David Cameron Walker

Archive for the ‘Northampton Town’ Category

Final thoughts on a wretched campaign

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014


Despite the exciting and seemingly routine wins which kept Northampton Town in the Football League (3-0 against Dagenham and 3-1 against Oxford), the vast majority of last season was not easy nor enjoyable – in fact, my tenth year as a Cobbler was definitely the worst.

However, it was a season of two halves and the majority of the second half was very enjoyable, just as the majority of the first half was utterly abysmal (and difficult to reminisce about).

There was a sense of quiet optimism around Sixfields during pre-season and 700 Cobblers fans travelled to York on the opening day in high spirits. But if there was a game to sum up Aidy Boothroyd’s final, painful months in charge, it was this one. Our best player was our goalkeeper, the defence looked as though it was one mistake away from a meltdown, the midfield was, quite frankly, a disgrace and in terms of an attacking threat: there wasn’t one.

These hugely disappointing trends continued throughout the first two months of the campaign (a 3-1 win over Newport our only sense of elation) until we travelled to Wimbledon for the first game of October. One of the best performances on the season followed and we won 2-0. The emotion of the final away trip of this season, to Dagenham, will probably mean that game goes down as the most memorable of the season, but in terms of a team performance, Wimbledon away might have been the best of the Boothroyd era.

A late Luke Norris free-kick against Fleetwood in November aside, there was nothing else to get excited about in the Boothroyd reign and it all ended with a 4-1 defeat to Wycombe. Ironically, after a series of negative performances, it was the desire to attack in his final game which cost Boothroyd his job. Every striker under contract must have played a part in that game but to no avail and Aidy got the boot about 45 minutes after the game finished.

I think Aidy Boothroyd has received some unfair criticism concerning the 2012/2013 season since his sacking. In my opinion, that season we were a force in this league. Away from home we were poor and we seemed unable to consistently control matches, but with a squad that was ravaged with injuries throughout, Aidy did extremely well to take a team with very few players at the peak of their powers to Wembley. Ignoring the capitulation once we actually reached the home of football, it was a very successful season. The fact that some people have tried to discredit the achievements of that season, based on the shocking football we had to endure at the start of the one just gone, is unfair. Aidy deserved to get the sack but his track record in his first 18 months is, in the most part, admirable, particularly considering the circumstances.

With the season over it is very easy to say we are in safe hands with Chris Wilder and Alan Knill but in January, whilst there was plenty of happiness with the appointments, it looked an impossible task for anyone to keep the Cobblers up. Wilder made sensible additions to the squad – proven goalscorers in Alan Connell and Emile Sinclair were brought in, whilst Ricky Ravenhill came in to improve a very poor midfield – and we started with a good draw against Cheltenham before losing to Plymouth.

One of the big reasons that Northampton are still a Football League club is because of our ability to beat the teams who were in and around the relegation zone. We dispatched of Torquay, Exeter and Accrington before the end of the season whilst drawing with Wycombe, Morecambe and Bristol Rovers and this meant that we managed to claw back at the points deficit which was seven points at one stage. Throw in a few good wins against Burton, Southend and Hartlepool and these are what provided the difference. There were lows in amongst the highs – Wimbledon’s late goal in March to make it 2-2 was one of my lowest moments as a Cobblers fan and we lost heavily to Bury and Rochdale at home – but Wilder’s record since becoming the Northampton manager is more than respectable – in fact it’s brilliant.

Despite having a real chance of survival going into the last few games of the season, we were still in the bottom two with just two games left following a disappointing and entirely avoidable 1-0 defeat to Portsmouth. The club’s penultimate game of the season was away to Dagenham & Redbridge and, although there was an air of expectancy, which the 1,200 fans that travelled channelled into creating a wall of noise as the game began, no-one would have expected what would happen next. In just his second senior start, academy graduate Ivan Toney, burst onto the scene with a poacher’s goal inside ten minutes before netting an audacious overhead kick just before half-time. In between his two strikes Ian Morris netted a wonderful volley from well outside the area but the day belonged to Toney as the Cobblers edged out of the bottom two.

