Blades calling for Wilder – what now for Cobblers?

wilderAfter talks broke down with Charlton Athletic on Monday, Chris Wilder’s head was immediately turned in a northern direction and today the man who led the Cobblers to the League Two title has agreed terms with his boyhood club Sheffield United. The Blades, who will be one of the strong favourites for promotion to the Championship from League One next season, acted quickly on sacking Nigel Adkins and Wilder signed a three year deal this afternoon.

It puts the Cobblers back in a sticky situation ahead of a summer that could now be disrupted in terms of players following Wilder out of the Sixfields door. Kelvin Thomas does, though, seem to want it all resolved as soon as possible so that planning can begin right away for what’s a hugely important first season back in League One.

I’m pretty torn on feelings towards Wilder at this stage. What he’s done for this club is nigh on miraculous having picked us up from the brink of relegation, steadied the ship and then come through this incredible season as champions. His dedication to the club over the last year can’t be questioned in the slightest and there will always be a fond memory of his and Alan Knill’s time in charge. But at the back of my mind there’s a small niggle at him not following the job on having made so many bold statements of team spirit and togetherness. In time I think the latter feeling will fade as we reflect on how we made it to winning the title but all may depend on how strong the follow up regime kicks in. He’ll be forgiven a lot more by Town fans, I’m sure, if the next in line to the top job takes us on that next step further.

That ambition isn’t necessarily unfounded – there’s plenty of history of upwardly mobile clubs continuing on their trajectory after a manager leaves for pastures new having built something successful and with the right leader in place now there’s no reason why we can’t hold onto this special atmosphere. The new manager has a lot to do to hold onto that but in his favour is the long deals for key players put in place by Wilder, meaning that the bulk of the squad is at least tied down for another year.

As for who that new man is, well, names are already being bandied about by bookmakers and here’s the first set of odds:

Out of those, Steve Cotterill’s name stands out immediately to me. He’s got bags of experience, plenty of character and his last shot at League One ended with him delivering Bristol City’s first league title for sixty years alongside a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win in the same season. Cotterill would be one with a long list of contacts and his knowledge of the football league makes him a prime candidate.

Another on that list to perk the interest is Chris Powell, another to boast of a League One title having won the division with Charlton in 2012 whilst the likes of Gary Bowyer and Uwe Rosler might be looking to continue to cut their teeth in top jobs.

Whoever comes out on top in the race for the Town job, there’s plenty for them to get stuck into and at least gives us a big story to follow over the next few weeks!

Thanks do have to go to Chris Wilder and Alan Knill for all of their work, no matter what the circumstance of their departure. They were the lynchpins of the club during a crisis and took us to an unbelievable title. Now it’s time to move on as yet another new chapter in the story of our beloved club begins…

Oh go on then, one more for the road…

After the lord mayor’s show come crucial questions…

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This glorious, unbelievable, wonderful season is over. A campaign that saw Northampton Town Football Club dragged to hell and back ends with a points haul of 99 points, an unbeaten run of 24 games and a highlight reel that will be replayed for generations to come.

The celebrations and outpouring of emotions came to a head on Sunday when the town came out in force to welcome its heroes on the open top bus parade and if ever you need to be reminded what this football club means to its town then look no further than the feelings expressed over the past few months and in the scenes in the town centre on Sunday. Players, staff and officials were rightly given heroes welcomes in a fitting finale with victory at Portsmouth on the final day the icing on the cake before the party could begin.

But as the dust settled, Monday saw disturbing news that could threaten to halt the momentum of promotion and the championship win. Chris Wilder and Alan Knill have been approached by Charlton Athletic and Kelvin Thomas contractually had to agree to the pair going to London for talks in a twist that not many would have seen coming.

Wilder and Knill, of course, have every right to go and talk to Charlton with both of them at a stage in their career where chances to manage at a club with such a pedigree at a minimum. But with the Addicks’ problems well documented is there really a whole lot of difference between the two clubs going into the 2016/17 season? I understand the history, the recent heights that Charlton have been playing at and the fact that theoretically they’ll be amongst the favourites for League One next season if they sort their off the pitch problems out but this still seems a little bit of an odd one to me. The momentum that the Cobblers have surely can’t be matched by many teams at the start of next season should the squad remain together and I’d argue that at this point in time we’re a much more stable place to be than at The Valley.

