“My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.” (General Montgomery)
It’s getting ever more apparent that the Cobblers are severely lacking in the leadership department since Kelvin Langmead’s injury ruled him out of the start of this shaky season. The captain, who pulled us out some gigantic results last season and was a presence like no other on the pitch was sorely missed at Wembley in the big game environment and his absence so far has left a gaping hole in the back four.
Not only has there been sloppy goals, confused starting formations and poor marking (leaving poor old Matt Duke, the player of the season so far, stranded) but a general lack of cohesion in the middle of the park isn’t helping. Technically, and on paper, we should have enough to compete at a decent level with the players we have but the problem is that, despite the obvious experience of some, no-one is picking up the mantle of leader.
It’s all very well Ian Morris being voted in as stand in captain at the start of the season when it was realised that Langers was set to miss three months but surely there lies a problem in itself that no-one grabbed the armband and put it on themselves.
In any successful team there’s not just one man to rely on in terms of a captain. When you look back on past glories you could have identified at least three or four candidates for the Cobblers skipper should the original pick be out of action. Take my usual example of best practice, the 1997 playoff squad. Ray Warburton was the man to lift the trophy as captain but had he been taken off injured then the arm band would have seamlessly moved on to the likes of Ian Sampson, Ian Clarkson, John Frain, David Rennie, Sean Parrish, Roy Hunter, Neil Grayson, John Gayle or even goalkeeper Andy Woodman. The only player starting who I wouldn’t have given it to was Christian Lee and that’s only because he was a young gun. Even substitute Dean Peer would have done a job.
If we move on to the promotion season of 2000, Sammo is captain himself but again you see endless leaders in waiting with the likes of Frain, Parrish, James Hunt, Dave Savage and Ian Hendon all decent replacements to lead the side. In 2006, Lee Harper, Luke Chambers, Hunt, Chris Doig, Martin Smith, Ian Taylor and Scott McGleish could all have laid claims to the position.
At the moment it feels like we just need people to come out of their shells and fight for the captaincy. It concerns me that there wasn’t a clamour for the arm band and the characteristics of leaders aren’t coming out on the pitch. We have plenty of players who have been around a long time but that’s not necessarily an attribute that leads itself to being a captain or someone who’s going to set the example and raise the standard for everyone else.
It also comes back to the manager himself with Aidy Boothroyd needing to transfer his own passion and determination into the players when they walk over that white line on a Saturday afternoon. He can do nothing to make the quality better in the players he has but what he can do is form a team that is mentally strong and who battle for one another.
That’s what we need right now…it’s not flashy moments of quality, it’s players willing to put themselves on the line and show the dwindling crowds that even if they are to lose a game they’re going down fighting. That often speaks louder than someone beating three players in one move and then drifting for the rest of the game.
We need our fight back and we need it on Saturday when Morecambe lie in wait for a Cobblers side who have to send out a message to concerned fans that we’re ready to hit back and get out of this position. For the supporters, we have to do the same. Don’t sit back and wait for something to moan about…stand up, be counted and show the players that you’re willing to do exactly the same as you want them to do.
Lead from the stands and that can inspire this team to better themselves. We’re only just getting going with this season so let’s not dismiss it just yet.
You are absolutely right on supporters needing to be involved. I am currently living in East London and have seen Leyton Orient four times and with a squad that is fairly unremarkable for League One, they are top. I put that down to the players playing well together, the confidence the manager instils in them and the fans. Attendance wise, Leyton Orient is similar to Northampton but the fans create a very good atmosphere. It does pain me to say it but whenever I go to Sixfields its like going to a library for mutes and we need to start doing what Orient fans do at home.
Spot on identifying the leadership issue. The interesting link between teams of the past having numerous candidates was that they were all strong characters with personality, and there lies the problem. I don’t believe we have players with character or outstanding personality as this individualism has been pushed out of the club in favour of a ‘team’ ethic. Remains to be seen if it works or not. Jury out.