A 3-1 win over Oxford (assisted by a ridiculous Ryan Williams challenge which earned him an early bath) assured the Cobblers safety. The fact that nothing of interest happened throughout most of the second half made it seem as though it was almost an inevitable and that was the feeling for much of the week between the Dagenham game and the Oxford game. But four months ago (five months ago at the time of writing) the ‘great escape’ was very much off. Wilder has done absolute magic since he arrived at Sixfields and I can’t think of too many others who would have been as successful as he has been since arriving.

The Cobblers were dead and buried following a 3-1 home defeat to Chesterfield: the last game before Chris Wilder joined. But in the last four months he has provided supporters with some fantastic memories, ensured that they have a Football League club to support going forward and he has made a lot of people very excited about the future. We owe him a great deal.

Written by Liam Raggett, We Are Going Up’s Northampton Town blogger

Liam tweets at @LiamRaggett

A new face in Town

Saturday, March 1st, 2014

Chris Wilder

If a soap opera about a football club was aired on the television, the script would probably be along the same lines as the last couple of months at Northampton Town. It has had a bit of everything and, should new manager Chris Wilder, keep the club in the Football League, most Cobblers fans will probably look back at it as an interesting, if not exciting, time for the football club.

It started at the end of the Aidy Boothroyd reign. His demise (perhaps ‘downfall’ would be a more appropriate word, but if Northampton Town are relegated it could be THE END for the club) was inevitable given that the club were 92nd out of 92 English league clubs. The season up to that point (and, indeed, up to this point) had been an utter disaster. He had won a grand total of FOUR games out of 21 and we had scored just 17 goals. The statistics were damning and the club made the correct decision to sack him.

Describing Boothroyd’s time at the club is difficult. He inherited a shockingly poor squad, in 2011, which had been entirely mismanaged by Gary Johnson and, incredibly, kept them up. Last season, he led the club to within 90 minutes of promotion, but he was constantly undermined by his inability to win away from Sixfields and, in the end, it was this which stopped us from gaining promotion. This season has, so far, been one to forget and that is almost entirely down to Boothroyd. He has been hugely backed and in the end he failed to deliver.

Despite these failings I cannot bring myself to dislike him. He did a much better job than Gary Johnson and, even after this season, I would trust him to deliver success more than I would trust Johnson. He never shirked questions in the media and always came across as a knowledgeable football man and a very passionate person. He created a good connection with the fans, particularly in his first six months or so, and there are very few managers who would have been able to take a group of almost non-league players and turn them into to Wembley finalists within 18 months. In the end, however, he had to go.

Caretaker manager Andy King was always fighting a losing battle. It was well publicised that Chairman David Cardoza was approaching managers and at no point did it seem that King would ever get the job. I’ll never forget his post-match interview at the end of his first game against Burton Albion where he sounded incoherent and as if he didn’t understand the questions he was being asked, but he grew into the role and delivered some of the most satisfying moments of the season such as the 0-0 draw away to Portsmouth, in which the Cobblers squad was utterly decimated by injury, and the 2-1 victory over Newport County, which included a penalty save from Matt Duke, who has been one of our best players this season.

King always sounded passionate (other than in that first interview) and as if he really cared about what happened to this Football Club, despite the fact he would no allegiance to it once a new manager was appointed. Loyalty almost seems a thing of the past in football, but Andy King certainly is loyal and I hope he gets a Football League job soon – I fully expect him too.

Whilst Andy King was doing his best to steady the ship, rumours were circulating around who was going to get the job. A few non-league managers were spoken of in relation the job, such as Kevin Willkin and Jon Brady whilst ex-player and fans favourite, Chris Hargreaves was also mooted and it is rumoured that he was interviewed twice for the role. In the end though he opted for another one of his former clubs, Torquay United, and I expect him to do a good job there. Controversial figures, Paulo Di Canio and Martin Allen were both rumoured to be interested in the job and there was a feeling, after the snubbing of Hargreaves, that the appointment of one of these names may be the solution; they would have definitely caused a reaction from the players, which would have probably changed our fortunes around, but in terms of a long-term project they would not have been the answer.