Things can change though and perhaps promises are being made to the duo that this is a bright new start for Charlton rather than the continuation of a downward spiral. If the powers that be manage to persuade Wilder and Knill to move then we could be facing not only the loss of the management team that have been the pillars of this incredible season but also that loss of the togetherness that they spoke of so often in the last few months.

There surely has to be part of them that wants to finish this job, whatever that entails, with a crack at League One. If they do move then there’s a massive chance that the job becomes a completely different one and the place instantly becomes restless. Will the players that were led so defiantly by Wilder up sticks as well for pastures new? Not necessarily following him to Charlton but looking elsewhere now that the heads of the operation have been taken off? Whoever would come in as replacements would face a massive task of keeping that spirit alive and convincing the key figures to hang around and really have a go with the group that fought tooth and nail together to earn promotion in the first place.

It’s all ifs and buts at the moment but it’s a situation that could put a bit of a downer on the celebrations and lead to a summer of uncertainty. The season may be only just over but we’ve certainly wasted no time in creating headlines within days of the final whistle!

Michael Appleton created a headline of his own on Saturday when he ridiculously claimed that his Oxford United side were the best in League Two just seconds after they clinched promotion. Instead of just enjoying his side’s achievements – which are impressive, don’t get me wrong – he decided to ignore the fact that the side above his not only finished on 99 POINTS but also did the double over his side. He claimed that his comments might upset some people in Northampton…Mr Appleton, it’s such a laughable comment that it becomes mere humour rather than anything that would disturb a championship parade. See you next season Mr A!

Champions! So what now?

sky-bet-league-two-trophy-4x3528-2737037_478x359The title is won and Northampton Town are CHAMPIONS of League Two. Many of us never thought they would live to tell a tale of a championship winning Cobblers side but after a goalless draw at Exeter City we’ve done it and can spend a summer in the sun as a returning force to League One. Although the four draws in a row that sealed promotion and top spot weren’t a showcase of our collective powers, it really doesn’t matter with the joy that followed the final whistles at Sixfields last week and at St. James’ Park on Saturday overflowing across Town fans across the country.

Last night, the Cobblers did get back to winning ways and saw off Crawley Town in a homecoming fit for champions. Again it wasn’t a score line that blows anyone away but it was important to get back to winning ways and to keep this extraordinary unbeaten run going. The proud nature of Chris Wilder and this phenomenal group of players should mean that there’s still plenty to write home about in the final three games of the season. So here’s just a few things to keep us interested as those below us battle to join us in League One…

The 100 point dream

Last night’s victory over Crawley keeps alive the one final dream of this season – for the Cobblers to reach the magical 100 point mark. With nine points to play for, it’s tantalisingly poised with Town eight points away from reaching that particular target. Yeovil Town, Luton Town and Portsmouth stand in our way – Yeovil is certainly winnable with their safety now secure, Luton will bring with them a crowd baying for our blood that should lift the atmosphere on the day when we’ll lift the trophy whilst Portsmouth away on the final day will guarantee a party on the south coast. Pompey may still need points to secure a playoff place on that day as well so if we go into it with 98 points on the board it makes for a fascinating afternoon. First, though, to get there!

The battle for 2nd and 3rd

Just two points separate second and fifth in League Two with Accrington, Oxford, Plymouth and Bristol Rovers battling it out for the final two automatic promotion places. What a great position we’re in to be able to watch that fight unfold in the next couple of weeks and it’s a position we’ve truly earned. The fact that none of the four play each other in the final three games means it’s a case of who holds their nerve best in their own games and it’s becoming a titanic battle to avoid dropping into the end of season lottery. Speaking of which…

The Playoffs

One of the biggest reliefs about sealing promotion is that we’re not going to be involved in the playoffs. With two of the aforementioned sides guaranteed to be in that mix likely along with Portsmouth and a resurgent Wimbledon (who both still have a game in hand) it’s looking like one of the strongest line ups for League Two playoffs in years. Exciting games ahead!

The fringe

We saw glimpses last night of fringe players coming back in to attempt to persuade Chris Wilder that they have the nouse to stay in his plans for League One. The likes of Josh Lelan may be given a big chance to impress before the summer and maybe we’ll even see some younger talent pop up in the last three games.

