Spanish trip reveals big clues as pre-season steps up

It’s been a summer of unexpected hope, memorable moments and faith restoring football over in Russia so as the Cobblers prepare to hit the ground running ahead of the new season we can only hope that the good feeling continues into the league campaign. With just under three weeks to go until the big kick off (three weeks!) it’s time to turn our full attention once again to those players who’ll be looking to emulate the excellent progress made by the national team and carry the hopes of the next nine months.

Dean Austin has led the squad to Spain for a pre-season camp this week and his selection of those making the trip is sure to increase the speculation around the final destination of those on the fringes of their Sixfields careers.

The players left behind – Luke Coddington, Joe Iaciofano, Yaser Kasim and Billy Waters – will not only miss out on team bonding and a friendly taking place on Thursday but will also likely be doubting their places in Austin’s plans full stop. You could make a case for Coddington and Iaciofano staying to possibly arrange loan moves but this surely means the end for Kasim who has now failed to persuade three Town managers in the space of a year that he should be given a chance.

Waters is the case that causes the most interest. The former Cheltenham man, sent out on loan to Cambridge United last season, has been involved in all friendlies so far and could be forgiven for being disappointed to be left back in England, particularly after netting a couple in the 4-0 win over St. Albans City. Austin makes the case that he only wanted two players for each position on the trip but the fact that the travelling squad is littered with youth talent leaves you thinking that it won’t be long before Waters makes a permanent departure. In fact, there’s nothing to say that a move hasn’t already been lined up for him in the coming days.

Another not travelling is new striker Junior Morias, signed from The Posh last week. Morias is without a Visa and will stay behind to build up fitness here. Morias is the most eye opening piece of business by the club so far this summer and his promise that he “never gives a defender a minute’s piece” fits right into the ethos being created by the Cobblers boss. Morias was down the pecking order at London Road but it’s still looking like an excellent capture for League Two level.

With the central striking berths now all but sorted barring any departures, business should now turn to bringing in a replacement for Richard O’Donnell in goal and some extra creativity in central and wide midfield. We’ve appeared short in those areas in the pre-season games so far and it’s asking a lot for the likes of Morgan Roberts to come straight into consideration for what’s sure to be a tasty opening month back in League Two with all of the pressure and expectation that will contain.

But two or three more in the door before Lincoln’s visit would mean that Austin has completed his summer homework and we can all settle in for League Two hunting season. If we can kick off as we ended the last then we could yet be in for more stirring footballing moments to continue the national feeling through the dark autumn months.

Advertisements

Southgate and Austin give signs of hope at club and county level

You wouldn’t immediately draw comparisons between the man charged with creating the next piece of England football history, Gareth Southgate, and the man given the task of resetting a League Two outfit, Dean Austin (especially in their respective characters) but the last few weeks of World Cup build up has turned a lot of people on to what some probably knew all along with Southgate and what we and Austin can take on board in the coming months.

Southgate has changed many a mind over the months leading up to Russia and while his team still have plenty to do to match achievements of the past there’s been an evidential move towards the acceptance and joy in what he’s trying to do with his group of players. His idea of the collective over the individual, never evident more than in his dropping of Wayne Rooney (perhaps the final bastion of the latest superstar era) should be applauded not matter what the outcome of the knockout stages.

He’s insisted that everyone get a fair crack of the whip in his squad and wasn’t afraid of the bad press or questioning of his line up for the final group game against Belgium. Players have been given their World Cup moment that they may never get again thanks to the rotation and the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold in particular would surely have been revelling inside at lining up for a World Cup outing at the age of nineteen. Try telling him that this was a ‘second string.’

Southgate’s promoting of young players like Alexander-Arnold to the grandest stage came without a fanfare and instead arrived in a more in a matter-of-fact manner that appears to have given them the right balance between having the freedom to play and the knowledge and confidence that they are good enough and can own their place at the top table.

