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Edinburgh tried to fly without wing-backs

Tom Reed looks at the what made Justin Edinburgh the first managerial casualty of the season…

Despite a slow start to the season, Northampton Town have been first to the line in the sack race by relieving Justin Edinburgh of his job. Chairman Kelvin Thomas wielded the chainsaw and made ex-Spurs stalwart Edinburgh the first managerial casualty of the campaign after Cobblers fell to four defeats on the spin in their League One openers.

The wider analysis begins and ends with the phrase ‘results game’ and Town having not won a match in their last 12 league outings stretching to the tail end of last term. Yet, there were micro-level concerns that had Sixfields regulars tearing their hair out in frustration.

For starters we have the eight goals shipped in total in the Charlton and Peterborough matches by a team with a five man defence, managed by an ex-defender. Then there is the unbalanced squad with a host of central midfielders left to gather dust like a loony granny’s doll collection and an attacking lineup spearheaded by a pair of forwards with a combined aged of 69. The final issue is the most irritating and one that makes Edinburgh’s downfall self-inflicted, his attachment to the trendy 3-5-2 formation.

Any competent manager would take one look at the attributes of his defenders and realise that there are few natural wing-backs in this Northampton squad. For that specialist role you need pure athletes capable of getting up and down the wing while doing the work of two men. Dave Buchanan was treading water from the start while Daniel Powell and Aaron Phillips soon fell foul to injury. Indeed, it was too much ask Mr Greenhouse (made of glass) Brendan Moloney to fulfil such a role in the Nene Derby while he continues his search for fitness.

Yes, it was the local derby that put the tin hat on things, a thrashing from the hated Fenland rivals which made up many Cobblers fans’ minds that Edinburgh had to go. The team’s performance mirrored a perceived insipidness of a manager that had failed to win hearts and minds from the off. Edinburgh’s statement that “Not many people talk about formations when results are going well… the formation is the right mould for the players here” was frankly insulting to fans who are astute enough to know when when tactics are just plain wrong.

We are dealing with Football Manager generation now, fans that have to tinker with formations to get results on tricky computer game FIFA, who can watch sophisticated tactics vids on YouTube at the touch of a button. Gone are the days when supporters doff their cap to managers purely because they have played hundreds of games for a Premier League club. We’re all managers now. And let’s not forget that, bereft of any real say in the way clubs are run, getting a gaffer sacked is one of the few ways fans can wield power and the Shoe Army were very vocal in wanting Edinburgh sent to Coventry.

In the background we have Chinese club-owners 5USports and it is doubtful that CEO Tom Auyeung would have been satisfied with the miserable state of affairs at Sixfields. It was probably a case of Guang-Who? for the Guangzhou based outfit when explaining that Edinburgh was the manager of Town and now many Cobblers fans are thinking that Northampton will op for a ‘name’ manager.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is the odds-on favourite for the role and looks a good fit in terms of playing style. Hasselbaink has League One experience after guiding Burton Albion to the top of the division with a fluid 4-3-3 formation before exiting for QPR. Of course, things didn’t go smoothly for  JFH at Loftus Road and many point to the excellent facilities at Burton as a catalyst for his success but the out-of-work Chelsea hotshot must be high on the list.

Some suggestions have linked Frank Lampard, another Chelsea legend with the role. Lampard allegedly went for the Oxford job which went to Pep Clotet and the West Ham connection to Frank Lampard Senior would be attractive to die-hard Hammers fan Kelvin Thomas.

Whether an untested Lampard is the right thing for Northampton Town is another matter and in that light an experienced gaffer in the form of Rochdale’s Keith Hill or Exeter City’s Paul Tisdale may be sensible options. For those looking for a bit of value, Steve Cotterill at 16/1 could be a solid bet with the ex-Bristol City boss being well respected in the game and having recently left his position as assistant to Harry Redknapp at Birmingham City.

Whatever the case, a note of sympathy for the hard-working Kelvin Thomas who appointed Rob Page and the erstwhile Edinburgh in good faith and both let him down.  Sadly, Edinburgh had everything on a plate at Town but tipped it into his lap like a takeaway in front of the telly.

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