Whilst these rumours were growing in volume, the club stayed quiet and, in the immediate days before the appointment, this became a frustration for fans. The length it time to make as appointment was excessive and, following the 2-0 home defeat to York, discontent began to reach fever pitch. It grew to an unhealthy high when it was rumoured that the Cobblers had made an illegal approach for Newport County manager Justin Edinburgh.

The Friday before a home match against Chesterfield, the story concerning Oxford United manager Chris Wilder and it was assumed he would be resigning paving the way to join Northampton and he refused to face the media before Oxford’s match. The Oxford Chairman ‘confirmed’ that he had resigned on Saturday evening however Chris Wilder denied this was the case, before he did eventually resign on Sunday. He was announced as the new Northampton manager on Monday.

It’s fair to say that Wilder’s appointment has been met with the same level of enthusiasm as the last two appointments of Johnson and Boothroyd. For me, the appointment is a very solid one and I expect Wilder to keep us in the Football League. He has brought in some excellent players such as Emile Sinclair, Ricky Ravenhill and Alan Connell and even his more ‘left-field’ signings, such as Leon McSweeney and Gregor Robertson have so far done well.

Results have, so far, lived up to the billing. Despite disappointments against Fleetwood and Plymouth, the Cobblers have recorded home wins against Hartlepool and Southend as well as a priceless 2-1 victory against Torquay. The wins have been a result of terrific amounts of hard work from the players but also due to the quality that Wilder is bringing out in them; Chris Hackett and Darren Carter are playing better than they have all season, Duke appears to have got over his blip and we are scoring goals on a regular basis.

It was certainly a major coup for Northampton Town Football Club in snatching Chris Wilder from local rivals, and promotion hopefuls, Oxford United but, given the backing that Wilder has got (and will continue to get) from the Chairman and the fans, I am confident that it will be the right move by both the club and Wilder himself. Staying up? No bother.

Up the Town.

Written by Liam Raggett, We Are Going Up’s Northampton Town blogger

Liam tweets at @LiamRaggett

Problems at Sixfields

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Aidy-BoothroydFollowing Northampton Town Football Club’s capitulation at Wembley, on 18th May 2013, very few people, if anyone, would have thought the club would be in the mess it is now.

But, unfortunately, it is. We are 91st out of 92 in the Football League, and it was only a few weeks ago that we were 92nd.

During his time at the helm of Northampton Town Football Club, Aidy Boothroyd has enjoyed huge support from the supporters of the club. Away results have been consistently poor throughout his tenure, yet the away support has been more than respectable, both in terms of numbers and noise. Aidy has been frustratingly negative in terms of team selections and substitutions throughout his time at the club, yet the crowd has stayed fully on his side. And, almost everything about this season has been diabolical but the goodwill towards the team has remained firm, in the most part.

However in the last month or so, a large proportion of the fan base has started to turn. Murmurings for change started very early in the season, but were largely swept under the carpet as performances hinted that a change in fortunes was only around the corner. This turnout is yet to materialise, and a number of false dawns in this respect has only left the recent results less palatable. The calls for “Boothroyd Out” are much less subtle than they were earlier in the season and are still gathering momentum.

There is a plethora of problems. The new players who are contracted to the club are not as good as the ones who left in the summer, we have conceded an unbelievable amount of late goals, the discipline of the team is poor and, if things continue in the same vain, relegation seems to be a very real possibility.

When midfielders Luke Guttridge and Ben Harding refused contracts in the summer I feared the worst however, whilst most people were disappointed at Guttridge’s departure, Harding was seen as less of a loss. In my opinion, Harding was an instrumental part of our success last season. He was the glue which held together a midfield full of youth and loanees and, with Guttridge unavailable for long periods, he was the experienced head in the middle of the park who led by example. Much of what he did went unnoticed – he wasn’t one the grab the headlines with a wonder goal – but he regularly won the ball before creating an opportunity for those in front of him.

