Hoganson the hot topic as Town prepare for Derby

Tonight the Cobblers welcome back to Sixfields a man who came all the way through the ranks, earned two Player of the Year awards and moved on this summer to higher ground in the Championship. Michael Jacobs makes his quick return to the club after signing for Derby County a few weeks ago and he should get a good welcome from the fans that watched him mature into a player fit for the big step up.

Had it not been for another man who had left the club in the last week then we would all be talking about Cracker’s return. But Michael Hoganson, the left sided player who shone in the friendly at Cogenhoe and who was subsequently offered a deal to sign on a one year deal with Town, may well be in the visitor’s dressing room rather than the home one after turning out for the Rams in their 1-0 win over Burton at the weekend (Jacobs netted the only goal in that one).

It’s fair enough that Hoganson is a free agent and can talk to any club he wants to about his future but the gripe that many have is that he played for another club whilst our offer was there, essentially taking part in a trial for County. It’ll be interesting to see how things work out this evening with the potential there that Hoganson could be in either squad!

There are three friendlies and two weeks to go until the season starts now and preparation needs to step up a notch as we close in on the big kick off. Still illusive are a at least one centre back (preferably with a bit of pace) and a goalkeeper, though Conor Roberts may get another shot at earning a short term deal this evening.

I’ll be starting to upload my League Two Preview articles in the next week or so, so come back for those…hopefully will be sticking the first lot up on Monday 6th August with four teams previewed per day!

Hoganson becoming the star of pre-season

Hoganson in his Newcastle days

The stand out player of the pre-season preparations so far isn’t even a Cobblers player…yet. Left sided whizz kid Michael Hoganson has impressed enough to earn a contract offer from Aidy Boothroyd and score twice in last night’s 4-0 win at Cogenhoe United. Having come through the training camp in Croatia as the only trialist to earn an offer, Hoganson’s name was then the one that was coming up in conversations with visitors to the two friendlies back in England so far.

After the problems we had on that side of the pitch last season, it would be a good coup to tie down the former Newcastle youngster who is likely to have other clubs interested and hovering. Aidy Boothroyd has made the offer and after last night’s match stated that it’s there and that it’s not going to be improved despite some possible haggling from the players’ agent.

Joe Widdowson and Ishmel Demontagnac are already new comers to the left hand side of the team so there would certainly be competition for places should Boothroyd complete the deal but a centre back remains elusive.

I fear that we’re waiting too long for a certain Clarke Carlisle. I would love Carlisle to sign but from the noises coming out of Sixfields it sounds like we’re waiting for him before exploring other options. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense to wait this long so I’m sure there are others around but my concern is that we hang out for too long and end up picking up the pieces from what’s left of the transfer window offerings.

Anyway, it was good to hear of a victory last night, even if it’s not one to shout to the rooftops about (none of the friendlies will be) and now it’s all about getting back to Sixfields for the three home friendlies of the summer against Chelsea Under 21s, West Ham United and Derby County. We’re down to under three weeks before it all kicks off now and with the Olympics now here it should fly by!

You can have that one, Sammo!

I always find pre-season to be a funny little stage of the summer with fans’ expectations starting to build at an alarmingly high rate as we hurtle towards the opening day of the season, strangely the League Cup First Round this season.

The first friendly on English ‘soil’ for the Cobblers took place over the weekend with mass panic setting in that we couldn’t beat Ian Sampson’s Corby Town convincingly. Twitter is usually a decent barometer of fans’ views in this day and age was full of mostly negativity from what I saw. It wasn’t just Cobblers fans falling into the trap but any league fan who was tweeting from a non-league ground in dismay that their new signings failed to instantly gel. But this really isn’t a time to get worrying about things like local friendly games.

Aidy Boothroyd is quite rightly taking some positives from the match with the amount of chances forged cited as one reason for cheer. We have to remember that these players have just got back from what sounded like a hellish training camp in Croatia in terms of fitness work and that would have still had one or two of the squad members feeling the bite.

