How new hero Ivan Toney can stay the course…

ToneyIt was one of those moments that will be talked about for a long time – as eighteen year old Ivan Toney steadied himself and launched a bicycle kick past the Dagenham and Redbridge defence on Saturday afternoon a hero was born. Toney had already plundered his first ever senior goal after just eight minutes of the crunch game at Victoria Road and by the time the half time whistle went his name was being lauded all across the away terrace as “one of our own” had given us a moment to savour.

The huge stakes and importance of the match gave the brace an even higher regard in the Cobblers history books and the striker is more than likely to see out the season in a starting berth against Oxford United. But what distinguishes Toney from those who have arrived on the scene and disappeared in a cloud of smoke despite being heralded as the next big thing? How can Toney become more of a Michael Jacobs and less of a Courtney Herbert? Here’s some of the things that could make or break the new and sudden starlet…

Attitude

The thing I picked up most about Toney on Saturday was that there was an air of youthful confidence and cockiness about him. That can sometimes go either way but you get the feeling that nothing about the stage he’s been introduced to is phasing him one bit. When his goals went in there was no sense that he was surprised and celebrations were limited to more of a shrug and Toney saying “that’s just what I do”. If he’s going to move up in the game then this will need to be kept an eye on and having the right men in place to manage it will be crucial. Chris Wilder seems to be doing a good job so far and Toney will need to keep channelling his confidence in the right way if he’s to keep on the right track. At the moment it’s exactly what we need.

Presence

One thing lacking a little bit in Toney’s play is any real presence on the pitch in terms of physicality. He gets over this by cleverly winning free kicks and whilst he works alongside someone like John Marquis he won’t need any more than he has right now. It’s when he’s asked to do different jobs like leading the line alone or playing out wide that he might need more physicality about his game.

Experience

Only one thing will decide whether Toney is to become a star and that’s game time. I personally didn’t expect him to play in this relegation dog fight we’re in but it’s now seen as a master stroke by Chris Wilder to throw him in the deep end. He needs more and more games under his belt but unfortunately for him that’s not readily available when he most needs it (i.e. now). A good summer and a run in the team may depend on which division we’re playing in but unless he’s forcing his way back into the team come August then he’ll struggle to make himself known. Toney needs to grab any chance he can with both hands.

Goals

Strikers live and die by their goals tally a lot of the time and if Toney continues to find the net then no-one will ever be able to ignore him. The brace at Dagenham was as well taken as any you’re likely to see in this division and it’s a sign of someone who knows where the goal is that he almost appeared to expect it. More of the same on Saturday and starting again in the summer and there’ll be plenty of scouting folk arriving at Sixfields.

Who knows whether Ivan Toney will go on to higher levels of the game or whether this was just a huge flash in the pan but after that period of absolute elation at Victoria Road one thing is for sure – he will never be forgotten!

Who’s next? Cobblers’ young guns leading the way

Hornby…one of a crop of youngsters breaking through

One of the great things about the recent turn around in the Cobblers’ form is the emergence of a clutch of youngsters that have come into the side and really staked a claim to give not only Aidy Boothroyd but those injured or suspended squad members something to think about. There’s been a good number of players developed at Sixfields over the last few years with the likes of Mark Bunn, Bradley Johnson and Steve Morrison all going on to play in the top flight and Chris Dunn and Michael Jacobs moving up the league ladder with a view to doing just the same.

So who will be next? Which of the class of 2012, who are being raced towards graduation faster than they would ever have imagined, will be the next to make the step up? It’s hard to say with many still so raw but here’s a look at the current crop of exciting talent coming through…

Dean Snedker

Position: Goalkeeper

Age: 18

Snedker was the first to break in with last season’s goalkeeping dilemmas thrusting him into the spotlight and onto the bench for a majority of the run-in. Snedker finally got his debut in the Capital One Cup this season, helping us to victory against Championship side Cardiff City before also keeping goal in the 3-1 defeat to Wolves in the following round. With a fine recent record of the club developing goalkeepers, Snedker could be the next in line with Shane Higgs recently departing and Lee Nicholls currently the only keeper ahead of him.

