By Tom Reed
There’s never a dull moment at Northampton Town FC and the club’s recent ‘partnership’ with Chinese company 5USport is yet another curve ball for Cobblers fans to cope with.
Only a couple of years ago the club was in severe financial trouble over the ‘missing millions’ scandal and now Town diehards are already mentally spending the incoming Yuan from 5USports’ ‘long-term investment’.
5USport have reportedly purchased 60% of Kelvin Thomas’ consortium’s share, giving the Chinese effective control of the club.
Sixfields regulars are enthused that Chairman Kelvin Thomas has retained his position given the stellar work he has done in transforming the club into a more professional outfit since the departure of the despised David Cardoza.
Yet, details regarding Guangzhou-based 5USport and its CEO Tom Auyeung are few and far between, other than some dealings with Eurosport and memorabilia sellers icons.com and so there is going to be natural scepticism about the deal. For every Chelsea and Roman Abramovich, there are problematic foreign owners and time will tell how the Chinese investment in the claret and whites will pan out.
Cobblers boss Justin Edinburgh has done some reasonable transfer business in assembling a squad for the upcoming League 1 campaign. Versatile forward Billy Waters, signed from Cheltenham Town, shone in his first pre-season outing at Sileby Rangers and showed good movement on and off the ball.
Meanwhile, Town raided Milton Keynes for a pair of attacking midfielders in Daniel Powell and Dean Bowditch. Both were out of contract at Stadium MK but, if they hit the ground running , they could provide the Cobblers with ingenuity in the final third.
Indeed, Edinburgh will have selection headaches in midfield with Iraqi international Yaser Kasim vying for a starting centre-midfield role having signed a 2 year deal. Kasim comes with a reputation as a cultured on-the-ball technician and his acquisition signals a step up in standard from the team former boss Rob Page had built by this time last year.
Defence is the one area in which Cobblers fans are less than certain given that Town (at the time of writing) only have 3 centre-backs on the books. However, one of those happens to be Regan Poole, the highly regarded 19 year-old on a season-long loan from Manchester United. Wales Under-21 international Poole played under Edinburgh for Newport County and his signature shows that Cobblers are now being taken seriously enough to be entrusted with the Premier League giants’ top youth prospects.
Moreover, Town have also recruited a sturdy player in former Aberdeen centre-back Ash Taylor. The 6ft5 defender helped the Dons to second place in the Scottish Premier League last term and has over 300 games to his credit.
The Shoe Army now wait with bated breath for the kind of final ‘marquee’ signings’ that will provide a show of intent to their competitors for the season ahead. A goalkeeper is top of the shopping list and ex-stopper Mark Bunn has been discussed in the rumour mill. Yet Bunn’s salary at Aston Villa may prove a stumbling block and the mention of such lofty players could suggest that Town fans are getting carried away with 5USports’ spending power, which is still unknown.
On the land front (and land dealing is never far away from the news in football), Kelvin Thomas has hinted that there may be a development ‘masterplan’ at Sixfields. The area surrounding the stadium involved with Cardoza’s aborted redevelopment has not been built on, don’t forget. Yet, Cobblers fans will be more than happy for focus to remain on the lush turf at Sixfields, rather than the surrounding land, built on the old council tip, which has proved toxic in more ways than one.
Pictured: Northampton won 4-1 in pre-season friendly against Birmingham City in Spain on July 14.