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