Following 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