Fourth from bottom in the basement division will always set off Cobblers fans’ relegation spider senses, writes Tom Reed.
This is a club that has had more ups and downs than Tesla’s share price but never dropped into non-league so it’s understandable that some fans have hit the panic button following Town’s woeful 1-0 away loss at Morecambe.
The Shrimps were goalless and pointless before playing Northampton on Tuesday night. In hindsight, it was set up for a single goal defeat but that seemed impossible beforehand given the gulf in budgets and playing personnel between the two clubs.
Morecambe’s Jim Bentley would kill for a Kevin Van Veen and Matt Crooks in skill make no mistake, perhaps less so in application.
Funny that Town put in a weasel’s performance 190 miles away in front of 1500 instead of at Sixfields in front of 5000.
It’s only 4 games into the season but there are early concerns as to the performances of a team that plied its trade in League 1 last season.
Mental strength has been mentioned and that is always part of the complicated mix that makes a successful side.
Alas, the days are gone when you could expect players to leave the field exhausted and bloodied after given their all “for the shirt”.
A lot of Northampton fans don’t even like the town that much so we just can’t expect the players to love it.
Let’s not forget that a fair few of the current side were signed under a different project by Chinese investors 5USPORTS. At that time, promotion from League 1 seemed the vision rather than scrabbling around in League 2 so it is not beyond the realms of possibility that certain players might feel a smidgeon of demotivation.
That said, the best way to earn a move to a higher division is to set League 2 alight with your above average skill.
Even Crooks and Van Veen are failing to do that consistently. It’s slightly unfair to focus on them given their standout performances against Cambridge but Town do seem a two man team presently so they will come under the microscope.
Lose Crooks and Van Veen in a loan to buy or whatever loophole is in fashion with the transfer window and Town could be in big trouble however.
Manager Dean Austin comes across as super calm but the former Spurs centre-half will be sweating behind the scenes. Austin has never managed at club higher than Farnborough Town in the Conference and that was for less than a year with the club eventually relegated after his departure.
He will be learning on the job but that education becomes more taxing the closer Town creep towards the drop.
Austin’s preferred 4-4-2 formation seems less than straightforward at present with Cobblers lacking natural wingers who can deliver killer balls into the box.
Meanwhile, club chairman Kelvin Thomas has been noticeably quiet recently. There have been no further updates on any real movement in completing the East Stand which is problematic given his and fellow Director David Bower’s drive to complete the project with a projected £4 million investment when taking over the club in 2015.
You only need to look at Accrington Stanley under dynamic owner Andy Holt to see how crucial a chairman with vision, ideas, finances and an on the ground presence is in driving small clubs forwards.
The club seems to be ticking over nicely in a commercial sense after being dragged into the 21st century post-Cardoza. Indeed, there is plenty to be positive about if we take the East Stand and the league position out of the equation.
But that can never be done for long. In German football they say “the fish rots from the head” and Kelvin Thomas, a guy with high standards who was enthusiastically described as a “football man” on his arrival will accept that the current direction of travel is less than ideal.
Johnson bounces out of Town
A moment of cheer for Cobblers fans on a dark Tuesday night with the news that Cheltenham Town manager Gary Johnson has been sacked. Town fans have never forgiven the ex-Cobblers boss for his terrible tenure from March-November in 2011. Wonder what Nick McCoy is up to these days?
Crewe refunds should mean shoe army windfall
Crewe Alexandra announced they were to refund all 153 travelling fans after their 6-0 drubbing at Colchester United. Northampton fans should ask for lump sum compensation for all the dreadful performances they have witnessed over the years. It would put several billion into the local economy.