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 twenty 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 nineteen 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 ninety 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 fourteen 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 seventeen 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 seventy 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