It’s all about progression through this next month and as we look now towards another away friendly at Cogenhoe United on Wednesday night. It’s then all back to Sixfields for the remaining three warm ups ahead of the big kick off on August 14th…that’s the time to start worrying about results but for now we’ll give that one to Sammo and some of the old guard and move on!

Let the countdown begin!

After an intense training camp, the Cobblers are back on English soil and now the countdown can well and truly begin for the start of the 2011/12 season. With only a month to go, the excitement has started to kick in and there’s even an impromptu friendly success to enjoy as we start counting down the days. The Cobblers eased through a match with local Croatian side Novigrad and hit them for six in a 6-1 win that was a reward for the hard graft put in over the week long training camp.

A key highlight of the match was Jake Robinson’s hat-trick and whilst it was, as we say every year, “only a friendly”, it doesn’t take away the relief of finally seeing his name on the Town score sheet again. Robinson struggled to get going under Gary Johnson and appeared to lose all sense of confidence in front of goal, failing to score all season in his maiden campaign in a Cobblers shirt. It was to his credit though that he picked himself up and promised to fight for his place in the face of new summer arrivals in attacking positions. This little cameo should do him the world of good.

There are some who think he should be on the way out but to me he’s still got something left to give. The few times I saw him last season he showed promise and you get the feeling that there’s a lot more to come. If we’re to be successful we need utility men like Robinson, who can play anywhere along the attacking line, and I don’t think we should be giving up on him just yet.

Elsewhere, only one trialist who made the trip to Croatia, Michael Hoganson, has been kept on for a longer period under the watchful eye of Aidy Boothroyd and his goal in the friendly win can’t have done his chances any harm at all.

There’s still a centre back to try and hunt down with that position the only one left to properly fill. If that has to be a loan then so be it but I would much prefer to see a season long deal take place than a short term one. An experience head with a knack for leadership are the essentials for anyone wanting to apply.

It’s all shaping up nicely with the first friendly back here set up for this Saturday as we visit Corby Town where there will be a reunion with their new boss, and Cobblers legend, Ian Sampson!

The Boys are back in town!

Demontagnac…set for pre-season

With the European Championships finished, it’s finally time to fully turn our attention to the start of the league season. The Cobblers players report back for what is set to be an intense pre-season training regime. Aidy Boothroyd has already promised the players hell in the build-up to the 2012/13 season so hopefully there’s not been too many Nandos consumed over the last couple of months by the Town players. The three new signings so far have all been attacking with Alex Nicholls, Clive Platt and triple word Scrabble score Ishmel Demontagnac signing up.

We’re looking bare at the back still but with the passing of July 1st there’s usually a plethora of new additions to the free transfers list as players make their final decisions on new deals. But what do we have so far? I’ve been trying to come up with a starting line-up from what we have in the squad as things stand and ended up with this:

Higgs

Johnson, Langmead, Webster, Charles

Nicholls, Guttridge, Tozer, Harding, Demontagnac

Platt/Bayo

From that, I would say that Byron Webster is likely to not be first choice while Anthony Charles can play left-back but wouldn’t be my obvious pick for the whole season. An experienced head in the centre of defence is a must if it’s going to be Langmead back there and we saw a marked improvement with him after he was paired with Clarke Carlisle. Carlisle is looking more and more like moving elsewhere next season so I’m hoping Aidy is casting his net further afield.

The base of a good squad is critical and we need experience at the back, especially with some of the ambitious signings being made elsewhere in this division.

I’m pretty happy with the midfield and attack and think that Boothroyd will go for a 4-5-1 with pacy wingers feeding one of the big men up top. That could be wrong of course and there are the likes of Jake Robinson and Lewis Wilson to throw into the mix as well. The month of July is set to be a pretty hectic one but as the squad prepares for a trip to Croatia for a training camp there’ll hopefully be some more movement in the ‘incomings’ column in the next week or so.