The way he’s conducted himself in the post Allardyce world of England management means that most of us are now looking back at Allardyce’s slip up as a blessing in disguise. Can any of us have imagined this World Cup creating as much buzz in the country with Big Sam at the helm? Would we have ever won a group game 6-1 under his watch? Highly doubtful.

We, as Cobblers fans, have seen these ideas come to life earlier this summer, albeit in a shorter and more intense period of time. But if you’re looking for comparisons for a burst of passion, a sudden ownership of identity and a logical and level headed leader then you can do worse than look at our very own management.

The return of Town’s players and staff this week reminded us of that extraordinary finale to the league season where the Cobblers were relegated but sent down fighting and Austin’s return to the spotlight is a welcome addition to the summer considering that England are still ploughing away over in Russia. It may not still be the case by the time we conclude the first friendly of the summer on Tuesday night around 45 minutes after the end of England’s clash with Columbia but we can, of course, dream of a larger cross over of club and country.

It only seems like yesterday that Austin sent his men out ‘hunting’ at Walsall but the early signs are that full time management hasn’t changed him a bit and that we’re in for one heck of a ride under his stewardship.

Just as Southgate has seemingly reinvigorated his England players, staff and fans, Austin has the ability and pride to do the same in the build-up to and start of the 2018/19 season that looms almost a month from now. The comparisons in the respective camps are numerous.

For Alexander-Arnold see the fearless nature of Shaun McWilliams entering the fray – eventually, after an inexplicable and infuriating spell out of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s plans – under Austin. No-one echoed the characteristics of his manager more than the midfielder who has every chance to become a major player in the Cobblers’ plans next season. There’s also the emergence of Morgan Roberts and Shaun Whaler, brought through in a similarly no-nonsense way by Austin and his excellent youth team staff as England’s young lions have been.

Just as Southgate has created a sense of calm authority, Austin re-enters the stage with similar ideals. While his nature is perhaps a bit grittier there are still signs of a similar steely authority to the England boss. Austin’s week has been spent putting his team through the pre-season rigors and there seems no sign of letting up from last season’s belief in his group of players.

And finally, Austin continues to be a fresh voice when conducting media and press duties. Nothing of the Austin of the caretaker manager era has been lost in the summer break and it sounds as if he’s been comping at the bit to get back at it.

Togetherness, drive, a focus on youth and a manager at the helm to be proud of and look up to – both England and Northampton Town seem in very good hands for the rigours to come.

For Sale: Reasonable prices, high quality workers

From: ntfctransfers@ntfc.co.uk

To: Allmanagers@leaguetwo.com; Allmanagers@leagueone.com; Allmanagers@indianpremierleague.com; jfh@jobcentre.com; gary.johnson@ctfc.com

 

Dear all,

Northampton Town are pleased to offer the following players for sale this summer after these wonderful talents of footballers worked wonders for the club last season. As we are now back in League Two, these top notch players are seen as too good to compete in the division so we have made the difficult decision to offer their services elsewhere at reasonable prices.

K. Van Veen – Striker – 27

This forward gives absolutely everything to the cause, haring around the pitch like anyone’s business and will not give up as long as there’s time on the clock. A former Helmond Sport protégé, Van Veen was inspirational in his efforts to keep The Cobblers in League One last season, scoring twenty goals (all disallowed so you’ll not hear about them anywhere else!) and creating moments of pure magic whenever he took to the field.

A bargain for anyone who needs an attacker with an eye for goal and someone with the energy to match a Duracell Bunny.

Y. Kasim – Midfield – 27

This high octane midfielder will give a balance to your midfield like you actually won’t believe. Don’t let his six appearances for the Cobblers last season fool you…those appearances included moments such as Kasim running the length of the pitch to make a challenge, a bicycle kick to create a goal, a through ball that would have made Jonjo Shelvey proud and a corner that had to be seen to be believed.

Kasim has bags of experience and will slot into any team with the greatest of ease. Please move quickly, other teams are looming.

