Spanish trip reveals big clues as pre-season steps up

It’s been a summer of unexpected hope, memorable moments and faith restoring football over in Russia so as the Cobblers prepare to hit the ground running ahead of the new season we can only hope that the good feeling continues into the league campaign. With just under three weeks to go until the big kick off (three weeks!) it’s time to turn our full attention once again to those players who’ll be looking to emulate the excellent progress made by the national team and carry the hopes of the next nine months.

Dean Austin has led the squad to Spain for a pre-season camp this week and his selection of those making the trip is sure to increase the speculation around the final destination of those on the fringes of their Sixfields careers.

The players left behind – Luke Coddington, Joe Iaciofano, Yaser Kasim and Billy Waters – will not only miss out on team bonding and a friendly taking place on Thursday but will also likely be doubting their places in Austin’s plans full stop. You could make a case for Coddington and Iaciofano staying to possibly arrange loan moves but this surely means the end for Kasim who has now failed to persuade three Town managers in the space of a year that he should be given a chance.

Waters is the case that causes the most interest. The former Cheltenham man, sent out on loan to Cambridge United last season, has been involved in all friendlies so far and could be forgiven for being disappointed to be left back in England, particularly after netting a couple in the 4-0 win over St. Albans City. Austin makes the case that he only wanted two players for each position on the trip but the fact that the travelling squad is littered with youth talent leaves you thinking that it won’t be long before Waters makes a permanent departure. In fact, there’s nothing to say that a move hasn’t already been lined up for him in the coming days.

Another not travelling is new striker Junior Morias, signed from The Posh last week. Morias is without a Visa and will stay behind to build up fitness here. Morias is the most eye opening piece of business by the club so far this summer and his promise that he “never gives a defender a minute’s piece” fits right into the ethos being created by the Cobblers boss. Morias was down the pecking order at London Road but it’s still looking like an excellent capture for League Two level.

With the central striking berths now all but sorted barring any departures, business should now turn to bringing in a replacement for Richard O’Donnell in goal and some extra creativity in central and wide midfield. We’ve appeared short in those areas in the pre-season games so far and it’s asking a lot for the likes of Morgan Roberts to come straight into consideration for what’s sure to be a tasty opening month back in League Two with all of the pressure and expectation that will contain.

But two or three more in the door before Lincoln’s visit would mean that Austin has completed his summer homework and we can all settle in for League Two hunting season. If we can kick off as we ended the last then we could yet be in for more stirring footballing moments to continue the national feeling through the dark autumn months.

Worries creep in as Posh nick friendly win…

Dickinson...injury

Dickinson…injury

It was never going to be a ‘blood and thunder’ derby game at Sixfields as big rivals Peterborough United came to town for the first big test of pre-season for Aidy Boothroyd’s men. A 1-0 defeat to the Posh isn’t the main concern coming out of the game with most of the just over 1,000 home fans attending likely to be happy just to be back and watching football at their home ground again. It would have been nice to record a victory against the men from London Road but the more pressing issues this pre-season are coming from events away from actual match time.

The hunt for a striker to ‘replace’ Bayo looked to be coming to a conclusion when Liam Dickinson, a more than able forward at this level when fully fit, limped off with a groin injury after twenty minutes of his first appearance on trial. Dickinson left Port Vale’s pre-season campaign to look for a longer deal reportedly and so we looked to be odds on to sign him until this latest setback for a man who missed the entirety of last season.

Dickinson is now out for three weeks so do we stick or twist? That’s the big question for Mr Boothroyd with time running out until the big kick off which is under two weeks, and three more friendlies, away. I’m in no doubt that we’ve missed out on some striking targets otherwise we wouldn’t have left it this long but there are still some decent enough goal scorers out there. Perhaps the answer will be out there in terms of a season long loan – not ideal but it worked well for the outstanding Lee Nicholls last season and could be a way to bring someone in short term whilst we wait and see how Nicholls’ namesake Alex does with his recovery.

Elsewhere on the injury front, Kelvin Langmead is now going to be missing for three months and that is, of course, a huge blow. Darren Purse was once again in the squad for the ‘Boro game and surely now we must offer him a deal, something that we probably should have done whether Langers was fit or not.

In better news, Gary Deegan had another good showing in the middle of the park and he’s one that I would be keen to bring in to complete a very useful Deegan/Carter combination as well as having Lewis Hornby maturing into a first team regular. Apparently an offer has been made to the former Hibs and (yes, of course) Coventry man and if we can secure him and Purse then at least we would begin to look ready.

The big debate up front lies in the hands of one Clive Platt, a man who is clearly on his final journey towards the end of his career bless him. His showing at Wembley did him no favours at all in terms of getting ‘in’ with a following that has, sometimes unfairly, singled him out as the scapegoat when things go wrong. Whilst I do think Platt brings something to the table I do believe it to be limited and only against a selection of opposition that will let him have space. Those that we need to be competing with will be on him all the time and harassing him for the ball as Bradford City did so perfectly under the Wembley clouds.

I still think Platt can play some part but do worry when I hear Boothroyd speak of him playing 46 games next season. Maybe he means he’ll play 5 minutes of every league game?!

With the season rolling nearer I would say we’re around three decent players away from calming the nerves. Purse and Deegan would be great…a hidden gem of a goal scorer who is lurking in the transfer market would complete this odd pre-season puzzle.