Page unveiled as the new man for Cobblers

523390419TM00005_PORT_VALE_The usual time scale for naming a new manager – particularly at the end of a season and before playoffs are complete – is pretty lengthy and drawn out but Kelvin Thomas and the Cobblers have worked fast to get their man as Port Vale’s Rob Page was unveiled this afternoon at a Sixfields news conference. It was clear from the start of the process last week that Thomas had some ideas in mind as to the type of profile he wants for the new boss and Page is likely to have been one of the candidates identified early on.

He’s by no means a high profile appointment but after plenty of recent appointments before Chris Wilder that have flattered to deceive in terms of coming with a load of hype and expectation it’s maybe for the best that we’ve gone for a young manager who has already done a decent job at League One level. Vale was Page’s first managerial position and having led them to safety in his first few months in charge at Vale Park, it’s notable that he helped them to defy last season’s relegation odds (Vale were second favourites for the drop at the start of the campaign) to finish in the top half of the table.

To me, that’s a key point of the whole appointment. He’s worked on limited resources to stabilise Vale and has worked above and beyond the goals that would have been set for him a year ago. Though his experience as a manager isn’t as vast as many on the list, he’s preferable to me to the likes of Gary Bowyer for his knowledge of the division both as a player and during his couple of years as a manager. He’s proved to be a good communicator and man manager and obviously has motivational skills to get players to play above their potential – particularly the likes of JJ Hooper who the Cobblers released in 2014 but reappeared for the Valiants with goals and performances of some maturity this season.

Vale fans were disappointed at the news of Page leaving too, which is a pretty good indicator, though some of their reasons for why he shouldn’t choose Northampton are questionable to say the least!

The appointment is early enough now for the Cobblers to move on and Page will have the entire summer to prepare for life in League One with his new charges. The key tasks will be retaining the likes of Adam Smith, Ricky Holmes and John-Joe O’Toole and dipping into his contact book to bring in the right players that won’t disrupt the team spirit of a club that went through every emotion possible together this season.

With all of this in mind, here are a couple of key points from this afternoon’s press conference where Page was formerly announced as the new Cobblers boss..

Kelvin Thomas welcomes his man…

Thomas welcomed Page to the club and emphasised his delight at bringing in an “outstanding young manager” who is “energetic,  young and ambitious.” He was looking for a manager to come in and continue the work done by Chris Wilder and Alan Knill.

John Harbin joins as Performance Coach…

Joining Page at the club is Performance Coach John Harbin who has a background in Rugby League and football and has previously held similar posts at Oldham, Crystal Palace, Charlton, Coventry, QPR, Swansea, Plymouth and with Page at Port Vale.

Further announcements to come…

More backroom staff appointments will be made “in due course” with the assistant manager position still open at the time of writing. Rumours of Marc Richards agreeing to become a player/assistant are rife but that’s yet to be confirmed.

The first words…

Page was immediately interviewed by Sky Sports News this afternoon and gave a steady, confident interview and emphasised the need to manage expectations. He mentioned that he’s not met the players because they’ve already gone off on their holidays but is already looking forward to pre-season. Page acknowledged Chris Wilder’s work and said that he’s spoken to the former Town boss, who was hugely complimentary about the squad.

He also gave his first Cobblers Player interview and said it was a “no brainer” to join the Cobblers after speaking with Kelvin Thomas, who he seems to credit a lot to in terms of the decision to leave Vale Park for Sixfields. He again praised the efforts of the players last season and expressed it as a “great opportunity” to work with them.

Overall, Page seems in a very calm mood on his first day in the job.

Let the new era officially begin!

Blades calling for Wilder – what now for Cobblers?

wilderAfter talks broke down with Charlton Athletic on Monday, Chris Wilder’s head was immediately turned in a northern direction and today the man who led the Cobblers to the League Two title has agreed terms with his boyhood club Sheffield United. The Blades, who will be one of the strong favourites for promotion to the Championship from League One next season, acted quickly on sacking Nigel Adkins and Wilder signed a three year deal this afternoon.

It puts the Cobblers back in a sticky situation ahead of a summer that could now be disrupted in terms of players following Wilder out of the Sixfields door. Kelvin Thomas does, though, seem to want it all resolved as soon as possible so that planning can begin right away for what’s a hugely important first season back in League One.