D. Bowditch – Midfield/Striker – 32

What more can be said about Dean Bowditch’s career that hasn’t already been said? After bursting onto the scene at Ipswich Town, Bowditch has spent time on loan at teams from all corners of the land and even came through a spell where he was forced to spend six years playing for Milton Keynes Dons. THAT shows some character, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Bowditch can play in a number of positions across the pitch and even scored two goals while on loan at League Two Stevenage last season. Available at just £500,000 Bowditch is a snip in today’s inflated market and scouts from Manchester City have already been spotted in the bushes overlooking the Cobblers’ Moulton College training ground

J. Bunney – Somewhere on the left hand side – 24

TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE  (Available again summer 2019)

For all enquiries, please get in touch now. Prices quoted above are a guideline only and can be negotiated.

Impish start for Cobblers!

So it is indeed a home game for the Cobblers at the start of the 2018/19 season and what could possibly say “Welcome back to League Two” more than a visit from our old sparring buddies Lincoln City?! The Imps will bring good form from an excellent first season back in the Football League last term after they finished seventh in League Two and won the EFL Trophy. Despite losing in the playoff semi-finals to Exeter City they’ll be confident of pushing on again under the highly rated Danny Cowley.

The first month seems especially testing for Town with long haul trips to Carlisle and Morecambe as well as away games with Wycombe in the League Cup and Colchester in the league meaning that the mettle of Dean Austin’s men will be examined well in the early weeks.

Other games that jump out straight away are the games against Gary Johnson’s Cheltenham Town, as discussed yesterday, on September 8 (home) and March 23 away) as well as the clashes with MK Dons on October 20 (away) and December 29 (home). The first game of 2019 will see us visit Forest Green Rovers with the game earlier in the season (October 13) at Sixfields being the first ever league meeting between the sides – the only other clash between us came in a 3-0 win for the Cobblers in the FA Cup back in 2010.

Easter comes late in the season this time around with a double header against Macclesfield Town (home) and Bury (away) likely to be pivotal with only two league games left after that, at home to Yeovil Town and away at Oldham. It’s the reverse fixture of the final game of last season for us with that jaunt up to Boundary Park to close out the season.

So there it is and here is the full fixture list for your perusal. Let planning commence!

It’s fixtures time! So who are the ideal opposition for opening day?

We interrupt your World Cup shenanigans because…it’s that time again…rejoice, it’s fixtures day tomorrow! What better way to plan for the 2018/19 season then to spend hours pontificating to your work mate (who really couldn’t care less) about the perils of Oldham away on a Tuesday night in December?!

Of course with the small distraction of events in Russia, this year’s fixtures release has snuck up on us like a Shaun McWilliams tackle but all the better for it as the Cobblers prepare to learn the dates of key clashes in their bid to make a swift return to League One. So who should we be looking for as an ideal first opponent come the big kick off and who would provide the tougher assignments for Dean Austin’s first full hunting season?

The obvious choices to avoid are the teams just relegated with us from League One so that counts out Oldham Atheltic, Bury and MK Dons. We also want to dodge the two teams coming up – momentum will still be very much with both Tranmere Rovers and Conference National winners Macclesfield Town. You’d want to kick things off at home so that eliminates some testing long haul opening days at the likes of Carlisle United and Exeter City.

Those with a ‘new manager bounce’ should also be avoided so the aforementioned Exeter, Carlisle, MK Dons, Oldham and Macclesfield should, in theory at least, be better left to a mid-season encounter.

Now let’s take out the teams in the best form towards the end of last season that are left in the division – Crewe Alexandra and Grimsby Town both finished the campaign with three consecutive wins while Cambridge United and Notts County also finished well.

That leaves us with eleven possibilities so to narrow it down more we’ll discard Mansfield Town, Lincoln City, Swindon Town and Colchester United who haven’t been taken out already but are within the front runners with the bookies.

We’re looking for an opposition who will cause a bit of a stir by coming to Sixfields on the opening day but who also ended last season in poor form and who are down the list in the betting and any list of expectant title or promotion winners. There is, then, having taken all of the above into consideration, only one standout opponent and that is Cheltenham Town.

