Cobblers boss Keith Curle loves a board game pun and talks a lot about the “jigsaw” puzzle of team building at Sixfields. Last season the jigsaw got thrown all over the floor by former manager Dean Austin before Curle came in and started putting the pieces back together.
Town finished the 2018/19 campaign in mid-table which was a disappointing showing for a team that had come down from League 1. Curle’s retained list was as savage as an episode of Game Of Thrones with Dean Bowditch, Jack Bridge, David Buchanan, Luke Coddington, Shay Facey, Sam Foley, James Goff and Joe Iaciofano all getting the chop. Meanwhile, Billy Waters and Joe Bunney were placed on the transfer list while Ash Taylor saw his contract terminated by mutual consent.
Club legend John-Joe O’Toole then joined the exodus, choosing not to take up a contract option and instead signing for League 1 Burton Albion. The lustrously haired centre-midfielder was a key member of Wilder’s Wonders 2015/16 League 2 title winning side with only Sam Hoskins now remaining in the Cobblers lineup.
Clarets boss Curle moved quickly to bring in left wing-back Joe Martin on a 2 year deal. The 30 year-old had been released by Stevenage but has plenty of Football League experience having played 300 EFL games at clubs such as Millwall and Blackpool.
Curle also shored up the Town midfield with the acquisition of Chris Lines on a two year deal. Veteran Lines was a fans’ favourite at Bristol Rovers and Northampton fans will be hoping the centre-mid will bring the passing ability and tenacity that saw him succeed at Rovers.
Then Curle snapped up Macclesfield Town target man Harry Smith from Macclesfield Town. 6ft 5” forward Smith joins a lofty list of tall Cobblers forwards such as Steve Howard and Poul Hubertz and will be expected to improve upon the 9 goals he notched for the Silkmen last term.
Keith Curle seems to be signing certain “types” to fit his in your face playing style and has commented that incoming personnel to the Cobblers will have to show the right mental attributes alongside the physical traits needed for success.
Much will depend on Curle’s ability to bring players with a winning mentality to Town given Cobblers drew far too many games last season.
As always, eyes will be on Sixfields’ unfinished East Stand, which looms over the on pitch proceedings. Work stopped on the stand shell in 2014 and as this article is being written it seems that no work will be completed this Summer. Until the club gets to grips with its physical infrastructure issues Curle will continue to lack the base to complete his puzzles in peace.
Sheffield United visit Sixfields for a poignant friendly on Saturday 20th July. The return of Premier League manager and ex-Cobbler Chris Wilder will be a reminder of how the club have struggled to kick on since the heady days of his stewardship.