It’s been a summer of uncertainty for The Cobblers so far – one that started just days after the final whistle was blown and the last bus on the celebration parade turned off its engine. Chris Wilder’s departure can only, at this point, be seen as the catalyst for what’s been a concerning pattern of key players deciding that their own futures also lay elsewhere.
Ricky Holmes was always going to be the most high profile negotiator and once the mercurial winger had put his cards on the table and handed in a transfer request there was no stopping him making the move to Charlton Athletic. Coming after Danny Rose joined Portsmouth and Nicky Adams also dropped back to League Two with Carlisle United, it meant that three big components of the team spirit forged by the outgoing Wilder gave Rob Page his first headaches since joining the club.
You have to feel sympathy for the tough job that Page now faces so soon after making a leap of faith by leaving relative comfort at Port Vale for Sixfields. But the rebuilding has begun and while new signings haven’t been ‘household names’ there’s plenty of reasoning behind each new addition that means we should have a great shout of at least a season of consolidation back in League One.
Alex Revell, while never a 20-goal-a-season striker, brings huge experience and knowhow of this level and beyond while Gabriel Zakuani will do the same at the other end of the pitch. Admittedly I don’t know a lot about Jak McCourt or Raheem Hanley – both in their early twenties – but both appear to be squad players who’ll look to give competition to the established first team that are left of the championship winning side.
David Cornell rounds off the summer incomings so far with the keeper joining from Oldham Athletic. Ryan Clarke’s departure was perhaps the least damaging to Page’s plans and the instant swoop for Cornell tidied that problem up pretty quickly. He’ll need to do a lot to dislodge Adam Smith of course, a man who gives us hope (as long as he stays) that our rear guard will be in good shape come the start of festivities in August.
The season will kick off against Fleetwood Town at Sixfields on August 6 and without meaning any disrespect to the Cod Army you couldn’t have asked for much better a start to the season than a home game against a side who just survived the drop last season. It remains to be seen where each side will be at come that day but it should be an opener to at least give us a bit of hope for a positive start to what could be a challenging season. Looking down the fixtures list makes you realise just how big a step up this could be but with the right replacements for Holmes, Adams and the like there’s no reason why we can’t compete.
The holes that remain, from what I can see, is a rough and ready central midfield leader who’ll ruffle feathers in the middle of the park and compete with John-Joe and Joel Byrom, a couple of high quality wingers and a younger striker with a proven record of goal getting at this level. The latter is something that, of course, every League One side will be looking for but could well be the difference of a few league places. Rico and Revell will knock in a good number but both may struggle to complete the full season.
There’s still plenty of time to form the team that will hopefully establish the Cobblers back as a competitive force in League One and the contracts up and down the country that end today should mean a bit more movement in the transfer market. Watch this space, and keep that faith!