Sadly we start this column with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink going through a difficult early period as Cobblers boss. As of mid-October, Town sit second bottom of League 1 racking up a single draw and 5 defeats in the period.
It’s clear many Cobblers fans have got manager sacking fatigue so in lieu of dispensing with yet another gaffer what what can the Dutchman do to stop the rot?
- Sign a striker. It seems obvious given Town’s goal shy statistics but the forward problem hasn’t been solved by successive managers. Alex Revell and Marc Richards were both fine forwards in their day but League 1 appears a step too far at a combined aged of 69. Shipping both of them out might be easier said then done but doing so would release a healthy chunk on the budget. Chris Long appeared a good fit up front but the talented Burnely loanee was played wide by Hasselbaink before disappearing injured. A technical, mobile striker must be top of the shopping list come January. It might well save Town from relegation.
- Recall Leon Lobjoit and Joe Iaciofano. The 2 players with the most difficult names to pronounce in the Cobblers squad are also the most difficult to prevent from scoring. On loan to Corby Town and Chesham United respectively the forward duo have been on lethal streak of goals and assists. Ok, it is at a lower level but the argument that they need ‘roughing up’ in mens’ football only goes so far. A goalscoring instinct is priceless and until we see the pair at Sixfields with a strong support behind them we’ll never know how much better pitches and better referees will help their progression. In any case, with Town goalless for a longer period than wars have been settled in there is really no argument not to.
- Keep a settled side: Hasselbaink clearly puts a lot of work into adapting his team in relation to the tactics of his opponents. This can prove a tactical masterstroke or cause problems like as was the case when Alex Revell was shifted to the right flank despite his agility limitations. When the Cobblers have a fully fit squad it is the time to tinker with tactics but until then it may prove more fruitful to put round pegs in round holes.
- Go wide: It’s no secret that Justin Edinburgh’s favoured wing back system has left Town short of chalk on your boots wingers and attacking midfielders to provide width and service to the forward players. Hasselbaink experimented with using left-back George Smith as a winger to some success and this may be worth repeating. Otherwise JFH will need to raid the contacts book of ace scout and Cobblers Associate Director Graham Carr for a Ricky Holmes type to take the fight to the opposition and carry the ball.
- Keep the faith: This is something the management staff, players and staff need to stick together on. Hasselbaink was never going to cure the ills of previous managers overnight and this season may well prove a write off altogether. Cobblers fans know through experience that you have to take the rough with the smooth so it might be a period of biting our lips at defeats before the sweet taste of victory comes around. The Cobblers’ injury record is appalling in fairness to Hasselbaink and this is something that will have to be looked at too in terms of prevention.