Sixfields rebranding a sign of the times but name will never be lost

News was released yesterday that Sixfields has been rebranded the PTS Academy Stadium in a sponsorship deal for the next five years. It’s something that is happening across the country at football stadiums and though there was a small outcry from a few, this shouldn’t be seen as trampling on any history or the club grabbing more money any way they can.

Yes, we will be seeing the name ‘PTS Academy Stadium’ popping up in newspapers, on television reports and highlights shows but what really changes? To fans, the stadium will always be known as Sixfields (I can’t see many saying “I’m popping down the PTS to watch the game”) and it’s a way to give a spotlight to a local company rather than a national juggernaut that would have no connection to the club or to the town.

The PTS Academy are a training provider delivering apprenticeships, traineeships and accredited courses, funded by the government with a HQ in Moulton. The partnership looks like it will benefit both sides and create another community link between the club and a partner that is delivering for young people. In short, the deal seems to have more benefits than drawbacks.

The area of the club’s location, the history going back 24 years and fan habits will mean that the Sixfields name won’t ever be lost so let’s embrace this latest change and hope that there’ll be a few ‘Sixfields Roars’ come April and May next year!

 

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Fans hurting once again as board and council clash

Earlier today, Northampton Town released a statement from Kelvin Thomas and the Cobblers board, stating that the lack of communication from Northampton Borough Council around the East Stand’s lease position has put them in a position where they have no choice but to step aside and formalise a sale of the club. It’s the culmination of yet another period where the club and council have been on completely different wavelengths with the latest delays the straw that broke the camel’s back for Thomas.

The statement made clear Thomas’ views that there are some individuals in the council who are standing in the way of himself and the board completing a process where the land adjacent to the East Stand, a critical part in negotiations around the Sixfields site, was to be surrendered to the club thus removing any possible conflicts in the future.

It appeared, from the club statement, that some in the council will not co-operate and instead prefer to stand in the way of what is best for the club. This has led to Thomas coming to the conclusion that the best and only route forward is to remove himself from the equation. Banging his head against a brick wall with a council that clearly has issues has reached a climax and it opens the door to even more complications.

The full statement is available here.

The council’s side of the story was released a few hours later.

The statement begins:

 “Progress on the East Stand has been very much within the gift of the football club, and since taking control of the development company CDNL in 2017, the chairman has been in a position to control further adjacent land.

“The council’s position is that no lease issues have held up this process. The owners had given the council assurances when taking on the club that they had ample funds immediately available for this work

“The council has consistently shown a willingness to facilitate this development and as recently as November 2017 provided draft documentation for the club to consider.”

It goes on to say that the proposed ‘further land’ was added to the original agreement by Mr Thomas and that this part of the conversation had to go through due diligence (due to the possibility of creating retail developments outside of the town centre) to ensure that members of the public get the best value.

The statement ended by saying that a paper is already in place to be brought to cabinet on June 13.

The question of this ‘extra’ piece of land throws the debate off on a new tangent and means that we’re once again left with more questions than answers on both sides of the coin. What is this extra piece of land that the council speak of? Why wasn’t this included in part of Thomas’ statement?

And as yet another saga over Sixfields drags out, we as the Cobblers fans and the ones who will be here through many more board members and many more councillors are the ones in the dark. The club is once again being pushed to one side for the sake of someone, somewhere making money or improving their own status.

I understand both sides of this coin but what’s striking is the lack of transparency from both sides. You can talk of every stakeholder and every interested party but the stakeholders that really matter, the ones who will pass this club down through generations and plough their money and life into it, are left confused and lost in a cloud while its future is decided behind locked doors. AGAIN.

We’ve been here too many times before. The Council, the board, the people behind the statements all need to sit down, put THE CLUB first and sort a solution where the club that has the potential to bring 40,000 of its town folk together at Wembley or to a title winning parade across its cobbled streets can thrive once again. Not as a business first, but as a positive community asset. That needs to be understood on both sides as quickly as humanly possible.

