victory in the month of November is a 2-1 win against Barnet, now managed by former Cobblers hero Ray Van Dulleman. On the way to that game at Underhill, Jake Robinson tweets about the state of the M25 and is harshly sent on loan to AFC Rushden and Diamonds to think about what he had done.
As winter sets in, form returns to the Cobblers and a home game against MK Dons ends with a 3-1 victory thanks to three diving headers from Akinfenwa from Tozer throw ins. That’s followed by an excellent 2-0 win at Preston North End where special guest Neil Grayson is on commentary for Cobblers World. The momentum is halted by a postponement at Notts County due to wart hogs on the pitch but Boxing Day sees us pick up a third win on the bounce at home to Leyton Orient.
The final game of the calendar year takes us to Doncaster Rovers (via Worksop) and one fan is stunned to find the doctors coat he threw up in joy upon Mark Hughes scoring in 2007 under the same seat. The result is the same as on that day, 2-2, and Town end 2013 happily placed in fifth place in League One.