Lewis Hornby

Position: Midfielder

Age: 17

Hornby has been the one to really come to the fore this season. The midfielder had a tough task coming in to replace Ben Harding and Luke Guttridge but he’s shown class and ability well beyond his years, slotting into the middle of the park like the position is his own and even making us question how much of a struggle it will be for Guttridge to get his place back on his return! Hornby spent time on loan at Kettering last season and made his Cobblers debut in the 2-1 JPT win over Colchester United just over a month ago. It says a lot about him that it feels like he’s been in the team for a lot longer! All signs so far are that Hornby is the one to watch in terms of quick development and the immediate future.

Lewis Wilson

Position: Midfielder/Striker

Age: 19

Wilson is another who has already been in the squad before this season, making his debut in a 1-1 draw with Gillingham at the end of last season and scoring the Cobblers’ goal that day to mark a dream start to his Town career. He’s been played in midfield for the most part so far this term and has occasionally looked a little lost. You can’t lay too much blame on him for that, though, with plenty of time for him to learn more of his craft. Wilson technically came through the ranks at Rushden and Diamonds but we won’t go too far into that! He signed a new one year contract at the end of last season.

Louis Moult

Position: Striker

Age: 20

Another to not have come through the Cobblers academy itself, Moult is however still classed as a youngster and one who is looking to kick start his career. He played just once for Stoke in a three year period where he was loaned out to four different teams before finding his home at Sixfields this summer. I was impressed with him on early showings before he was put right into the mix of things in October when Alex Nicholls went off his with shocking injury against Port Vale and made an immediate impact by scoring the second goal that day and hitting the net again the following against Bradford in the FA Cup. Moult showed another side of himself by getting himself sent off against York but hopefully he comes back stronger and ready to once again repay the faith of Aidy Boothroyd.

Claudio Dias

Position: Midfielder

Dias has so far only been an unused substitute for the Cobblers but is another who has shown real potential, playing ninety minutes in the recent FA Youth Cup victory over York City. Dias was born in Milton Keynes and joined the Cobblers at Under 14s level so it says a lot about his progress that he’s still being kept on now. It’s going to be hard for Dias to break into a midfield that’s slowly being pieced back together by Aidy Boothroyd but he’s one to keep an eye on elsewhere.

David Moyo

Position: Striker

Age: 17

Moyo popped up on the bench against Port Vale without any of us knowing who he was beyond the fact that he’d been scoring a fair few goals for the youth team. Moyo has been on the bench for the last couple of weeks and even replaced Bayo Akinfenwa during the 3-1 win over Wycombe Wanderers at the weekend!

Ivan Toney

Position: Striker

Age: 16

Toney has come from nowhere in the last week to become the Cobblers’ youngest ever player at the age of sixteen years and two hundred and seventy three days during the FA Cup First Round Replay at Bradford, setting up Town’s third goal during extra time. His astonishing week continued the very next night as he score four times in a 5-0 Youth Cup win over York City and was back on the bench on Saturday against Wycombe!  If his first week in the spotlight is anything to go by, this lad could be something special!

The Best of the rest…

Craig Hinton’s youth team were on a fine run up until Saturday’s defeat against Peterborough and have progressed through to the FA Youth Cup Third Round where they will meet Canvey Island. Others that impressed on that night were left winger Callum Powell along with Jordan Chambers and Danny Harmon (son of ex Cobbler Darren Harmon!).

There’s more attention than there’s been for a long time on the Cobblers young players with a good crowd turning out for the Youth Cup and plenty of scouts rumoured to have been inside Sixfields at the same game. With another home draw in that competition it could be a great time for the kids of today. Aidy Boothroyd has a good record of working with young players from his past clubs and doesn’t seem to hesitate in calling them up when needed.

With a small squad in place this season it’s likely to be an interesting one to see who, of the above, rise to the challenge and stake their claim like Lewis Hornby has so brilliantly done so far. If they continue how they are going, there may be another Bunny or Crackers just around the corner!