Gary Johnson left Sixfields under a mighty cloud having done next to nothing with the club, alienating fans and upsetting the majority of the fan base, and his Robins side ended the season with four straight defeats to leave them with an uncertain summer. Fans are divided as to whether they believe Johnson is the man to take them forward and what better way to kick off our return to League Two then to ‘welcome’ Johnson back to Sixfields and then send him on his merry way pointless?

When Carlisle away comes out tomorrow morning (9am fixtures announcement!) don’t blame me but we can only hope that things fall a little more invitingly.

It’s the first milestone of the summer in the Football League…bring it on!

The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: April and May

With six games to go and an overwhelming sense of doom hanging over the Cobblers, the season looked as lost as Terry Fenwick in a manager’s coat ahead of what was, on paper, a terrifying trip to London Road to face The Posh.

The damage to Jimmy Floyd’s Cobblers reign had been done many times over ahead of the derby and the fact that the eventual 2-0 defeat was seen as something of a relief to have not been hammered told you everything about the last few weeks. Hasselbaink had no way back and following a pre, during and post-match rant by previous derby hero Ian Sampson on BBC Radio Northampton it was confirmed that the Cobblers were indeed parting ways with the former Chelsea man.

Dean Austin was the man charged with salvaging something – anything – out of the season with relegation highly likely with five games to play. Austin had been mainly in the background as Jimmy’s assistant over the previous months and was really in a no lose scenario as caretaker boss until the end of the season.

Austin’s first game in charge stuck with the norm as Town succumbed to a disastrous 3-0 reverse at Blackpool and hope was fading fast that he could mastermind a complete change of fortunes.

But sometimes hope makes you suffer more than the reality as the Cobblers and Austin suddenly came to life, playing with a heart and a desire that had arguably not been seen since the League Two championship winning side.

First came three points at fellow strugglers Bury. Town took the lead through Ash Taylor before The Shakers, all but down before the game, levelled a few minutes later thanks to Peter Clarke’s close range goal. Sam Hoskins raced through for 2-1 but Danny Mayor looked to have put the hosts’ relegation on hold with Bury’s second equaliser. Taylor then majestically swooped like a woken starling to hammer in Dan Powell’s cross with two minutes to go for the Cobblers and that winning feeling had returned in dramatic style.

There were still a whole host of games in hand to be played but with the Cobblers three points from safety there was that glimmer of a chance that we could pull of what would have been a miraculous escape. Even more so after playoff chasing Plymouth Argyle came to town.

This would be the performance of the season and the one that may well have earned Austin the full time job. The Cobblers played with verve, hunger and passion and deservedly beat their high flying opponents in front of a Sixfields atmosphere to match. John-Joe O’Toole deflected the ball home just before the break before Sonny Bradley’s own goal made it two on the hour mark. Suddenly, with two of the three teams above us to play in the last two games there was something to fight for again.

It would, though, come to the cruellest of ends in true Cobblers style. The trip to Walsall, with a mass of claret humanity urging the side on, was one of THOSE games. Town hit the woodwork twice and had the ball cleared off the line before a frantic finale. Austin decided to go for broke and the home side sensed a chance at the other end as George Dobson steered the Saddlers towards their own safety and sent us to the very edge of the drop, now needing a huge goal swing against Oldham on the last day to survive.

Oldham still needed to match Rochdale’s result to survive themselves and looked well on course when George Edmundson struck early on. But a Matt Grimes penalty and an Ash Taylor scramble set nerves jangling in the away end. When Rochdale took their lead in their game against Charlton that became full on panic and even though the visitors levelled it wasn’t enough and the Cobblers had dragged them down to League Two with us.

It was an exhausting final few weeks but it was all given to us by Dean Austin bringing in a completely new way of playing, by instilling belief and fire into the players and really putting himself out in front in the running to become permanent boss. Yes it still resulted in relegation but the Cobblers fans had their club back, the players were united with us again and we could actually look forward ahead of a season back in League Two.