The old adage “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” comes into play with Ben Harding. The new central midfielders Darren Carter and Gary Deegan were brought in with much promise and had successful pre-seasons but have failed to live up to expectations. At times they have appeared to lack ‘the will to win’ and they seem to be too petulant for League Two, where you need midfielders who are going to dominate their opponents. Neither are as good as Ben Harding or Luke Guttridge.

Ian Morris was another signing who excited me. The midfielder can operate on the left or more central and, for what he lacks in speed, he makes up for intelligence and skill. However, he hasn’t hit the standards expected and, whilst he hasn’t been quite as bad as Deegan and Carter, he hasn’t been overly impressive – quite the opposite in fact. I think he would have been a terrific signing if he was playing alongside Harding and Guttridge because he needs to be playing with other good players and he doesn’t have that in Carter and Deegan.

Ricky Ravenhill, Paul Reid, Matty Doumbe, Luke Norris and Izale McLeod have all done well during their times at the club. Ravenhill has been a breath of fresh air in the middle of the park, Reid and Doumbe have become a settled partnership over a period of about ten games, Norris scored five goals in his first seven games whilst McLeod has come in on loan and, although he has only played one game, he has given the whole place a lift – he clearly has fantastic ability and we have been lacking someone of his calibre in the offensive positions for most of the season.

Despite these positives, the Football Club is currently covered with negatives. These players who I have previously mentioned are either players who have come in since we found ourselves in the mess we are in, or loanees. There are too many underperformers currently at the club and we are suffering because of this.

I don’t think these comments are unfair – after all, the League table doesn’t lie at this stage of the season, and, rightly or wrongly, the manager has to carry the can for underperformers. I want Boothroyd to do well at Northampton but if we give him much more time I fear we are going to be playing Conference football next season.

I’m not calling for the manager’s head, but I think if we lose on Saturday questions have to be asked. And I doubt Aidy Boothroyd has the answers.

Written by Liam Raggett, We Are Going Up’s Northampton Town blogger

Liam tweets at @LiamRaggett

Weight of expectations

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

They say there is nowhere more painful to lose than Wembley and for Northampton Town, that old adage was excruciatingly in evidence during our horrific 3-0 play-off final defeat to Bradford City. As the Bantams charged past us and over the final furlong to promotion to League One, every Cobblers fan stood aghast as our whole season unravelled in the first 30 minutes at the national stadium.

Despite the Wembley woe, the Cobblers must get back in the saddle and try to complete the race next time around. This season was one of progression and overachievement for Aidy Boothroyd’s men and as I look back at where we were 18 months ago, I am immensely proud of where we are now in comparison to our position when Boothroyd took over in November 2011.

Our home form this season was the highlight of the campaign with a record of 17 wins from 23 matches and it was the Sixfields factor which enabled us to take a play-off place at all. Some of the top teams in the division (Rotherham, Port Vale and Burton Albion) were all beaten on our home patch and we were only beaten at Sixfields once in the last six months of the campaign.

Yet as superb as our home record was, our away form was just as bad and was the defining factor in us not grabbing an automatic promotion spot. We only tasted success four times on the road in League Two, a record which was the joint-worst in the division, and three of those wins came at sides in the lower reaches of the league (Accrington, Dagenham and Aldershot).

Boothroyd has turned the football club right around in superb fashion but the away conundrum was one that he could never seem to solve. His defensive tactics away from home often left us overrun and exposed whilst key players like Chris Hackett, Clarke Carlisle and Adebayo Akinfenwa seemed to underperform on their travels without any understandable explanation.

Some improved performances away from Sixfields towards the end of the season, including a draw at promoted Port Vale and a win in the play-off semi-final at Cheltenham, has given us all renewed optimism for our away campaign next time around. The ability is there in the squad to take points from any ground in League Two but that must been translated into victories next season.