The crowning of champions

Finally, the Luton game gives Cobblers fans the chance to herald their heroes at Sixfields one last time before the summer and we should be ready for a send-off like no other. It’s looking like we’ll lift the League Two trophy on that day and images from the end of that game will go into the annuls of history alongside the Wembley Heroes.

So there are just a few things to keep us interest in this remarkable season. It’s a chance to properly enjoy our football and enjoy our wonderful club before the summer.

Up the Cobblers!

Over the line amidst confusion and drama!


In the end it wasn’t a powerful surge over the line, it wasn’t a clean cut win to take us into League One and it wasn’t entirely clear until a couple of minutes after the full time whistle what on earth was going in. But Saturday afternoon’s target was reached despite the Cobblers dropping a two goal lead to a Bristol Rovers side that may well join us in League One next season. Northampton Town are promoted and however we made it, it’s simply a remarkable achievement.

Just as Leicester City won’t care a jot in how they make it to what will surely be an unbelievable Premier League title win, Town fans should rejoice that the job is done. When we look back in years to come, all that we’ll see is the final points total – up to 88 with 15 still to play for – and our name at the top of the table and after nearly losing the club in November it surely goes down as one of the all-time great seasons in our history.

It did look as though we might do things the easy way on Saturday as Nicky Adams headed in mid-way through the first half against Rovers before the unsung Sam Hoskins made it two just after the break. Cue champagne being popped and celebrations starting as the countdown began to a full time whistle that would confirm ascension. But the Gas had other ideas and still wanted to ruin the party. The prolific Matt Taylor headed home with fifteen minutes to go to shake things up and Ellis Harrison stunned Sixfields into near silence by levelling things up in the dying minutes.

By many calculations we’d have to wait another week with Accrington Stanley winning and Plymouth Argyle standing to earn a point against Wimbledon but then a helping hand from Bayo Akinfenwa of all people saw Wimbledon win it at Home Park and the gap widen by another crucial point that put promotion back on. No-one in or out of the ground seemed to know what it meant but the pitch invasion and party could begin once the club officially announced that we were back in League One.

Cue the players emerging in the West Stand to celebrate amongst the supporters and that in itself is a picture that sums up the season – the squad together in celebration with the supporters who stuck by them as they played for weeks on no wages, worried and campaigned together in the autumn and who deserve every bit of praise. I’ve used many superlatives over the last few months about the character of this squad, this management team and our wonderful supporters and Saturday was a time to just revel in the glory of something that just doesn’t happen much in a lifetime of supporting a football team.

All that’s left to do now is to clinch the title and if we better Oxford United’s result on Saturday (Town travel to Exeter while the U’s host Luton Town) then the trophy is ours with four games to go. The Cobblers are also protecting an unbeaten run that stretches back to before the turn of the year and Chris Wilder certainly won’t be letting up on the pursuit of ending this season on even more of a high.

What a season. What a club!

Christmas Bonus…

James CollinsSix points, a grip held on second place and a genuine powerhouse of a signing at League Two level – it’s not been a bad Christmas and New Year period for the Cobblers as the home defeat by Portsmouth that derailed the fine run of form was quickly forgotten about with two very different victories.

It’s a stark contrast to twelve months ago when Town headed into the 2015 on the back of five straight defeats. We were two points from the drop zone having collected just 24 points from 23 games. Fast forward twelve months and 2016 begins with us five points clear of fourth place with a game in hand and with more than double the amount of points on the board.

The victories that keep us in touch with leaders Plymouth Argyle and the chasing pack were a good indicator of where we’re at. Fellow promotion hopefuls Accrington were the better side at Sixfields a couple of days after Christmas but an out of sorts performance still ended with us nicking the win thanks to the reliability of the blossoming pairing of Ricky Holmes and Marc Richards, Rico heading in the only goal of a tight games.

Barnet were more straight forward opposition for once and when you brush past the Bees, a perennial bogey team of ours, you start getting the feeling that we’re going to be in with a huge chance of keeping up the pace with a group of sides that are showing no signs of blinking in this huge promotion race.