Just too good to be true?

OK, OK it’s the obvious headline but sometimes you’ve just got to roll with it, especially in the summer when it’s pretty quiet on the news front.

It’s a new signing! Always good to see work being done early and the Cobblers have snapped up Andy Williams after his release from Doncaster Rovers. Playing only thirteen times last season thanks to an ankle injury that cost him more than half of the campaign, it’s clear that it’s been a struggle of a year for the man who counts Hereford United, Bristol Rovers, Yeovil Town and Swindon Town among his other clubs through a decent career in the lower leagues.

He’s undoubtedly bringing bags of goal scoring experience from the top end of League Two with him and early reviews are that he’s just the type of character that Dean Austin will be trying to bring in over the coming months.

Quite telling are his reasons for joining Town, with the striker saying

“I hope I will bring goals to the team. I like to think I’ve got good movement, I know where the back of the net is and I am a big believer in not leaving anything out on the pitch.”

Welcome Andy!

 

Andy Williams – the stats

Age: 31

Previous Clubs: Hereford United, Bristol Rovers, Yeovil Town, Swindon Town, Doncaster Rovers

Career Appearances: 517

Career Goals: 123

Slight Return…and how one man can reignite Northampton Town

Hi there, it’s good to see you again. Nice to meet you, if you stumbled across this by accident. Please stay for a cuppa and a biscuit.

So I’m back. Well I’ve been here all along, but I’m back in the blogging game and hopefully after many, many moons and much activity (including a couple of managerial changes) at Sixfields it feels like the right time to resume blogging business. You might have noticed some changes at the top of the page, and yes, my exile status is no more – back in October, myself and the family moved to Northampton and I became a full time town resident again for the first time since 2003. Having been back at Sixfields for much of the second half of this season and going to more games in a few months than I had in a couple of years it felt like an itch needing to be scratched to return to the blog.

The dross served up under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink put things on hold – while there was plenty to complain about and plenty of space for analysis I felt as disconnected from the club as I had living miles and miles away. Having moved to a house in the shadows of the County Ground and to within fifteen minutes of Sixfields rather than three hours, it felt incredibly flat returning to watch my beloved team put in the type of performance that we thought were consigned to history. When you’re living so far away you can become disconnected in a good way and tell yourself that it can’t be as bad as everyone is saying. It most certainly was.

But then came Dean Austin. At first a man thrown in simply to see through an expected relegation to its conclusion, the former Spurs defender (we’re racking up a fair few of those in our hot seat!) took the bull by the horns and though the demotion was confirmed with that heart breaking late goal at Walsall, it was a week earlier that reignited and rejuvenated the support that will always be at the heart of the Cobblers.

Austin had the same players at his disposal but sent them out with fire in their heart, passion in their outlook and, God forbid, played them in the right positions. Keeping things simple and sending players out with belief in their ability sounds straight forward but after three consecutive bland managers this was a major release for fans who had been served up some of the dullest football in years since the departure of Chris Wilder.

Austin didn’t just come out and speak a good game (and a very good game at that), he seemed to instantly forge a connection with the claret faithful that has been so lacking since Wilder left for Sheffield United. Having that connection is so crucial to any set of supporters and even comes ahead of winning every week to me. So it was with a great happiness that despite relegation, Austin was given the job full time yesterday morning.

It’s clear that the players responded to Austin and the fans responded to his honesty and passion so it’s the right appointment at the right time. It’s true that Austin has never had to negotiate contracts, plan a summer of recruitment or put together a vision for an entire campaign but if the group of players who looked so dishevelled under Hasselbaink can be revived then it gives you hope that he has the knowhow and nous to persuade the right type of character to the club for the battle to return to League One.

What’s also in his favour is that most of the squad remains contracted to the club so an absolute major overhaul isn’t necessary. Yes we need to get rid of some but there’s enough in that squad to think that we can challenge if we can get the right type of player in. Austin has seen their strengths and weaknesses over the last few weeks so appointing him now avoids the issue of a new manager coming in and having to run the rule over everyone before even getting started with recruitment.