Injuries to important players like striker Alex Nicholls, who had scored eight goals before his horrendous leg break in October, and captain Kelvin Langmead, who was ever-present but missed the last few matches of the season, definitely did not help our cause. There is a certain feeling amongst our supporters that had those two been fit all season, then our chances of gaining promotion to the third tier would have been enhanced dramatically.

So, it was left to 90 minutes of football at Wembley against a side whom we had not beaten in four attempts this season. Our chances of success seemed slim but no-one could have seen the opening half-hour coming. The Cobblers temporarily forgot how to defend and Bradford cashed in by smashing the ball past a stricken Lee Nicholls three times without reply.

In front of over 47,000 people, Town seemed completed overawed by the occasion and struggled to string two passes together against a Bantams side who had gained Wembley experience from their Capital One Cup final defeat to Swansea. All we could do in the East Stand was watch on in horror as 48 matches went down the drain under the grey skies in North London.

Looking ahead to next season, the expectations for Boothroyd and his side will be much higher than the 2012/13 campaign and the Cobblers will be expected to reach the play-offs at the very least. It will be up to the manager and his staff to manage the weight of those expectations and ensure that the pressure does not get to the players, as it appeared to in this year’s final assignment.

The loss of top-scorer Akinfenwa, who has been released by the club, may prove to be a big loss (in every sense!) but if he can be replaced by another quality centre-forward then the goals should again flow at Sixfields. If Boothroyd struggles to find a suitable replacement for ‘Bayo’ then fans might begin to question his judgement of the key players in the squad.

Our Wembley experience must be used to good effect next season and Boothroyd has to ensure that he turns that negative day in May into something more positive in the 2013/14 campaign. This time, there will be no sense of over achievement but only an expectation to move the club on and back into League One.

Written by Ashley Lambell, We Are Going Up’s Northampton Town Blogger

Ashley tweets at @ashlambell

The only way is Barcelona?

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

We’d all love to support a football club that plays the game in an attractive style whilst simultaneously picking up results and being successful. That would be the dream for most of us as football supporters.

Failing that, we all just want our sides to be victorious, no matter how the results are achieved or whether the show on offer is aesthetically pleasing. At the end of the day, football is a results-based business and success can only be measured when looking at the league table.

Or can it? At Northampton Town, there is a team of players who continue to win games with an unerring regularity and yet, despite sitting in the League Two play-off places, a fairly large section of grumbling supporters who feel the entertainment being served up is not quite what it should be.

Northampton’s game plan consists mainly of launching long throws and free-kicks into the opposing penalty area and feeding off whatever happens to fall their way in the aftermath. Not exactly tika-taka but when there are games to be won, is anyone really bothered? Apparently they are.

Since Aidy Boothroyd’s appointment as manager sixteen months ago, the Cobblers have adopted this rather ‘direct’ way of playing and, whilst it is proving extremely effective, it is not an approach that has the fans flocking through the turnstiles to watch this promotion-chasing outfit.

Indeed, the attendance for a recent midweek game against Bristol Rovers was just over 4,000 which would be considered to be a good 1,000 down on the expected attendance for a team chasing League One football with just five home matches left to play.

So where are the missing thousand supporters and why are they staying away from Sixfields? One quick scan of the Northampton forums gave an unequivocal answer. Many fans had chosen to keep their £20 in their pockets because they felt previous home performances had not given them ‘value for money’.

In times where money is particularly tight, a section of the Cobblers support had decided that it was more worthwhile to listen to their team on the radio than it was to head along to the ground. A potentially fickle decision from some but in days of a recession and with priorities to get in hand, it is hard to blame them.

The low attendance at the Bristol Rovers game was highly noticeable and the flat atmosphere inside Sixfields spoke volumes as the fans voted with their feet. It also led to chairman David Cardoza being questioned in the media this week as to whether he was worried about the situation.

