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!

Wilder appointed!

wilderThe weeks of speculation, drama and frustration are over – Northampton Town have a new manager as Chris Wilder was appointed today on a three and half year contract following a weekend of confusing statements and mystery as to just what was going on after Oxford’s 1-0 home win over Torquay United. Wilder stayed in his post at the Kassam Stadium just long enough to do us a favour and take three points from one of our rivals but no-one seemed to know just what was actually happening after the final whistle.

The Cobblers had just been beaten for the third time in a row at home against Chesterfield despite taking an early lead but ultimately it was the events off the pitch that were the prime focus come 5pm. It was probably best – at a rain sodden Sixfields Town were well beaten by the Spireites and it was another game that once again highlighted the job that Wilder has put himself in for.

Reports came out of Oxford that Wilder had said his goodbyes and resigned at around 6pm on Saturday but then out of nowhere came a statement that he actually hadn’t officially gone just yet. I’m assuming legal talk halted the move initially but on Sunday night it was 100% confirmed when we agreed a compensation package with the U’s and were given permission to talk to him.

It brings to an end a process that’s been far too long but now it’s time to finally look forward and focus on keeping our Football League status. Wilder has one heck of a job on his hands with the transfer window closing on Friday evening and for once it’s looking like a very, very busy end to the window for the Cobblers. Players clearly need to go and there just has to be a core group of players coming in that can attempt to turn this disastrous league season around. We’re not the greatest of lures for potential signings but anyone who does help towards what would be a magnificent escape will forever receive idol status with the long suffering Town fans.

Wilder himself has pedigree and I don’t understand a lot of the complaints already from some of the claret faithful. His style of play has come into question from both Oxford and Cobblers fans but if we’re in a position of 22nd or above come May then I really don’t care if we win every game 1-0 with our only shot on goal through a goal mouth scramble. The objective is safety and I’ve said before that League Two isn’t about fancy football unless you’re running away with the league.  And when did we last have a manager who promoted free flowing football at this level?

To appoint a manager who took Halifax to the Conference playoff final during a successful period at the Shay and then brought Oxford back into the Football League via the playoffs is a wise move and his record at League Two is above average. He will have gained a shed load of experience over the last few seasons and, crucially, know the division and what it takes to win games in it.

The big questions now all surround who Wilder can find to spearhead his bid to enter himself into Cobblers folklore by keeping us in the league. The length of the contract is something that really stands out as well and it’s pretty clear that if the worst does happen then Wilder will be the man charged with getting us back to the league.

The road ahead is a shuddering one but now we finally have direction and full time leadership we have to put all our energies as supporters into getting behind our club and playing our part as well.

It’s been a long, long month – now comes three and a half months that will define the future of our football club.

A note for Andy King…

In the midst of all this drama, Andy King has had to keep the Cobblers running with no real personal incentive attached. King comes across as a good guy and though results haven’t all gone his way he was in a position where he had little to no hope of putting his own mark on the team. By the end of his tenure in charge, King’s exhausted state reflected how most of us felt and you have to give him some credit for even staying sane during this whole process.

I’m not sure where he goes from here but in a month where everything seemed to be falling apart around him King has kept an air of dignity about him and that’s to his huge credit. Hopefully he manages to stay in the game in some capacity because you could tell that the passion is still there – all the best to King in the future.

The assistant…welcome Alan Knill

Joining Wilder at the club is his new assistant Alan Knill. It’s a role reversal of the pair’s time at Bury when Knill was in charge with Wilder as his assistant so there’s clearly plenty of trust there. Knill’s management career began at Rotherham United before he moved to Bury in arguably his most successful role, taking the Shakers to the brink of promotion from League Two. He joined Scunthorpe United in 2011 but only lasted a year and was appointed Torquay United’s interim boss in 2013 following the illness of Martin Ling.

When Ling left the Devon club in the summer, Knill was given the job full time but a poor first half of this season saw him sacked just after Aidy Boothroyd was shown the door at Sixfields. He should also bring a good amount of experience to the club and hopefully what a successful partnership in the past will be rekindled here. Welcome Alan!