I’m pretty torn on feelings towards Wilder at this stage. What he’s done for this club is nigh on miraculous having picked us up from the brink of relegation, steadied the ship and then come through this incredible season as champions. His dedication to the club over the last year can’t be questioned in the slightest and there will always be a fond memory of his and Alan Knill’s time in charge. But at the back of my mind there’s a small niggle at him not following the job on having made so many bold statements of team spirit and togetherness. In time I think the latter feeling will fade as we reflect on how we made it to winning the title but all may depend on how strong the follow up regime kicks in. He’ll be forgiven a lot more by Town fans, I’m sure, if the next in line to the top job takes us on that next step further.

That ambition isn’t necessarily unfounded – there’s plenty of history of upwardly mobile clubs continuing on their trajectory after a manager leaves for pastures new having built something successful and with the right leader in place now there’s no reason why we can’t hold onto this special atmosphere. The new manager has a lot to do to hold onto that but in his favour is the long deals for key players put in place by Wilder, meaning that the bulk of the squad is at least tied down for another year.

As for who that new man is, well, names are already being bandied about by bookmakers and here’s the first set of odds:

http://www.thesackrace.com/teams/northampton-town

Out of those, Steve Cotterill’s name stands out immediately to me. He’s got bags of experience, plenty of character and his last shot at League One ended with him delivering Bristol City’s first league title for sixty years alongside a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win in the same season. Cotterill would be one with a long list of contacts and his knowledge of the football league makes him a prime candidate.

Another on that list to perk the interest is Chris Powell, another to boast of a League One title having won the division with Charlton in 2012 whilst the likes of Gary Bowyer and Uwe Rosler might be looking to continue to cut their teeth in top jobs.

Whoever comes out on top in the race for the Town job, there’s plenty for them to get stuck into and at least gives us a big story to follow over the next few weeks!

Thanks do have to go to Chris Wilder and Alan Knill for all of their work, no matter what the circumstance of their departure. They were the lynchpins of the club during a crisis and took us to an unbelievable title. Now it’s time to move on as yet another new chapter in the story of our beloved club begins…

Oh go on then, one more for the road…

Over the line amidst confusion and drama!

goingup

In the end it wasn’t a powerful surge over the line, it wasn’t a clean cut win to take us into League One and it wasn’t entirely clear until a couple of minutes after the full time whistle what on earth was going in. But Saturday afternoon’s target was reached despite the Cobblers dropping a two goal lead to a Bristol Rovers side that may well join us in League One next season. Northampton Town are promoted and however we made it, it’s simply a remarkable achievement.

Just as Leicester City won’t care a jot in how they make it to what will surely be an unbelievable Premier League title win, Town fans should rejoice that the job is done. When we look back in years to come, all that we’ll see is the final points total – up to 88 with 15 still to play for – and our name at the top of the table and after nearly losing the club in November it surely goes down as one of the all-time great seasons in our history.

It did look as though we might do things the easy way on Saturday as Nicky Adams headed in mid-way through the first half against Rovers before the unsung Sam Hoskins made it two just after the break. Cue champagne being popped and celebrations starting as the countdown began to a full time whistle that would confirm ascension. But the Gas had other ideas and still wanted to ruin the party. The prolific Matt Taylor headed home with fifteen minutes to go to shake things up and Ellis Harrison stunned Sixfields into near silence by levelling things up in the dying minutes.

By many calculations we’d have to wait another week with Accrington Stanley winning and Plymouth Argyle standing to earn a point against Wimbledon but then a helping hand from Bayo Akinfenwa of all people saw Wimbledon win it at Home Park and the gap widen by another crucial point that put promotion back on. No-one in or out of the ground seemed to know what it meant but the pitch invasion and party could begin once the club officially announced that we were back in League One.

Cue the players emerging in the West Stand to celebrate amongst the supporters and that in itself is a picture that sums up the season – the squad together in celebration with the supporters who stuck by them as they played for weeks on no wages, worried and campaigned together in the autumn and who deserve every bit of praise. I’ve used many superlatives over the last few months about the character of this squad, this management team and our wonderful supporters and Saturday was a time to just revel in the glory of something that just doesn’t happen much in a lifetime of supporting a football team.

All that’s left to do now is to clinch the title and if we better Oxford United’s result on Saturday (Town travel to Exeter while the U’s host Luton Town) then the trophy is ours with four games to go. The Cobblers are also protecting an unbeaten run that stretches back to before the turn of the year and Chris Wilder certainly won’t be letting up on the pursuit of ending this season on even more of a high.

What a season. What a club!

What won’t happen in 2013

Bayo...new contract in 2013?

Bayo…new contract in 2013?

It’s one of two big times of year in the football calendar when supporters, pundits and ‘experts’ make their predictions for the coming months. The start of the season is check point one with January typically the time for rejigged thoughts on the season based on the opening few months. So I thought I would take a (light hearted) look at what might (or might not) happen in 2013.