It came as no surprise, then, that Austin was named full time manager just after the seasons’ end and we can hopefully look forward to better things to come over the summer and into a challenging League Two campaign.

Twitter Said:

@chronsport “The Cobblers did not just beat Plymouth, they battered them. If 2-0 could ever be classed as a thrashing, this was it. Those in the away end may claim their side played poorly but the truth is they were made to look poor by a transformed Cobblers team.”

@James_ChronNTFC Tell you what, never mind the manager’s job. Dean Austin deserves a knighthood for getting a performance like *that* out of the Cobblers. Sensational. 2-0 flatters Plymouth.

@TomalinJames Cobblers essentially get relegated, and I get blocked on Twitter by the Shadow Home Secretary! #oneofthosedays

Moment of the Month:

The 2-0 win over Plymouth at Sixfields – superb on and off the pitch.

Player of the Month:

Ash Taylor summed up the newly found spirit in the camp. Sam Hoskins had an excellent month too.

Song for the Month:

 

The ‘A Load of Cobblers’ Alternative Review of the Season 2017/18: March

“Am I meant to be playing left back, Jimmy?”

After a two week mini winter break, it was on to the final furlong of the season as the Cobblers looked to hold on to their position just above the bottom four in League One.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had dipped into his Orange Pages just before the trip to Bristol Rovers to bring in fellow Dutchman and striker Kevin Luckassen, formerly of AZ Alkmaar, Ross County, Slovan Liberec and SKN St Polten (thanks Wikipedia!) to bolster the attacking ranks. His luck was indeed in as big Kev scored within moments of his debut by coming off the bench to nod in an equaliser at Bristol Rovers in a 1-1 draw to kick off March.

Playing at Sixfields was Hasselbaink’s worst enemy though after he’d come out and publically showed his anger at home fans booing after the 0-0 draw with Oxford United at the end of February. The murmurings were getting louder and louder after another dismal performance at home, this time against playoff bound Rotherham United who took a comfortable 3-0 win back to Yorkshire.

Better was to come on the Tuesday night with a good 1-1 draw with high flying Shrewsbury that was all going right at the break as Shay Facey put the Cobblers in front. But when John-Joe O’Toole and Abu Ogogo decided to bring some WWE skills into proceedings, earning them both an early bath, any flow was unsettled and Jon Nolan would earn his side a point.

A crucial trip to fellow strugglers Fleetwood Town was up next and it would prove to be a critical point in the season and in Hasselbaink’s reign. A poor performance, a 2-0 defeat and a long trudge home led to many believing that this was the beginning of the end for the season and for Jimmy.

Those thoughts were compounded in the final game of the month as Charlton Athletic won 4-0 at Sixfields in an afternoon stroll on Good Friday. With a trip to arch rivals Peterborough United up next, the gloom surrounding the club was palpable and it was, from here, only a matter of time before the Hasslebaink reign was, mercifully, brought to an end. With just six games to go and with Town back in the bottom four, the writing was very much on the wall.

Twitter Said:

@ian_townsend JFH is the only manager who makes unfathomable selections that not one cobblers fan would make he must be a genius we’ve not recognised it yet

@alan0015 Well that was a soggy and cold afternoon at Sixfields. Lost 0-4 to Charlton who were decent to be fair, but Cobblers looked clueless. #ntfc #goingdown

@TheRealCase Well, that was a bit of horror show by the Cobblers at Sixfields today. Rotherham were good, but Town allowed them so much time and space. Playing at home looks to have become a real problem for some of this team, and that does not bode well for their survival chances #ntfc

Moment of the Month:

Not a lot to go on so I’ll go with Luckassen’s first touch in a Cobblers shirt finding the next at The Mem.

Player of the Month:

Next…

Song for the Month:

Coming up: Bye bye Jimmy, hello Dean and relegation despite a renewal of hope.