I’m starting to make this an annual blog piece after last year’s efforts were well received by all three people who read it so I’m hoping that I can live up to the expectancy for this year’s light hearted ‘predictions’ for the coming twelve months!
What do you mean you don’t remember last year’s column? To the back of the manager’s application line for you.
Here goes…and Happy New Year to you all!
There’s plenty of action at Sixfields as 2014 starts with the club still looking for a new manager. Martin Allen takes a detour en route to his job interview after receiving a last minute phone call from Barnet as the Bees plea with him to help Edgar Davids to take them into the Conference playoffs. Elsewhere, there’s a surprise application from Steve Evans after he loses his job at Rotherham United but disguising himself as Steve Kean doesn’t pay off as the newly installed ‘Evans alarm’ goes off as soon as he drives in for an interview dressed as the ex-Blackburn boss. David Cardoza begins to hold Skype interviews from his holiday home in Dubai.
Andy King’s tough time as caretaker manager continues as injuries rob him of David Moyo and Ivan Toney, meaning that he has to employ the ‘fake number nine and fake number ten’ system for the first few games of the year. Ben Tozer has a tough month, launching long throw ins to no-one whilst mazy Chris Hackett runs and crosses are met by…no-one.
Results under Andy King are hit and miss but the Cobblers at least climb a place to 23rd after victories over York City and Torquay United as well as a good point to end the month at home to Rochdale. That draw against ‘Dale is all the more impressive given Ishmel Demontagnac’s red card just three second after coming off the bench.
King’s month long tenure comes to an end as David Cardoza finally names his new Cobblers manager…it’s someone who, as with the last two appointments, wants to rebuild his reputation in English football. Sven Goran Eriksson arrives at Sixfields to take the reins and immediately adds to the squad on a frantic transfer deadline day. In comes former England striker Emile Heskey on a deal until the end of the season with long sought after Malcolm Christie coming out of retirement as his strike partner. Eriksson also sures up the midfield by signing Luke Guttridge from Luton Town on the advice of Tim Flowers.
Sven’s first game in charge is a trip to Cheltenham Town and Guttridge produces a carbon copy of his goal in the playoffs last season to give the Cobblers a crucial 1-0 win. Jeema runs onto the pitch thinking that we’d just made it to Wembley but is restrained and given a ten month banning order from all UK stadiums for ‘inappropriate use of an umbrella’.
Emile Heskey quickly succumbs to the 2013/14 injury curse as he falls down the Sixfields bank on the way to the home game with Plymouth Argyle. In an even crueller twist of fate, Heskey rolls right onto Malcolm Christie who was on his way to pick up the pre-match snacks from Megabowl and both strikers are subsequently out for the rest of the season. The Plymouth game ends 0-0 and Town struggle for goals for the rest of the month, losing out 1-0 at Fleetwood before another goalless draw at home to Hartlepool United.
Sven is forced to dip into the free transfer market and Poul Hubertz gets a surprise phone call in the middle of his Valentine’s Day meal with his wife to invite him to return to Sixfields for a few months. Hubertz accepts and says that he will be here by the end of the month once he’s gained full fitness by jogging from Denmark.
At the start of a packed month of crucial fixtures the Cobblers are still in deep trouble and Sven is glad to give Hubertz his debut in the home game with Bristol Rovers. It looks as though we’re heading for yet another 0-0 until the Dane pops up with an 89th minute header to send Sixfields into delirium and to lift us out of the bottom two for the first time since December.
Aidy Boothroyd, meanwhile, returns to television as he is drafted in as the expert analyser for the League Cup final between Manchester United and Manchester City.
An excellent point at promotion chasing Scunthorpe continues the good run and Town lead 1-0 at Exeter before Ishmel Demontagnac’s sending off for fighting himself leaves us with ten men for the last hour and we eventually lose 2-1 thanks to two late goals.
A few days later, though, Mansfield Town are swept aside in a comfortable 3-0 win for the Cobblers that leaves us four points clear of the drop zone. Defeat at Morecambe is followed by further home wins over AFC Wimbledon and Bury and going into April it’s all looking good for league survival.
Just as things are looking rosy, the Northampton Chronicle and Echo runs with a shocking front page story that links Cobblers manager Eriksson to a secret affair with a 20 year old Miss Northampton 2014. Eriksson stringently denies anything but the rumours have a startling effect on his team’s performances as the Cobblers lose four in a row to drop them right back to within goal difference of the drop.
Minutes before the final away game of the season at Dagenham and Redbridge, Eriksson walks out on the Cobblers after a tweet from a mystery source is released containing a photo of Sven leaving Nando’s, Longbridge Road, with Miss Northampton. Andy King returns to the hot seat for a crucial away win as the Cobblers continue their incredible run of 1-0 victories at Dagenham.
There’s still one game left and King knows that only a win over Oxford United will guarantee safety. Things look bad when Ishmel Demontagnac is sent off during the warm-up and the Cobblers are forced to start the game with ten men. Oxford, looking for a win to take them into League One, are slow out of the blocks and their nervous play means that we’re still in the game at the break.
As time is running out, word comes through that Torquay are leading 4-0 at home to Wycombe and that we need a goal to save ourselves. Sixfields holds its breath as the clock ticks down and United keeper Ryan Clarke smacks the ball against an onrushing Poul Hubertz. The ball strikes Hubert on his backside and flies over Clarke and into the net to save the Cobblers from relegation right at the death. Hubertz retires directly following the game and throws his shorts into the crowd on leaving the pitch.
Andy King departs the club with his job done and Town go into the summer with huge appointments to make on and off the pitch.