Here goes…

January

The transfer window sees David Cardoza take a dip into his wallet to bring Robbie Savage out of retirement thanks to his fine showing in the recent charity match at Sixfields. Following a review of the DVD of the same game, Adam Woddyatt (Ian Beale) is also offered a contract until the end of the season. Moving in the opposite direction is Lewis Wilson, who is sent to look after the market stall for the remainder of the season. Meanwhile, Bayo Akinfenwa is signed to a new deal at Sixfields with a three year contract and a book of Nando’s vouchers.

On the pitch, the Cobblers continue their impressive home form with victories over Chesterfield and Burton whilst draws are picked up at Chesterfield and Aldershot, where Luke Guttridge scores a hat-trick against his former club in a game that ends 3-3.

February

The first match of the month sees a trip to Rotherham abandoned because Steve Evans “doesn’t like the look of the referee” meaning that the Cobblers are handed an automatic 3-0 victory and Rotherham are deducted 10 points thanks to Evans’ actions and their supporters’ subsequent protests on the pitch. Town move above the Millers in the table but Evans insists that his side will still finish above Northampton.

A fine 5-0 thumping of Rochdale features a second hat-trick of the season for Bayo Akinfenwa and lifts the Cobblers into the top three but there’s a set back at Southend as the Shrimpers re-sign Adam Barrett for one game only to head in the only goal of a 1-0 win. Two more home games follow, though, and the fortress stands firm, putting us in fine form going into the final couple of months of the season.

Slowe...still looking for employment

Slowe…still looking for employment

March

En route to Exeter, the Cobblers team coach is stopped by a lunatic in a tracksuit who has ran into the motorway. Luckily the individual is fine and only wanted a lift to St. James’ Park. After getting him onto the coach, the Town squad are stunned to find that it’s Alistair Slowe who is holding a letter from his Dad that got him a trial with the Cobblers’ opponents for the day. Unfortunately, on arrival Slowe realises that he’s at the wrong St. James’ Park and that his father intended for him to be helping out Newcastle’s fledgling campaign.

The Cobblers earn a solid 2-2 draw in that one and in a busy month pick up enough points to remain in the top three. Highlights include a win at Morecambe, who have replaced Jim Bentley with Dennis Wise “just for the  headlines of Morecambe and Wise”. Wise lasts just four games in charge.

April

With five games to go, the Cobblers are on the brink on automatic promotion with just six points needed to earn promotion. One of those is earned at Cheltenham but there’s a set back at Bradford as the Bantams win for the first time since their stunning League Cup final victory to send the Town natives home as nervous as ever. A home game with York City ends in a 1-1 draw ahead of a last away game at Port Vale.

All is going to plan at Vale Park with Bayo’s early goal putting us to within touching distance of the points target but John McCombe heads in a stoppage time equaliser to keep his own side’s hopes alive. That means it’s down to a final game of the season at home to Barnet who have been through their own drama. Gillingham’s dramatic fall from the top of the table sees them sack Martin Allen with one game to go and suddenly Edgar Davids mysteriously disappears from Underhill with Barnet two points from safety going into the final game. Surprisingly enough, Martin Allen turns up back at Barnet and leads his new club into the big clash at Sixfields.

With the Cobblers needing all three points to earn promotion and Barnet desperate to avoid the drop again it’s a tense encounter but the deadlock is broken with twenty minutes to go thanks to Clive Platt’s amazing overhead kick. Platt goes on to clinch a hat-trick in a 3-0 win that gives the Cobblers promotion. Despite some still berating Platt for not scoring five, there’s a mass pitch invasion with Bayo mobbed by hoards of fans and Barnet supporters crying into their Bovril. That is until they hear some shocking news – Wrexham, winners of the Conference, have fielded an ineligible player in their final game and have been stripped of their crown meaning that Barnet have somehow survived yet again. The ineligible player was suspiciously named Alistair Low.

Rotherham end up in 15th place in League Two but Steve Evans still thinks that his side will finish above Northampton.

May

On Bank Holiday Monday, there’s a street party in Northampton town centre with the Cobblers squad on an open top bus riding around town. The bus stops for a quick break outside Nandos where free chicken is thrown to the squad before it moves on to the market square to be greeted by thousands more fans and a special concert featuring Badly Drawn Boy and the ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ winners Ashleigh and Pudsey. Pudsey gets  a little too excited and jumps up to bite Nana on the knee, forcing him out of action for another four months.

Elsewhere, Liverpool stun Europe by winning the Europa League thanks to a stunning run and finished from 19-year-old Henoc Mukendi who had been drafted in to replace Luis Suarez at the last minute.

