Andy Roberts asks who will step up for the Cobblers in the season ahead…
Disappointment finds Cobblers fans easily enough – the club’s 120-year history has been dominated by long periods of gloom, interspersed with brief spells of dazzling sunshine.
The new season now upon us promises bright new days but the league curtain-raiser at Shrewsbury, a club which struggled last season, brought defeat and swiftly burst that big ballooning bubble of optimism.
New investment from China and a parade of incoming new talent naturally enough saw hope spring eternal.
But supporters who had taken it upon themselves to look up Guangzhou on the world map and praise the club’s newly-acquired strength in depth were floored by the reverse on day one.
No-one saw that coming but it did come as a timely reality check.
For what exactly is this optimism based on? If truth be told, it is based on very little knowledge.
We know little about the Chinese investors or about how much money they have invested, although the down payment is thought to be in the region of £6 million.
We know little about manager Justin Edinburgh’s true qualities – only now will we find out what he is about as he gets to work with his chosen players, systems and working practices.
And we know little about the large number of players he has recruited and their true qualities as quantity does not necessarily equate to quality.
We will know much more after about ten games and the Shrewsbury result, while disappointing, was hardly revealing and players and systems, rightly, should be given a little time to bed in.
Rome, like the East Stand, was not built in a day and no judgement can be made during the first few weeks of a season.
But there is a clear expectation that the Cobblers improve on last season’s lowly finish and Edinburgh will be expected to deliver.
New investors 5U Sport want a successful club if their education-based partnership at Sixfields is to flourish.
The Cobblers need to be knocking on the door of the Championship if they want the money men to hang around.
- Guangzhou’s poster boy, so we are told, is Cobblers skipper Marc Richards.
And why not? – most Cobblers fans, myself included, love the talismanic captain to bits.
In his first spell at the club he struggled to find his first goal in claret and white.
But I was actually there at that super-modern curiosity of a stadium in the north-east ‘when Richards scored one, against the Darlington’.
A last-minute decision to make the trip to Macclesfield’s Moss Rose ground in 2004 saw the Cobblers four up at half time, all the goals to super Marc.
Two defining goals in two seasons from Richards at the Kassam Stadium kept those niggardly upstarts from Oxford in their place.
And only in April, the sweetest of strikes briefly pinned back Chris Wilder’s and champions elect Sheffield United’s aspirations.
But even I have to admit that this season is probably one too far for Richards and that it is time for him to take back seat, alongside set-piece specialist Matt Taylor.
Both Richards and Taylor are quality footballers with an abundance of experience, valuable requirements in the third tier of English football.
But Edinburgh now needs to utilise these qualities sparingly and wisely and it is time for others in the squad to step up to the plate and prove their worth.
What we have seen too often is a midfield and forward line which is dysfunctional.
The midfield has been lacking both the steel and pace to break up the opposition play and drive the team forward, while the forward line has too often been one dimensional.
There is no reason now why these various qualities cannot be balanced.
Chris Long and Billy Waters up front with Richards on the bench? A risk? Yes. Edinburgh would need to be brave. But it just may be the answer.