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Gripped By the Cobblers: East Stand saga is beyond a joke – it needs a community solution

Cobblers fans, chilled to the bones at Sixfields for Tuesday’s match V Swindon may have to wait a while yet for the unfinished East Stand to provide any wind cover if the supporters’ trust Freedom of Information report is anything to go by.

Frustrated by a “lack of clear information about development at Sixfields” which has seen the club’s East Stand stand as a shell for over 6 years, the Trust made a couple of FOI requests to Northampton Borough Council which show that “up to the end of 2019, Northampton Town FC (NTFC) had not informed NBC of any completion schedule for finishing the east stand”.

This seems a sticking point as the FOI also showed that in October of 2019 “a meeting of NBC’s Executive Programme Board stipulated that the east stand should be completed first, before any freehold transfer of ownership would be allowed to take place with regard to wider development on the Sixfields site”. The club have indicated they have put in a couple of proposals for an enabling development deal on the site. No details of any land deal have been put on formal public display.

The saga has long been beyond a joke for a the completion of what constitutes minor work to a small stand built for simple expansion. Let’s put aside the £4 million that Kelvin Thomas told the BBC he had for “finishing the stand” & “working capital” or the “50 people” that would have been in “the room” if “you’d have told a lot of people the deal we ended up with” or that David Bower “has come to the end of his property development cycle” or from the council when they pledged to develop the land themselves to recoup the £10.25 million loan that went missing. Speaking of the need for Plymouth’s fantastic new Mayflower stand the Argyle Chairman Simon Hallet said ” You can’t ask fans or potential fans to be proud of their club if it looks like we are not proud of it ourselves”.

Surely now is the time for an open community conversation on the whole project to get a clear indication of the entirety of the Cobblers’ plans and the Council’s take on things in a public meeting? At the very least let’s start to have a community discussion on a stadium built for the community. It is not ideal for club or civic governance, to put it mildly, to have information released in snippets in poorly attended fans’ panels or via Freedom or Information requests while the council has stayed largely quiet on the matter.

Let’s see both the football club and the council arrange a public meeting on the project, to be attended by the supporters’ trust to try and throw some light on the matter and to try and bring the sad tale to a close with some facilities fit for an expanding Town. The key questions for me are.

What is the projected timeline for completion of the East Stand project and when will plans for the whole scheme be put on public display?

Are the current East Stand plans worthwhile in terms of capacity, 365 day a year income, future potential expansion and business plan?

Will the club publish costings for a complete demolition and rebuild for the East Stand with a new design and consider alternative funding routes?

Does the club need a wider land deal to finish the stand. Could it not be done with a smaller enabling deal on land adjacent to the stadium?

Have the club considered approaching Northampton Saints to see if they would consider developing the site for a new stadium either shared/connected to the Cobblers or provision for a new NTFC stadium in the town?

The questions have been put to the club.

Keith Curle steps up the hoof ball with Cheltenham approaching

Back to back defeats for Town this week but while losses happen in football the playing style of Keith Curle’s Cobblers continues to divide opinion. Hoof-ball is the phrase thrown up as Town are favouring a very direct game. It’s as if Keith Curle has worked out the essence of what he considers to be effective League 2 football and decided to turn it up to 11. That means a very rigid percentage game with the ball often shoved out to Nicky Adams to pelt in crosses. The thing is you can win a game of pool by playing nothing but snookers, it’s effective but don’t be surprised if the opponent just walks off. Curle has a gameplan that is effective but is it football? Would a free thinking creative player want to come and play that way? Would you want the youth teams playing that way? Would you want to pay £24 to watch it? It’s possibly a no from me on all 4 long term.

Homegrown players still struggling to get out of the greenhouse

A damp squib of an academy and football and education day at Sixfields v Port Vale with the Cobblers failing to name a single homegrown player in the squad. For a day that was supposed to herald Town’s player pathway from academy to first team it didn’t really deliver. Cobblers have bigged up the number of appearances by players that have come through the youth ranks but the figures for minutes played by players under-23 make altogether different reading. Town are in the bottom 2 in league 2 according to Prospect Watch figures on Twitter. You can have the prettiest pathway you want but if the door at the end isn’t open sufficiently what’s the point?

14 games left and Town’s promotion destiny is in their own hands

It’s very far from being doom and gloom though with Town still well poised in the playoff positions. The defeats to Port Vale and Swindon may be a good kick up the backside at a useful time. Town’s destiny is very much in their own hands and they have proven we can beat anyone in the division on our day. Much of the frustration comes from the potential of the club which is not being exploited as yet. The away following at Derby showed how strong a force the shoe army can be, it feels at times though that the club are hoping to make electricity by standing outside in the lightening with a golf club. There needs to be more connectivity of thinking to do a Lincoln and get to the next level.

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