The weeks of speculation, drama and frustration are over – Northampton Town have a new manager as Chris Wilder was appointed today on a three and half year contract following a weekend of confusing statements and mystery as to just what was going on after Oxford’s 1-0 home win over Torquay United. Wilder stayed in his post at the Kassam Stadium just long enough to do us a favour and take three points from one of our rivals but no-one seemed to know just what was actually happening after the final whistle.
The Cobblers had just been beaten for the third time in a row at home against Chesterfield despite taking an early lead but ultimately it was the events off the pitch that were the prime focus come 5pm. It was probably best – at a rain sodden Sixfields Town were well beaten by the Spireites and it was another game that once again highlighted the job that Wilder has put himself in for.
Reports came out of Oxford that Wilder had said his goodbyes and resigned at around 6pm on Saturday but then out of nowhere came a statement that he actually hadn’t officially gone just yet. I’m assuming legal talk halted the move initially but on Sunday night it was 100% confirmed when we agreed a compensation package with the U’s and were given permission to talk to him.
It brings to an end a process that’s been far too long but now it’s time to finally look forward and focus on keeping our Football League status. Wilder has one heck of a job on his hands with the transfer window closing on Friday evening and for once it’s looking like a very, very busy end to the window for the Cobblers. Players clearly need to go and there just has to be a core group of players coming in that can attempt to turn this disastrous league season around. We’re not the greatest of lures for potential signings but anyone who does help towards what would be a magnificent escape will forever receive idol status with the long suffering Town fans.
Wilder himself has pedigree and I don’t understand a lot of the complaints already from some of the claret faithful. His style of play has come into question from both Oxford and Cobblers fans but if we’re in a position of 22nd or above come May then I really don’t care if we win every game 1-0 with our only shot on goal through a goal mouth scramble. The objective is safety and I’ve said before that League Two isn’t about fancy football unless you’re running away with the league. And when did we last have a manager who promoted free flowing football at this level?
To appoint a manager who took Halifax to the Conference playoff final during a successful period at the Shay and then brought Oxford back into the Football League via the playoffs is a wise move and his record at League Two is above average. He will have gained a shed load of experience over the last few seasons and, crucially, know the division and what it takes to win games in it.
The big questions now all surround who Wilder can find to spearhead his bid to enter himself into Cobblers folklore by keeping us in the league. The length of the contract is something that really stands out as well and it’s pretty clear that if the worst does happen then Wilder will be the man charged with getting us back to the league.
The road ahead is a shuddering one but now we finally have direction and full time leadership we have to put all our energies as supporters into getting behind our club and playing our part as well.
It’s been a long, long month – now comes three and a half months that will define the future of our football club.
A note for Andy King…
In the midst of all this drama, Andy King has had to keep the Cobblers running with no real personal incentive attached. King comes across as a good guy and though results haven’t all gone his way he was in a position where he had little to no hope of putting his own mark on the team. By the end of his tenure in charge, King’s exhausted state reflected how most of us felt and you have to give him some credit for even staying sane during this whole process.
I’m not sure where he goes from here but in a month where everything seemed to be falling apart around him King has kept an air of dignity about him and that’s to his huge credit. Hopefully he manages to stay in the game in some capacity because you could tell that the passion is still there – all the best to King in the future.
The assistant…welcome Alan Knill
Joining Wilder at the club is his new assistant Alan Knill. It’s a role reversal of the pair’s time at Bury when Knill was in charge with Wilder as his assistant so there’s clearly plenty of trust there. Knill’s management career began at Rotherham United before he moved to Bury in arguably his most successful role, taking the Shakers to the brink of promotion from League Two. He joined Scunthorpe United in 2011 but only lasted a year and was appointed Torquay United’s interim boss in 2013 following the illness of Martin Ling.
When Ling left the Devon club in the summer, Knill was given the job full time but a poor first half of this season saw him sacked just after Aidy Boothroyd was shown the door at Sixfields. He should also bring a good amount of experience to the club and hopefully what a successful partnership in the past will be rekindled here. Welcome Alan!