Cardoza predictably played the questions with a straight bat and said that it has been the economic conditions which have had an impact on attendances rather than Boothroyd’s footballing methods. Potentially so, but the deafening screams of silence from the Sixfields stands last week must be worrying Cardoza as his team continues to mount a charge towards promotion.

Yet for all the criticism of Boothroyd’s approach to football in League Two, both from inside and outside of Northampton, it is becoming increasingly difficult to argue with his tactics when the end results are so impressive.

Since October, the Cobblers have won 10 out of 11 games at Sixfields with a defeat to Cheltenham as the only blot on their copybook, a game in which they blew a two-goal lead. Their home record currently stands as the second-best in the division and it is their relentlessness on their own patch which is keeping their promotion dream alive.

Plenty of sides (Fleetwood, Exeter, Rochdale and Port Vale to name a few) have been dispatched with relative ease at Sixfields but the results still don’t appear to be impressing the Northampton public who feel that the fare on offer is not worthy of the entrance fee.

It is important to remember that there is more than one way to skin a cat and that the Barcelona-style of football is not always possible in the rough-and-ready world of fourth division English football. Northampton have found an effective way of beating their opponents and they appear to be sticking to it, even if it means losing a few supporters on the way.

Boothroyd was charged with the task of getting the Cobblers out of League Two as quickly as possible and he might just have found a way of doing that. Unfortunately for Northampton’s supporters, it happens to be a very direct and aerial technique which won’t be winning any awards any time soon.

If that style can deliver promotion from League Two then it is unlikely that you will hear any Cobblers fans complaining and maybe, should League One football return to Sixfields, some of those missing supporters might come back with it.

Written by Ashley Lambell, We Are Going Up’s Northampton Town Blogger

Ashley tweets at @ashlambell

Harrad’s exit a load of Cobblers

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Where to start… where to bloody start?

It’s not often that the goings-on at Northampton Town Football Club leave me completely baffled. I’ve seen it all supporting my beloved club and nothing massively surprises me anymore. I can stomach the countless home defeats to sub-standard opposition; I can accept the peculiar decisions made by whichever clueless buffoon is occupying the Sixfields hotseat; unlike many of our expectant loyals, I can usually even avoid becoming infuriated at the ineptitude of some of the trash we‘ve signed over the years when we are supposedly ‘too big for League Two‘. The opening month of this season however, has left me utterly mystified.

You frequently find people comparing supporting one’s football club to following a soap opera but even the most innovative writers would have had a struggle writing our script and we’re only five league games in. Despite promises of a promotion challenge and a relatively upbeat pre-season, we have already had rumours spreading like wildfire of a half-time sacking for Gary Johnson; this supposedly ‘solid’ defence putting up less of a fight than Audley Harrison; our shining footballing talents finding themselves out of favour for no obvious reasons; three abject, gutless and appalling (insert all applicable critical adjectives here) home performances and perhaps worst of all we have somehow gone from salivating at the prospect of a frontline consisting of Bayo Akinfenwa, Shaun Harrad and Jake Robinson terrorising our divisional rivals to witnessing the enigma that is the moon-walking (not that we’ve seen it), gangly and mostly useless Bas Savage marauding around the pitch in the mighty claret and white as our lone striker. Achieving a paltry four points from our first five games and occupying such a lowly position even at this early stage was not what the doctor had ordered as a remedy to our shocking displays last term. We’ve not even entered September and supporters are already feeling short-changed and guilty at allowing themselves to being suckered into believing that things were going to change. We’re quite frankly somehow still going backwards at an alarming rate.

