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Gripped by the Cobblers: Curle criticism is harsh but fair and talk of a new contract might be a tad premature

As Keith Curle enters contract talks Tom Reed reflects on the value of a safe bet

Whether to stick or twist with Keith Curle was talk of the town this week as Chairman Kelvin Thomas said the club was to enter talks over a new contract for the Cobblers gaffer.

Defeat to Cheltenham left Northampton hanging by a thread in the final playoff position and Port Vale are ready with the scissors. Debate has raged all season regarding Curle’s industrial playing style, not just in aesthetics but longevity.

Curle has done a fine job of dragging Cobblers into shape after Dean Austin was fired with Town in 21st place but his contract is up in the summer and some fans are suggesting that May might be a time for a new direction to kick the club up a gear.

The Town boss has talked about his jigsaw of a project at Cobblers but is still scrabbling around for two key pieces, one labelled “plan B” and the other “promotion”. Cheltenham, who Cobblers may face again in the playoffs, produced a more competent performance on Tuesday night, bossing possession and mixing up their playing styles while Town were reliant on long throws and even longer balls. The fact that Curle has never achieved promotion as a manager is pressing hard while comparisons with the Boothroyd Wembley season begin and end with the footballing debacle against Bradford at the national stadium.

In boxing terms, Town are a lower league Deontay Wilder, reliant on power and finding themselves punched out late in games. Indeed, The Teyn Edition Twitter account tweeted a sobering stat that “out of the 51 goals we’ve conceded this season (all comps) 28 have been in the last 20 minutes”. 

In many ways, Curle can be seen as a safe choice for the Cobblers board, still wrangling with the council over the redevelopment, the last thing they need is a new manager who may go the way of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink or one of the other managers who haven’t quite worked out for David Bower and Kelvin Thomas.

The problem is that fans’ expectations are changing, the game has moved on since an Ian Atkins style of route one football was deemed palatable by fans. In years gone by, supporters would have just groaned that familiar Northampton groan to another late capitulation but it has happened so many time we’re into what seems like millionth Groundhog Day sequel. 

The club have made a big noise about its multi-directional player pathway for homegrown players and 1st team chances for “one of our own” talent is another consideration for whether to extend Curle’s time at the club.

The technically gifted Scott Pollock may as well be known as “Mr Hokey Cokey” in and out of the team but mostly out, finding himself an unused sub on Tuesday after a bright cameo v Exeter.

Curle may be in talks with the club but that doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t talk to other people. My preference would be the Sporting Director-Head Coach setup with investment in scouting and data analysis like at Brentford. Paul Tisdale remains an intriguing name, out of work who may wish to get to grips with a medium term project but whether the infrastructural backup is there is open to question. If Keith Curle goes how many of his staff go with him?

Safe Standing meeting this week, a chance to give something back to the fans

There’s a meeting at the end of the week between the Standing At Sixfields campaign group and the club. Quite simply the Cobblers have a great opportunity to improve the facilities at Sixfields in choice, atmosphere and safety by the installation of rail seat safe standing. 

This modern solution is already in use at Tottenham Hotspur and Wolves, while Man Utd are in the process of sorting safe standing. If it’s good enough for top flight teams it’s good enough for Northampton Town and the club find themselves in a position to be ahead of the curve due to the good groundwork they have put in on the subject over the last couple of years.

What better way to give something back to the loyal passionate fans who have stuck by the club through thick and thin than by giving them the choice to stand in a safe modern environment and back the team vocally?

Sixfields could have the first rail seated safe standing home end in the country in the North Stand, bringing some fantastic PR to the club in comparison with the doom and gloom of the East Stand debacle.

They can do that while being future proofed for higher divisions, still offering seating provision for those that can’t stand and the whole cost will not fall on the football club. It’s a win win but time is of the essence, we could find ourselves moving from the front of the queue to the back if we’re not careful.

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