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Gripped by the Cobblers: Another season to forget from Northampton Town’s ghost players

Boom and bust Northampton Town don’t have many seasons to forget but when they do they are so soul destroyingly drab they become a memory before May. Most of the Cobblers players won’t so much be consigned to the dustbin of history but chucked out the back for recycling, writes Tom Reed.

The current Cobblers crop aren’t bad players, most just aren’t very good and make up a team that’s the result of going through managers like supermarkets go through cheap beer on a bank holiday.

They’ll join the Cobblers ghosts of years gone by that no-one really remembers. The Sam Aistons, the Daryll Burgess’s the Colin Larkins who ran about a bit in the claret and white but that’s about it.

Town haven’t even made mid-table but most Cobblers fans would have taken that at the start of the season under Dean Austin. Hapless Austin was sacked after 12 competitive games last September with his former League 1 side 2 points off the drop to the Conference.

Not that Cobblers fans have high particularly standards with a doggedly loyal “born to suffer” mentality which means season tickets are bought before the last course of indigestible football has had chance to hit the stomach.

Keith Curle came in after Austin and did his job of preserving Cobblers precious League status. This he did with a combination of stopping the opposition playing and a waltzer level rotation of players which sent the changing room into a spin. Player Power? Fatigue levels? You won’t even know what day it is never mind if you’re playing or not son.

This proved a masterstroke with a large Cobblers squad and players more concerned than ever at staying at a club like Northampton that mostly pays well and on time.

Yet, such squad rotation can only be a short-term measure if Town want to proceed past the heady heights of 15th next term.

“Judge him with his own team” protest amnesiac Cobblers fans just like they did with Justin Edinburgh, Robert Page and just about every Northampton manager in history.

The problem is that Curle has the extremely difficult job of turning around a side that by his own admission can’t play football into one that is capable of promotion. The dreaded p word isn’t being mentioned by the fans but by Curle, ramping up expectations ahead of a new season despite the unknowns of the assembly a whole new team.

Achieving promotion so far has been Curle’s career version of scaling the Wall in Game Of Thrones.

Let’s not even go into the issue of what this club does if it ever gets promotion with Cobblers having a chronic allergy to staying in League 1.

Knitting in Town’s exciting youth prospects will be even more challenging for Curle, wrestling with keeping his job as much as anything else. The average shelf life of an EFL manager is a year and Curle is 6 months in. The stats say he might find himself in trouble come October so it’ll take a brave man to give the likes of Jay Williams, Scott Pollock and Morgan Roberts the chances they deserve.

If Cobblers’ Under-18 league winning team becomes no more than cheap, convenient squad players then the whole academy structure will be in vain.

Kings Heath lad Shaun McWilliams came back into the side for the Yeovil game with Curle sending a warning to the 20-year old Northampton native to keep his focus on the pitch. What can also improve a player’s focus and fitness is a run of games, his value too.

Cobblers were £5 million in debt at the last set of accounts and there looks to be no imminent building works on the stalled East Stand, the godforsaken structure that continues to cast a literal and metaphorical shadow over the club.

That just leaves the football, what we are all here for and something the club hasn’t been much good at since Chris Wilder. Northampton need presences ready with their chests puffed out to make a name for themselves at the club. Not the ghosts that have drifted in and out of Sixfields over the years, leaving no impression.

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