Saka...Sixfields bound?

Saka…Sixfields bound?

June

The Cobblers squad take a well-earned break and then return for a pre-season tour of Sweden where they come up against Helsingborgs who have just assigned Sven Goran Eriksson as manager. Sven makes a cheeky bid for Bayo after the game but it’s quickly rebuffed by Aidy Boothroyd who instead offers him Tim Flowers on loan for the season.

Back in England, Boothroyd gets to work in the transfer market and swoops for Nigerian midfielder Ayo Saka from Ocean Boys , forming an attacking trio of Bayo, Moyo and Ayo. A similar bid for Spaniard Ruben Royo fails.

July

Pre-season continues on English soil with a trip to Kettering Town who have relocated to Peterborough greyhound track for the 2013/14 season. Half way through the pre-season friendly, the rabbit used for the races is accidently shot out of its trap and hits Ben Tozer as he lines up for one of his traditional throw ins. Tozer is put on the shelf for three months, forcing Bayo to seriously worry about his goals tally for the coming campaign.

Boothroyd is another to start to panic and orders a reality TV show to be made to find the “Next big throw in taker” where he will audition thousands of players from across the country to try and find someone to fill Tozer’s boots. The winner is 39-year-old Roy Hunter who signs a loan deal from Teesside Athletic to join the club with whom he won promotion to League One in 1997.

August

The League One campaign kicks off with the expected amount of fireworks as the Cobblers begin against Gary Johnson’s Yeovil Town. The Cobblers go two down at Huish Park and Johnson starts dancing on the touchline and gesturing towards the Town fans who have been berating him all afternoon. But a tremendous second half recovery sees the Cobblers turn the game completely on its head to lead 4-2. For the final ten minutes Johnson hides in his dugout, sending new assistant Dave Lee out to take the flak from the home fans instead. After the game, Johnson leaves the stadium straight away and sends a text to last season’s top scorer James Hayter that he’ll be transfer listed immediately.

It’s a good start to League One football for the Cobblers who win twice more in August to sit in the top half of the table. In the League Cup there’s a fine win over Rotherham United at the New York Stadium with Steve Evan’s reaction being that his side will “progress further than Northampton” in the cup.

September

It’s a strange month for Town who draw every single league game and go out of the League Cup on penalties to Bradford City at Valley Parade. One of these league draws is a good one, however, as it comes at recently relegated Leeds United who were docked 15 points for going into administration at the end of the previous season.

Tozer...shakes off injury

Tozer…shakes off injury

October

The one everyone’s been waiting for takes place in October as the Cobblers make the trip to London Road to meet relegated Peterborough United in the derby. Before the game, Ben Tozer returns to Peterborough greyhound track to have a photo shaking hands with the rabbit that took him out in pre-season. Tozer makes his return to action against the Posh that afternoon and replaces Roy Hunter in the side to launch a 60 yard throw in that sets up Bayo for his first goal of the season to send the 4,000 strong travelling support wild. The Cobblers seal a memorable win when Boro’s summer signing Sean St. Ledger slips and lets in Ayo Saka for his first goal in the claret shirt.

That victory kicks the season well and truly into gear as Town win three out of four in the month to move into a playoff place.

November

The FA Cup pairs the Cobblers with AFC Rushden and Diamonds, now managed by former Rushden and Diamonds player Onandi Lowe. After a comfortable 7-0 success for Town, Lowe quits the club and disappears from England completely. The goals come from Bayo (2), Carlisle, Langmead, Hunter and recent loan signing Billy McKay (2).

The cup is a distraction for the Cobblers, however and the only other victory in the month of November is a 2-1 win against Barnet, now managed by former Cobblers hero Ray Van Dulleman. On the way to that game at Underhill, Jake Robinson tweets about the state of the M25 and is harshly sent on loan to AFC Rushden and Diamonds to think about what he had done.

December

As winter sets in, form returns to the Cobblers and a home game against MK Dons ends with a 3-1 victory thanks to three diving headers from Akinfenwa from Tozer throw ins. That’s followed by an excellent 2-0 win at Preston North End where special guest Neil Grayson is on commentary for Cobblers World. The momentum is halted by a postponement at Notts County due to wart hogs on the pitch but Boxing Day sees us pick up a third win on the bounce at home to Leyton Orient.

The final game of the calendar year takes us to Doncaster Rovers (via Worksop) and one fan is stunned to find the doctors coat he threw up in joy upon Mark Hughes scoring in 2007 under the same seat. The result is the same as on that day, 2-2, and Town end 2013 happily placed in fifth place in League One.