As the Champions League Final approaches between Barcelona and surprise finalists Zenit St. Petersburg, ITV’s head presenter Adrian Chiles suffers from a severe bout of the rare ‘diarrhoea of the mouth’ disease and Aidy Boothroyd comes in to offer his analytical skills once again. With Barcelona playing some delightful football and leading 4-0 at half-time, Boothroyd suggests that they start playing the game in the right way and learning how to ‘just hoof it.’ Barcelona head coach Gerardo Martino is watching in the dressing room and takes the advice from Boothroyd after hearing that he was once in the running for the England manager’s post. Zenit then fight back to win the game 5-4 in the most astonishing final in history. It leads to Martino being sacked.
The World Cup in Brazil kicks off as Cobblers strikers Emile Heskey and Malcolm Christie are disappointed to miss out on the England squad. They are so distraught that they both retire immediately. England manage to draw 0-0 against Italy, 2-2 against Uruguay and then win 1-0 against Costa Rica thanks to a Peter Crouch header to progress to a Second Round game against Spain. After playing a unique 10-0-0 formation, we hold on to penalties but then, of course, exit the competition after going down 4-2 on spot kicks. Crouch balloons the decisive penalty over the bar before David Silva slots in to send England home.
Back in England, the Cobblers are still hunting for a permanent manager and suspiciously wait until the end of the World Cup. As the FA announce that Roy Hodgson has been sacked, David Cardoza swoops and signs Hodgson to a four year deal, providing plenty of ‘banter’ about our victory over his Liverpool side in 2010 in the opening press conference. Hodgson sorts out the striker crisis straight away by signing the man who tore his side apart that night, Courtney Herbert and brings back Bayo Akinfenwa for ‘one more run’ at Sixfields. He promises more to come as pre-season begins.
Back at the World Cup, Argentina and Ghana compete in the final and once again there’s odd goings on in the television studios. This time it’s the BBC in trouble as Gary Lineker is kidnapped and the Beeb controversially replace him with Aidy Boothroyd who gives his own tactical master class during the biggest game of the year. Ghana stun the odds on favourites by winning the game 1-0 and Argentina subsequently announce Boothroyd as their new manager having signed a deal with the former Cobblers boss before the final began that allowed him to take over should they lose.
Roy Hodgson is busy plotting his first ever League Two campaign and dips into his contact book to sign Dirk Kuyt, Shane Long and Graham Dorrans. The Cobblers are installed as 4/1 second favourites for the League Two title based on these signings and Hodgson’s experience behind relegated Sheffield United.
Two days before the start of the season, Ishmel Demontagnac is sacked by the Cobblers after starting a fight in an empty room. He moves quickly to join Yeovil Town on a five year contract.
The Cobblers start the new season in their usual slow fashion, drawing 0-0 at home with Portsmouth before exiting the League Cup at the hands of MK Dons. The final game in August, though, sees a much better performance and a storming 5-0 win at Sixfields against Oxford United who were still recovering from a Playoff Final defeat in May and who ended the month bottom of the league.
The good form continues into the second month of the season with a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy victory over Bristol Rovers kicking off September. Dirk Kuyt scores his first goal for the club in a 2-0 home win against relegated Notts County before Shane Long comes off the bench to hit a second half hat-trick in a 3-1 success at Fleetwood Town.
Portsmouth are deducted ten points in September for fielding an ineligible player called Ali Stairslowe while Gary Johnson loses his job at Yeovil after relegation and a run of eight straight defeats at the start of the League One campaign.
Aidy Boothroyd takes his first official game as Argentina boss but is forced to apologise to fans after his new charges lose 1-0 at home to Peru in a friendly match. He promises that his squad are ‘progressing well’ and are ‘nearly there’ in his post-match interview.
Coventry City’s residency at Sixfields is ended as the club agree a deal to finally move back to the Ricoh Arena. Nobody passes the news on to star striker Callum Wilson, though, and Roy Hodgson convinces him that his contract is now null and void and that he must stay at Sixfields. After locking Wilson in the East Stand cupboards with former mascot Griff the Griffin for a month, Coventry sack the striker for going AWOL and Hodgson swoops to hold Wilson to ransom – his release from the cupboard in exchange for signing a three year contract with Town.
Wilson gets off the mark straight away and gets two goals in an impressive 2-0 victory at Wycombe and the only goal of the game in the regulation 1-0 win at Dagenham and Redbridge. These results help the Cobblers to leap into the top three by the time the month comes to an end.
The FA Cup First Round pairs the Cobblers with Daventry Town, now led by player-manager Neil Grayson and ‘Larry’ stuns Sixfields by scoring the winner. Four sides of Sixfields give him a standing ovation at the end of the game, though, and Daventry eventually exit bravely in Round Three at the hands of Chelsea.
In the league there are no such problems, though, as Courtney Herbert gets his first goal for the club in three years in a 2-1 win against Cheltenham Town and there’s a crucial 3-2 victory against fellow promotion chasers Newport County at Sixfields.
A couple of postponements due to the ‘worst winter in history’ (Source: The Daily Mail) momentarily stop the Cobblers’ progress. But a Boxing Day win at home to Burton Albion takes us to within a point of top spot before the extraordinary 2014 turnaround is complete when the Cobblers end the year with a 4-3 success at Rochdale that takes us to the summit of League Two. Spotland is also the venue for the biggest return of the year as Jeema takes his place back on the terraces following his ban and receives a hero’s welcome back by the claret faithful.
Roy Hodgson gives his end of year press conference and thanks the fans for sticking by his side after the slow start to the season. He predicts even greater things to come in 2015 and promises that there will be more new signings to follow in the January transfer window. The Cobblers go into the New Year two points clear at the top of League Two and with optimism fully restored to the whole club.