A couple of days late this may be but this here blog has just passed its TENTH ANNIVERSARY!
In the absence of the ability to share cake and party hats with you all, instead I’ll celebrate by bringing you a retrospective of sorts with some hopes and dreams for the future of Northampton Town Football Club for the next ten years.
We head into 2016/17 going back into League One off the back of a majestic promotion winning season, one of scintillating football at times, battling qualities at others and uncertainties about the very future of the club at extreme. But the summer has begun in not so celebratory mood with the departures of a highly rated manager and a star player amongst others. As I started this blog ahead of the 2006/07 season things looked pretty similar, barring the title win and off the pitch shenanigans, with promotion followed by Colin Calderwood leaving for Nottingham Forest and Martin Smith leaving a giant football genius shaped hole in the Sixfields turf. John Gorman was brought in to steady the ship but ended up leaving by December with Stuart Gray picking up the reins and the form to steer us to mid-table.
So what’s changed in the ensuing ten years since I first put fingers to keys in an attempt to chronicle the fortunes of my beloved Cobblers? On paper, not a lot – we’re back where we started, about to make an assault on League One with uncertainties abound over what the squad will look like. Away from the simple league placing, though, this club has certainly been through the ringer – takeovers, dodgy owners, seven full time managers, many flirtations with our very existence (through league position and incompetence at the top) and Leon Constantine.
My favourite Cobblers related moment of those ten years? Without a doubt, THAT night at Anfield. How a group of League Two players could not just go to one of the most famous arenas in the world and come away victorious but also look like they completely belong alongside full internationals still gives me goose bumps. I’ve never had a feeling at a football match quite like that night and the fact that a true Cobblers legend like Sammo could lead us through it as manager just made it that bit sweeter.
There have, of course, been numerous moments that would attempt to make us all forget that incredible night but what you learn in following your team across the country is that any collection of disappointments become completely worth it once something historical happens once in a while.
‘Off the pitch’ so to speak, I was just coming out of university when this blog began. Ten years later I’m a husband, a father to two and as much of a Cobbler in exile as I was all those years ago, albeit now living in beautiful Somerset. Has being distant in miles made me distant in thought? Never. Has it meant that I can’t get to as many games as I’d like to? Of course. But what many who follow the Cobblers (or any team for that matter) from afar will tell you, you feel every kick, header, booking, tackle, goal and moment just as hard as if you were live watching your heroes do their thing.
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought of stopping the blog a few times over the last few months. Ten would be a nice number to end on, a nice chronology in a neat package to look back on. But something about that thought niggled away at me. What if something extraordinary happens again? What if the Cobblers (unlikely as it may be) propel themselves up the leagues? What if indeed we ended up going the other way? And all of that with only my brain to rely on? I don’t think I could justify it to myself. What I love about having this is occasionally being able to look back on how I felt during certain matches or time periods and I’m not quite ready to stop trying to put words to this crazy journey of ours.
The blogs may be getting more sparse and there are others around the great Interweb who can likely give much more of an up to the minute account of proceedings but while I’m still able to and while I’m not getting comments telling me to quietly disappear into cyber space, I want to keep this going.
So where do Northampton Town go from here?
There’s plenty of work to be done in the close season. Ricky Holmes has by no measure been replaced and we arguably need an additional winger to give us confidence at League One level. Defensively I still don’t feel 100% comfortable and another younger striker would be nice. That’s the short term, though, and it’s vital that we at least stay up this season.
From there it’s a case of establishing ourselves outside the basement division as a club that players want to come to and a place where young talent wants to stay rather than being linked to supposed ‘bigger’ sides. We must get issues with Sixfields sorted, a proper East Stand back in place and a long term plan for not just surviving but for taking ourselves to the next level.
Of course, football is never that easy and I could end up being back here in ten more years in exactly the same place again. But however it works out, we’ll enjoy the moments, the joy, the laughter and the tears together. I love every one of you who continues to read this blog and thank you for your thoughts, comments and support over the years.
Onwards to another ten!