Andy Roberts looks back at a month of lows and highs for the Cobblers…
The Edinburgh festival came and went in August but sadly there were few smiles at Sixfields.
This column last month referenced a slow start to the season – three weeks in and it had completely seized up.
A lack-lustre home defeat to Peterborough proved the final straw for an overwhelming majority of home fans. Manager Justin Edinburgh had to go.
Nothing concentrates minds of the claret-and-white faithful more than a routine defeat against the Posh. We are used to defeat against the Neen machine, but ‘routine’ should never form part of the description.
This was not only routine it was devoid of fire and fury, to the point that even Peterborough fans lamented the fact that they hadn’t been given a proper game.
So Edinburgh went and, with the club’s Chinese owners wanting some return for their investment, the pressure was on Kelvin Thomas to ensure that his third managerial appointment in little over a year was spot on.
And so welcome Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, a genuinely exciting appointment – a manager who has walked the walk at League One level and whose playing career was stellar.
And a manager who will command and demand respect from any egos among the players that may be bobbing round the dressing room.
Ah yes, the players… good recruits by Edinburgh or a group or not up to the demands of third-tier football?
We have yet to properly find out but the early signs under Hasselbaink have been very encouraging.
Individuals who for whatever reason looked dysfunctional under Edinburgh, who had signed most of them but stubbornly stuck to a formation and selections that clearly did not work, quickly appeared to have re-discovered their mojo under the Dutchman.
In the home wins against Doncaster and Plymouth, the likes of Matt Grimes, Matt Crooks and Chris Long took the side forward with zest and verve.
As five became four at the back, Brendon Maloney, David Buchanan, Ash Taylor and Arron Pierre – ably assisted by new keeper Matt Ingram – stood firm in the face of stiff pressure from the opposition.
And the performances of Shaun McWilliams, unfortunately stretchered off against Pompey, have been mightily impressive.
However, the season is long and at no stage does the fixture list take on an ‘easy’ dimension.
A lot can change in the space of a week, as we have just seen, let alone a month. By the time this column re-appears next month, who knows where the Cobblers may be?
Nothing is certain, but I am hoping JFH will still be there in the dugout come October… scribbling, whistling, arms a whirling, cajoling and encouraging his charges to be the best they can be.
A ‘name the year’ question for you…
In what year did a strong Cobblers squad disappointingly lose 1-0 away from home on the opening day of the season, go out of the League Cup to west London opposition, lose to Peterborough at home in August, sack their former top flight defender manager early in the season and appoint an ex-Chelsea international striker as the new boss who then won his first game at Sixfields?
If you answered 2017 you would of course be spot on – the answers being Shrewsbury Town, QPR, 1-4 to Posh, Justin Edinburgh and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, 1-0 against Doncaster Rovers.
However, if you answered 1999 you would also be absolutely right – the answers being Macclesfield Town, Fulham, 0-1 to Posh, Ian Atkins and Kevin Wilson, 3-0 against Torquay United.
Linking the month of August in 1999 and 2017 was a total eclipse of the sun, witnessed in the UK and US respectively.
So, if you believe in fortunes being writ large in the stars, you will be delighted to learn that things ended very well indeed in the 1999/2000 season.
Wilson got a talented squad playing good football and the Cobblers team ended up promoted in third place, a couple of places ahead of Peterborough no less.
It would be great if 2017/2018 blazed the same celestial trail under Hasselbaink. Might it be worth a little flutter on the Town going up?
As Bonnie Tyler might sing, A Total Eclipse Is The Start. Up the Cobblers!