The fact that the ranks were boosted on Tuesday by a beast of a signing – Shrewsbury striker James Collins on loan until the end of the season – surely makes everyone else sit up and take notice. It’s s statement of intent that means that the attacking options are even more potent than ever. The exit of Dominic Calvert-Lewin would have been disappointing after the youngster made a good impression in his short time here but given that the focus is now on promotion the moves in and out make a lot of sense. Calvert-Lewin certainly has potential but it’s understandable that if someone like Collins becomes available you have to go for him.

Collins’ first involvement will be a top of the table clash at leaders Plymouth on Tuesday night but first comes a rare appearance in the FA Cup Third Round on Saturday. It’s been one of the most dramatic cup runs in recent times with the victory at Coventry drawing all the emotion possible from a travelling contingent that were genuinely believing that it could be the final ever away game for the club and then a remarkable turnaround against Northwich Victoria threw us into the hat.

It’s not the glamour tie it could have been at this stage but the appetite and desire of a squad chomping at every bit of opportunity that comes their way means that there’s a big opportunity for an upset and progression to a stage not reached since 2004.

It’s still ‘pinch me’ territory from where we were before that game at Coventry and whatever happens on Saturday and then on Tuesday, you have to be thankful for this completely opposite style of ‘worry’ we’re facing in the next few days.

As we settle in for this double header, let’s first check out the latest man to tie his flag to the mast of the good ship Cobbler…

A master stroke or a risk too far? Analysing the signing of John-Joe O’Toole…


The Cobblers’ summer recruitment took a drastic turn yesterday afternoon when John-Joe O’Toole completed his move to Sixfields with the signing providing plenty of food for thought and debate. In footballing terms, it’s a fantastic move for the club on the pitch to bring in a player on a free transfer who hit fifteen goals from midfield for a relegated side last season but when you get directed to past interviews taken from the end of last season, for example, you see that there’s an element of risk involved.

O’Toole clearly believes that he’s below his level of talent given that interview whilst at the end of his time at Bristol Rovers but that can be interpreted in two ways – either he’s a desperately passionate player who just wants to play at the highest level he can or he’s a disruptive influence that will be more trouble than he’s worth. There’s also a rebute here that shows the midfielder in a better light and in one that he argues that his statement was out of context.

What I do think is that any problems O’Toole does have in being a team player and positively influencing team mates need harnessing and Chris Wilder should be a good enough character to do just that. At twenty five, O’Toole still has time to develop as a player on and off the pitch and it’s one of those situations where you just hope that Wilder uses his experience to get the very best out of his big summer signing.

It’s another three year contract so there’s an immediate trust placed in the player by the Town boss. That in itself should speak to O’Toole and hopefully mean that he starts off with a clean slate. The new environment can only help his desire on the pitch and if the Cobblers are riding high in the league in the early months there should be no problems with him reaching his full potential.

The signing may now put a halt to any more bids for strikers by the Cobblers management with Wilder apparently cooling on bringing in a big front man. Instead, he’s likely to wait on the summer progress of Alex Nicholls and place trust in O’Toole’s ability in adding goals from midfield whilst also continuing to work on how to link up experience and youth in Marc Richards and Ivan Toney.

A right back and a left back (Evan Horwood is close to confirming his signing) are all that’s left to finish off a summer shopping list that Wilder hopes to have finished by the time the first friendly takes place on July 12th.

On paper, things are looking pretty good…now to put it all together.

Deadline Day: Summer 2013…Part Four…

Plymouth's Reckord signing...

Plymouth’s Reckord signing…

So as we thought, no new deadline day deals were done and it looks like the only glimmer of hope of new faces will be through a non-contracted player (of which there are a growing number admittedly) or a loan. It’s a disappointment but we have to still get the most of out what we do have at the club. I was impressed at the summer signings and those players don’t turn into bad ones overnight. Tactics and motivation as well as that discipline problem are the key things that need tackling straight away.

It’s on to MK Dons in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy this evening in a match that will struggle to even be on the radar such is our shocking away form and early disinterest from most in the competition. Maybe time to try one or two new things out?

Elsewhere in League Two…

Former Cobblers loanee Jamie Reckord became Plymouth’s second signing of the day when he joined on a three month loan deal from Wolves. Reckord played seven times for Town in 2011.