Frustrating as it is that we’d only just got going and started to enjoy watching the team again when the season was coming to an end, it means that we can actually look forward to August again – we know the style Austin wants to play, we know how his teams will approach games and we know what to expect.

If you’re in any doubt about Austin’s outlook on the game, check the below video out, put out by former employers Crystal Palace. As the Cobblers go into another new era, it looks like we have a very capable pair of hands and a great mind for the game in charge. It’s something that the people of Northampton and the fans of the Cobblers can, and should, get behind.

See you all again very soon – it’s good to back…in more ways than one.

Up the Cobblers!

Danny

Steady as we go…

Holmes...kept quiet by Cobblers

Holmes…kept quiet by Cobblers

In the frantic early goings of the season, featuring a game every Saturday and Tuesday for the majority of August, it’s certainly a case of hitting the ground hard and the Cobblers have completed the first stage of the season with a steady return of three draws and yet another humbling of a higher division club in the League Cup.

Victory at Barnsley after extra time was an early indication that the squad has a bit of fight in them and it’s set up a decent Second Round home game with the Premier League’s West Bromwich Albion as a reward next Tuesday at Sixfields. The Baggies are one of those clubs who you’d think would relish a bit of a cup run but they’ve not been near a final since 1970 and only scraped through on penalties against Page’s old club Port Vale a year ago and did the same to League Two Oxford twelve months previous. Under the lights of Sixfields, Page will be well up for sprinkling more claret star dust on the competition.

Back in the league, a hugely creditable draw at Charlton Athletic on Saturday was followed by a scrappier goalless encounter at Boundary Park, Oldham, on Tuesday night. Charlton are likely to be among the front runners in League One and Ricky Holmes thankfully waited until Tuesday night and his new club’s victory over Shrewsbury Town to fully introduce his talents to the Addicks crowd. Holmes wasn’t at his best against the Cobblers and a point was a very good return despite taking the lead through Alex Revell’s first Town goal.

Tuesday night’s stalemate at OIdham is typical of the type of result we’re going to have to grind out this season if we’re to keep our heads above water. It sounded like a bit of a nothing game barring a golden chance for Kenji Gorre near the end but a third draw in a row is no disaster and it keeps the remarkable unbeaten run since the turn of the year alive and kicking.

AFC Wimbledon arrive at Sixfields on Saturday afternoon in what will be a new test for Page. It’s a game that Town fans will be targeting three points from, particularly as the League Two Playoff winners are yet to pick up a point this season. It certainly won’t be easy but it’s a big chance to get a massive three points on the board. Get them in the bag and I think we’ll officially be able to call it a Good Start To The Season.

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Jason Taylor has departed Sixfields this week and joined Eastleigh – who also signed fellow former Town hard nut Ryan Cresswell earlier in the summer. The Spitfires then went and sacked the man who signed him, Chris Todd a day later! Best of luck to Taylor, who was one of the major players in the first revival under Chris Wilder.

Remember ex-Cobblers loanee Aleksander Prijovic? Until this week, the Serbian had been lost in the annuls of time in British football but he popped up again to thwart the plucky Dundalk on Wednesday night – in the Champions League no less! Prijovic, who played ten times on loan at Sixfields from Derby County in 2009, now plys his trade for Legia Warsaw in Poland and scored eight times last season including the winner in the Polish Cup Final. He netted the second of Warsaw’s goals in Ireland to make his side hot favourites to progress into the Champions League Group Stages. He could even come up against fellow ex Cobblers loanee and rejuvenated star Ron-Robert Zieler, who signed for Leicester City over the summer! Who needs Zlatan vs Buffon when you’ve got that showdown?!