I could rant and rave about the evident problems with our team all day long (Michael Jacobs being relegated to the bench when it’s obvious those starting have the creative nous of a bathroom flannel is enough to keep me awake at night) but what seems to have caused most Northamptonians the biggest headache is the situation regarding Shaun Harrad. Having signed from Burton Albion in January for around £35,000 and a reported £2,500 a week, he was expected to have been a vital cog in our side this season. Harrad’s positive attitude and willingness to work for the team during our relegation scrap endeared him to our supporters and we were looking forward to seeing how a partnership with Bayo would develop. To absolutely nobody’s understanding though, Harrad has found himself surplus to requirements and Bradford City have had a bid of £40,000 accepted. Gary Johnson confirmed after Saturday’s reverse against Morecambe that Harrad would be seeking “pastures new.” The reaction has been one of noted disbelief and perceived anger. I was perhaps the only one of our supporters to feel some grim satisfaction from the news. Forgive the following anecdote but I should explain.

During pre-season, myself and several others made the relatively short trip to Oxford City for one of our scheduled friendlies. The game itself was mildly interesting (at best) for what was essentially a bit of a summer knockabout bar the odd rash tackle from one of the home players. At half-time, we took the opportunity to stretch our legs and explore the quaint Court Place Farm ground. During our wander, we happened to chance across Darlington manager Mark Cooper standing all on his lonesome seemingly caught in his own thoughts. The Quakers had been frequently linked with a loan deal for our Tadhg Purcell so it wasn‘t a massive surprise to find him taking an opportunity to see him in action. We introduced ourselves and promptly spent the next 45 minutes talking football with a very welcoming, intellectual fellow indeed. He confirmed he was present to view Purcell, he fully expected Darlington to be ‘challenging’ this season and gave us a few other insights you really could only get by stalking Blue Square Premier managers in a random field in Oxfordshire. One thing that shocked us more than anything though was Cooper confirming to us that Darlington had received notification that Shaun Harrad was available for transfer. I promptly posted details of our conversation on my Twitter feed and within minutes, fans on our most popular messageboard The Hotel End were discussing the validity of my information. As predicted, most of our supporters thought the idea that we’d be willing to let one of our key players leave was preposterous to the extent I was ridiculed and accused of fabricating the whole rumour. Quite what I would have had to gain from lying I am unsure. However, my claim wasn’t helped any further as the conversation made it’s way into our local newspaper and Gary Johnson scoffed at any suggestion that Harrad would be on his way. To be honest with you, I was left looking like a right mug. However, just 39 days later and Gary Johnson confirms that Harrad is free to leave. Mr. Cooper, if you ever happen to find yourself visiting We Are Going Up and you come across this blog, I would like to take this very public opportunity to apologise for ever doubting you. You weren’t lying to us. Although that loan deal for Newcastle United’s Michael Richardson never did come to fruition despite Alan Pardew ringing you from their pre-season tour of America, eh?

The media and supporters of other clubs keep reminding me that the season is not even a month old yet the word ‘crisis‘ has already whispered in some circles. Ok, this isn’t quite a ‘crisis‘ of Arsenal proportions but the situation at Sixfields is still rather unsettling. Johnson has asked to be judged after ten games and was convinced we’d be comfortably sitting in the top seven. There is obviously still bags of time to kick start our season but the likelihood of this happening is looking increasingly slim and if the trend isn’t reversed Johnson will soon find himself following our leading marksman out of Sixfields. If you were to ask me which one I’d rather see leave, it sure as hell wouldn’t be our shaven-headed dynamic number nine. I just can’t get my noggin around the decision. In fact, it physically pains me… christ, what a load of bleeding Cobblers this season is already turning out to be.

Written by Ben Trasler, We Are Going Up’s Northampton Town Blogger

Ben tweets at @benjohntrasler

New faces at San Sixfields

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Seeing as this is my first blog for We Are Going Up it would rude not to introduce myself…

I’m Ben – a 23-year old born-and-bred Northamptonian. Having been taken to Sixfields for the first time by my dad for its first game in 1994, I have been following my local club for nearly 20 years. In the years preceding my ‘debut’, the club had been playing at the decaying County Ground, suffered the pain of entering administration and had finished bottom of the Football League only to be reprieved of our status due to a technicality regarding the state of Kidderminster Harriers’ Aggborough Stadium. In comparison, I’ve been fortunate enough to see multiple promotions, two play-off final appearances, relative financial austerity and some of the best matches in our club’s history. I’ll be honest with you… prior to the back end of last season, I hadn’t even contemplated seeing Northampton Town outside of the Football League. However, due to an appalling streak of 19 games without victory, relegation fast became a possibility. Only a couple of wins at the death against Stevenage and Morecambe saved us from plummeting to the unknown. The long suffering supporters of Lincoln City weren’t so lucky.