Southend United have brought in Fulham’s Cauley Woodrow on a one month loan deal. Striker Woodrow has been capped at England Under 17s level, becoming the first non-league player to achieve such a feat (he was with Luton Town at the time).

And Cheltenham Town have bolstered their ranks by signing midfielder David Noble from Rotherham United on loan until January whilst also extending the contract of defender Ryan Inniss.

The window is…shut!

A peaceful weekend in the top three!

TN171243_League-TwoThis weekend was a very nice one indeed for the Cobblers as not only did we enjoy panicking about results from those at the TOP end of the League Two table but also the majority of those within immediately close proximity dropped points, meaning that we remain in third place going into this evening’s final chapter of the results watching period.

Top club Port Vale kicked things off on Thursday night with their live Sky showing at Wimbledon. Even though catching them for the coveted place at the summit of League Two is a long shot it was still nice to be keeping an eye on it hoping that AFC Wimbledon would be victorious and that the league leaders would drop some points. Despite fighting back from two down for a 2-2 draw Vale did just that and it was a good start to the weekend.

Cheltenham would fare no better on Friday night in difficult conditions as they battled Rochdale, fresh from re-installing Keith Hill as their manager, at Whaddon Road. The Rubies needed a victory to overtake Town and move back into third place but the team from Spotland held out for a 0-0 draw that kept us there on goal difference.

Only Rotherham United could then catch the Cobblers on Saturday and their surprise 3-1 reverse at home to Bristol Rovers brought us more cheer with Aidy Boothroyd surely more than happy with the results that were coming in. It means that Exeter City are the final team that can knock us down a place before the huge trip to Gillingham tomorrow evening when they face Devon rivals Torquay United at St. James’ Park tonight, another live League Two game on Sky. To add to the fun, Gillingham could only draw at home to York City, meaning that a win at the Priestfield would bring us to within three points of the Gills.

Whatever happens there, though, it was a joyful weekend to be checking scores and not looking for the bottom clubs to slip up but for the top ones to drop some points as the season moves into a frantic stage of rearranged and cold Tuesday night games that will ultimately shape a destiny that’s getting that bit more exciting for the Cobblers.

It’s very, very close, though with victories for Burton, Southend and Fleetwood bringing them all into contention again. Indeed only two points separate the Cobblers in third and Fleetwood in eighth, just outside the playoff positions.

The next three games are absolutely massive with trips to Gillingham and Rotherham followed by another Tuesday night outing, this time at AFC Wimbledon. If we’re still in the top seven following these three games then I’ll be delighted. If the squad is also still intact (the transfer window ‘slams’ shut on Thursday evening) then I’ll be extra pleased.

There’s been one incoming transfer today with the loan signing of Brentford midfielder Emmanuel Oyeleke for a month. He can play anywhere across the midfield and also at full back so it’s a sensible one in terms of cover at the back and strengthening going forwards. Oyeleke came through the ranks at Chelsea but was released in 2008 and spent two years with QPR’s youth set up before moving to the Bees in 2010.

It’s the outgoings that will likely provide any further talking points with still no ‘concrete’ offers coming for any of our players. If things can stay that way and we can still be sat here in a month’s time in promotion contention then we might just be able to begin to dream.

Finally, good luck to our good friends Torquay United this evening!

Aidy adds a Roofe…

Roofe…signs on loan

I’ve been waiting here patiently for something to write about this week in between games that are providing little to complain about and steady results pouring in, making this blog more of a preview-report-preview kind of thing and that’s the last thing I want. So imagine the joy in my little face when the Cobblers made a surprise signing this afternoon. I could barely contain myself.

OK, so that might be going a bit too far but certainly on a week when I’ve been trying to write an academic essay for the first time in six years it’s a welcome breath of air to my bread and butter as Kemar Roofe joined the ranks on a month’s loan from West Bromwich Albion.

The nineteen year old attack minded midfielder has likely been brought in to cover Ben Harding’s injury but seems more of a creative and forward thinking player so it’ll be interesting to see where he slots in to Aidy Boothroyd’s plans. Roofe has been names in Albion’s squad twice so far this season but hasn’t yet made it onto the pitch.

