The Cobblers’ summer recruitment took a drastic turn yesterday afternoon when John-Joe O’Toole completed his move to Sixfields with the signing providing plenty of food for thought and debate. In footballing terms, it’s a fantastic move for the club on the pitch to bring in a player on a free transfer who hit fifteen goals from midfield for a relegated side last season but when you get directed to past interviews taken from the end of last season, for example, you see that there’s an element of risk involved.
O’Toole clearly believes that he’s below his level of talent given that interview whilst at the end of his time at Bristol Rovers but that can be interpreted in two ways – either he’s a desperately passionate player who just wants to play at the highest level he can or he’s a disruptive influence that will be more trouble than he’s worth. There’s also a rebute here that shows the midfielder in a better light and in one that he argues that his statement was out of context.
What I do think is that any problems O’Toole does have in being a team player and positively influencing team mates need harnessing and Chris Wilder should be a good enough character to do just that. At twenty five, O’Toole still has time to develop as a player on and off the pitch and it’s one of those situations where you just hope that Wilder uses his experience to get the very best out of his big summer signing.
It’s another three year contract so there’s an immediate trust placed in the player by the Town boss. That in itself should speak to O’Toole and hopefully mean that he starts off with a clean slate. The new environment can only help his desire on the pitch and if the Cobblers are riding high in the league in the early months there should be no problems with him reaching his full potential.
The signing may now put a halt to any more bids for strikers by the Cobblers management with Wilder apparently cooling on bringing in a big front man. Instead, he’s likely to wait on the summer progress of Alex Nicholls and place trust in O’Toole’s ability in adding goals from midfield whilst also continuing to work on how to link up experience and youth in Marc Richards and Ivan Toney.
A right back and a left back (Evan Horwood is close to confirming his signing) are all that’s left to finish off a summer shopping list that Wilder hopes to have finished by the time the first friendly takes place on July 12th.
On paper, things are looking pretty good…now to put it all together.