The Cobblers are still short of – and being patient about bringing in – a striker and it looks as though the number one target won’t be in until next week now. Being so set on one or two targets at least means that we’re not leaping into the market willy nilly and signing anyone for the sake of it but hopefully it’s not too much longer before Rico and the tireless Alex Revell have a friend to train with and fight for over a starting berth.

That’s all for now – great to be back in the swing of the season!

Page unveiled as the new man for Cobblers

523390419TM00005_PORT_VALE_The usual time scale for naming a new manager – particularly at the end of a season and before playoffs are complete – is pretty lengthy and drawn out but Kelvin Thomas and the Cobblers have worked fast to get their man as Port Vale’s Rob Page was unveiled this afternoon at a Sixfields news conference. It was clear from the start of the process last week that Thomas had some ideas in mind as to the type of profile he wants for the new boss and Page is likely to have been one of the candidates identified early on.

He’s by no means a high profile appointment but after plenty of recent appointments before Chris Wilder that have flattered to deceive in terms of coming with a load of hype and expectation it’s maybe for the best that we’ve gone for a young manager who has already done a decent job at League One level. Vale was Page’s first managerial position and having led them to safety in his first few months in charge at Vale Park, it’s notable that he helped them to defy last season’s relegation odds (Vale were second favourites for the drop at the start of the campaign) to finish in the top half of the table.

To me, that’s a key point of the whole appointment. He’s worked on limited resources to stabilise Vale and has worked above and beyond the goals that would have been set for him a year ago. Though his experience as a manager isn’t as vast as many on the list, he’s preferable to me to the likes of Gary Bowyer for his knowledge of the division both as a player and during his couple of years as a manager. He’s proved to be a good communicator and man manager and obviously has motivational skills to get players to play above their potential – particularly the likes of JJ Hooper who the Cobblers released in 2014 but reappeared for the Valiants with goals and performances of some maturity this season.

Vale fans were disappointed at the news of Page leaving too, which is a pretty good indicator, though some of their reasons for why he shouldn’t choose Northampton are questionable to say the least!

The appointment is early enough now for the Cobblers to move on and Page will have the entire summer to prepare for life in League One with his new charges. The key tasks will be retaining the likes of Adam Smith, Ricky Holmes and John-Joe O’Toole and dipping into his contact book to bring in the right players that won’t disrupt the team spirit of a club that went through every emotion possible together this season.

With all of this in mind, here are a couple of key points from this afternoon’s press conference where Page was formerly announced as the new Cobblers boss..

Kelvin Thomas welcomes his man…

Thomas welcomed Page to the club and emphasised his delight at bringing in an “outstanding young manager” who is “energetic,  young and ambitious.” He was looking for a manager to come in and continue the work done by Chris Wilder and Alan Knill.

John Harbin joins as Performance Coach…

Joining Page at the club is Performance Coach John Harbin who has a background in Rugby League and football and has previously held similar posts at Oldham, Crystal Palace, Charlton, Coventry, QPR, Swansea, Plymouth and with Page at Port Vale.

Further announcements to come…

More backroom staff appointments will be made “in due course” with the assistant manager position still open at the time of writing. Rumours of Marc Richards agreeing to become a player/assistant are rife but that’s yet to be confirmed.

The first words…

Page was immediately interviewed by Sky Sports News this afternoon and gave a steady, confident interview and emphasised the need to manage expectations. He mentioned that he’s not met the players because they’ve already gone off on their holidays but is already looking forward to pre-season. Page acknowledged Chris Wilder’s work and said that he’s spoken to the former Town boss, who was hugely complimentary about the squad.

He also gave his first Cobblers Player interview and said it was a “no brainer” to join the Cobblers after speaking with Kelvin Thomas, who he seems to credit a lot to in terms of the decision to leave Vale Park for Sixfields. He again praised the efforts of the players last season and expressed it as a “great opportunity” to work with them.

Overall, Page seems in a very calm mood on his first day in the job.

Let the new era officially begin!

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:

http://www.thesackrace.com/teams/northampton-town

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…