Post-survival; supporters, management and owners were united in their thinking. Our 90 years of continuous league football had been put in serious jeopardy, we cannot allow a similar situation to manifest itself ever again. Wholesale changes were required and wholesale changes are what we have got. Among those to fall foul of Gary Johnson’s axe were goalkeeper ‘calamity’ Chris Dunn (who has somehow secured himself a move to the Championship with Coventry City) and Anfield heroes – yet inconsistent performers – Liam Davis, Billy McKay and Abdul Osman. Frontman-come-singing sensation Leon McKenzie is yet to find himself another club yet will have earned himself a few admirers with his vocals which have been recently posted on YouTube.

Whilst a grand total of 14 players have bid farewell to San Sixfields (as it has been romantically dubbed by some League Two supporters), Johnson seeked to replenish quickly and to date eight new faces and four more familiar ones have signed ahead of the coming campaign. The highlight of many Cobblers’ fans summer has been the return of gargantuan forward Adebayo Akinfenwa and his infamous ‘claw’ celebration. Akinfenwa, or Bayo as he is more commonly known, was released last summer after stalling when given a deadline to sign his new contract. He subsequently signed for Gillingham on a one-year deal. Seeing the big man in their black and blue strip was gutting as he had become something of a cult hero in these parts and his return should hopefully coincide with the exciting, attacking play we have promised this coming season. Incidentally, our official website has his weight listed as 13st 7lbs. They are either lying or they only weighed his bottom half.

Of the new faces that have signed on at Sixfields; Jake Robinson (Shrewsbury Town) and Paul Turnbull (Stockport County) are the two that have particularly impressed from the pre-season outings that I’ve witnessed thus far. Robinson scored a 25-yard stunner against a strong Nottingham Forest outfit and looks like he’ll prove to be great foil for Akinfenwa whilst Turnbull looks to be the ball-winning simple central midfielder that we have lacked since… well, forever. The majority of our major acquisitions this summer have been attacking players which isn’t altogether surprising considering Gary Johnson’s traditional mentality that he believes his team ‘will score one more than you’.

Despite the increased competition for places in midfield and up top, I would anticipate that our key player for the coming season will be the one in our ranks that we’ve produced ourselves. If you haven’t already heard of Michael Jacobs, then I’m sure you will over the coming months. The Northamptonshire-born teenager was last term’s saviour after becoming the latest success of our ever improving youth system. After securing our player of the season award at his first attempt; it sadly seems ever likely that his future will eventually lie away from Sixfields. A journalist from Reading confirmed this weekend that they had been quoted £800k last season and it seems a case of when, rather than if, a club is prepared to take a punt on him. However for the time being he’ll continue to tear League Two defences apart and in the case of Brighton’s Alan Navarro; he’ll turn you inside and out to the extent that you’ll rupture your cruciate ligament and be carried from the pitch.

I’ll try and complete a more detailed squad review ahead of the season’s curtain raiser against Accrington Stanley. A couple more signings are rumoured including that of 17-year Austrian-Croatian midfielder Marin Pozgain – whose performances behind closed doors and in training are said (from sources close to the club) to have been outstanding. With Johnson’s continued admiration for attacking potential and seemingly ignorance of a defence which conceded 70 goals last time around, we could be in for some entertaining football following the mighty Cobblers in the months to come. I suppose judging by history, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Written by Ben Trasler, We Are Going Up’s Northampton Town Blogger

Ben tweets at @benjohntrasler