So here we go again. After the post World Cup lull and the no nonsense and kind of drifting pre-season that saw the Cobblers in an unusually comfortable and sorted out position in terms of getting the right squad together we’re here on the edge of the 2014-15 season.
The first few months of this season will see Sixfields move past the first stages of redevelopment and celebrate its twentieth birthday – where all that time’s gone I have no idea! Whether we can pass these milestones with a progressive team on the pitch remains to be seen but there’s far more concreteness and positivity about the place than in the post Wembley dreariness of twelve months ago.
Matt Duke has suddenly been challenged by new loan signing Jordan Archer for the goalkeeper’s jersey but to me it says more about Chris Wilder’s thoughts on the current progress of Dean Snedker than anything else. It would be foolish to put him in to the key position and firing line if he’s not ready so a loan spell is much more sensible. Chris Dunn never really recovered from being thrust into the headlights when he came straight in to replace Mark Bunn so it could be a good thing in the long term for the current young stopper.
Defensively – barring another Kelvin Langmead set back – we’re well set with centre backs while it’s looking pretty certain that Chris Wilder will be going with the wing back system that served him well at the back end of last season with Evan Horwood and Danny Alfei likely to get the nods on either side.
Midfield is an interesting one. Darren Carter and Ricky Ravenhill’s partnership in the centre should stick but with the attacking wide intent from Chris Hackett and Kaid Mohammed as well as the key ‘goals from midfield’ machine that we hope John-Joe O’Toole to be there won’t be room for everyone. That does give us flexible options though and as games progress and flash points change the flow of them we’re guaranteed some quality on the bench.
Up top there’s the returning and experienced Marc Richards favourite to lead the line and Ivan Toney looking to continue the incredible impact he had in the last two games of last season. Emile Sinclair will be desperate for a change in his favour with the Town faithful but only hard work and, ultimately, goals will start to change opinion on his usefulness.
Alex Nicholls has been inspirational in his fight back from injury and may still be the best of wild cards to our forward options. Anyone who’s drifting along and not battling for their place will do well to look at Nicholls’ fight back and willingness to get back into the side as a motivator.
Overall we’re not looking too bad at all. The squad is finally at a point where there’s quality rather than quantity – something that’s been promised for years and while there will be obvious questions asked once injuries and suspensions come into play there should be enough there to challenge at least for a place in the top half.
Wilder is a good organiser and I’ve said for a few years now that if you have an organised side you’ll stand a good chance at the top seven in this division. The Cobblers have been at this level now for a good enough number of years for us to realise we’re here for a reason and only hard work, a bit of guile and solidarity in the camp will give us that platform to try and exit the league at the right end.
Let’s, as fans, also be realistic and good to one another. In the midst of the relegation battle at the end of last season, Wycombe fans were brilliant at keeping things relaxed and welcoming us as football friends rather than fierce enemies. It all sounds idealistic and airy fairy I know but there’s frankly too much crap going on in the world right now to be seeing opposition football fans as a sworn enemy.
Let’s enjoy the ride – we’ll be taken through the mill once again but that’s what keeps us coming back year after year even when some of us threaten to throw in the towel at the end of some seasons. Enjoy supporting your football team, enjoy the highs, enjoy the pub debates, enjoy the hours of analysis back at home and enjoy this wonderful nine months that we can’t get enough of.
There’s only one Northampton Town Football Club and they’re about to send us all into that whirlwind we call the football season once again. Deep breaths now…