As well as providing Jeff Stelling (and me) with plenty of ‘roof’ puns for the next few weeks should he find the net – send yours on a post card now – he should keep Luke Guttridge and Ben Tozer on their toes. I would imagine he will start from the bench on Saturday at Burton but before that, here’s a compilation of Roofe’s talents:

“Mini League Two table” highlights Cobblers form

I thought I would have a bit of fun this week (and yes, this is my idea of fun – I’m that sick and twisted. Please humour me) and put together the league table that Aidy Boothroyd may have been speaking of in the last few weeks. The table below shows the League Two table since February 1st – when the Cobblers were three points adrift at the bottom of the table. It includes every side’s records since the start of February and makes for interesting reading, particularly for Cobblers fans.

Town are in seventh place in this table having played at least one game less than every single other side in the league over the period. Boothroyd did say that things would get worse before they got better and he was right…but how good it would actually get was the part we were uncertain of. The Cobblers have gone from that perilous position at the end of January, following  three defeats on the bounce, to record seven victories, three draws and just three defeats.

I wrote a blog entitled “Acceptance” on January 24th where my despondence at our peril was at a new low following a 2-1 home defeat to Barnet:

“I’m not going to give up on our league status but I’m starting to actually see that there’s a real chance of the drop. I didn’t come to this point last season at all despite the problems back then and this is the first time it’s actually happened this time around. Be it the time of year or the amount of games running out I simply can’t see a way out.

For the last two seasons 48 points has been the total points amassed by the team just avoiding relegation in 22nd place in League Two. The Cobblers have 21 points with 19 games to play so need to theoretically pick up another 27 points in order to stand a chance. The fact that we’ve won just one league game all season at home doesn’t fill you with confidence that it will be achieved and neither do defeats like this one against teams that we are chasing.”

I’m delighted to say how wrong, and in a way how right, I was. We sit here now having picked up 24 of those 27 points I said we needed and are on 45 league points in total out of my forecasted 48. We’re one win away from securing safety and my outlook back in that post seems so long ago. Huge credit must go to Aidy Boothroyd for the job that he’s done, in particular in bringing in the right kind of characters in Clarke Carlisle, Luke Guttridge and Brett Williams as well as putting enough pressure on Bayo that he came out fighting and now sits second in the league’s scoring charts.

It’s not over till it’s over but barring a miracle we will be safe and rejoicing, hopefully on Saturday afternoon where victory over Bradford would take us over the line. It’ll be interesting to keep totting up the below mini league table from here on in to see how we’re faring in the run-in.

Aside from the Cobblers, there’s a couple of other interesting developments in the table with Crewe’s form putting them third and Aldershot also taking their place in the top seven. At the other end Macclesfield haven’t won at all in this period while Cheltenham are the lowest placed amongst the current holders of the playoff berths of the actual league.

It may mean nothing but it’s something to work from for the Cobblers as we potentially head into a period of ‘playing for pride’.


League Two table since February 1st 2012

Pos Played Won Drawn Lost For Against Points
1 Swindon Town 14 11 1 2 22 6 34
2 Torquay United 14 9 2 3 18 12 29
3 Crewe Alexandra 14 7 6 1 24 14 27
4 Shrewsbury Town 14 8 3 3 18 11 27
5 Aldershot Town 14 8 2 4 17 11 26
6 Rotherham United 15 7 4 4 16 13 25
7 Northampton Town 13 7 3 3 19 14 24
8 Crawley Town 15 6 6 3 22 18 24
9 Oxford United 14 6 5 3 19 14 23
10 Plymouth Argyle 14 5 7 2 14 8 22
11 Gillingham 15 6 3 6 26 21 21
12 Port Vale 13 6 3 4 19 14 21
13 Southend United 15 6 3 6 18 16 21
14 Dagenham and Redbridge 14 6 3 5 15 20 21
15 Morecambe 15 5 3 7 16 16 18
16 Bristol Rovers 14 4 6 4 12 14 18
17 Bradford City 15 4 4 7 17 16 16
18 Cheltenham Town 15 3 4 8 15 22 13
19 Accrington Stanley 14 3 4 7 13 21 13
20 AFC Wimbledon 14 3 3 8 17 19 12
21 Hereford United 14 2 4 8 16 22 10
22 Burton Albion 14 2 3 9 9 26 9
23 Barnet 15 1 4 10 10 28 7
24 Macclesfield Town 14 0 6 8 11 23 6