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Gripped by the Cobblers: Structure is king, trust Brady to build from the bottom to reach the top

Tom Reed looks to the future after the departure of Keith Curle

Picture by Iestyn Pocock Picture by Iestyn Pocock

The quiet on the Northampton Town social media channels was eerie on Wednesday, not even an advert for a makeup give-away as fans held their breath on the future of Keith Curle as Cobblers manager.

When it came, Bristol Rovers took the wind out of the Cobblers’ press office sails by sacking Paul Tisdale after just 19 games in charge. Curle went shortly after, surviving a marathon 28 months in the Town hotseat, stickier than the leather seats of a Talbot Solara in a heatwave.

There was a sadness for Curle, whose touchline barks of “squeeze” heard on the international space station, were indications of his desire to win but in the end, a feeling of relief.

The league table doesn’t lie, that old adage with Cobblers second bottom of League 1 and hurtling downwards like one of Cian Bolger’s sky-lumps into orbit. None of the other statistics were mistruths either with the pass % and goals for tally clear bottom of the division. 

Town had been a fundamentally poor football side under Curle this season.

Cobblers haven’t scored since the Boers were kicking off in Mafeking and Coca Cola had cocaine in it. At one point, in the Tuesday night defeat to Wigan, where the depleted Latics kids ran rings round Town, Cobblers’ tactics seemed to consist of chipping the ball randomly forward, in an abject game of foot-golf with no hole. Curle had to go, for the fans’ sanity if anything.

Jon Brady was named as caretaker boss, a weird old phrase that brings images of weary bearded men putting chairs upside down on school tables and never having the right paintbrush to hand. Brady is much more than that, being a capable coach and manager who knows the youth system inside out. 

Credit to Ian Sampson too, sacked shoddily by Cardoza and probably the most experienced of the lot, who will be assisting. Sammo has always carried himself with dignity and the current academy manager will be an asset to Brady alongside Marc Richards who is learning the ropes as a coach but has the air of a future manager about him.

The bookies odds for Curle’s replacement threw up the normal combination of uneasy fits and failed managers off the circuit. Paul Cook from left-field and probably out of our league, being mentioned for the Sheffield Wednesday job but one that would get us playing.

Other members of the “coup tier” of managers, Eddie Newton, Chelsea legend, last at Trabzonspor in Turkey, a very solid coach and Roberto Di Matteo’s assistant when the Blues won the Champions League.

The Cowleys, who ripped League 2 a new one in 2019 but failed at Huddersfield and seem perpetually waiting for the right gig. With Cobblers fans clamouring for slick football it’s unlikely that the heavy metal directness of the Essex brothers would sit well with fans wanting the ball to reconnect with the grass. What use is a manager who is likely to leave at the first opportunity anyway?

What Cobblers need is to build from the bottom up and avoid the short cuts to success that saw Curle win a playoff with pinball soccer but fail when it came to playing around teams. This is a good time to end the vicious circle of manager hiring and firing that has whirled for decades like Turner’s Musical Merry-Go-Round to Paranoid by Black Sabbath. 

You’ll see the effects now, with Curle gone, so too likely his head of recruitment, assistant manager and goalkeeper coach, the top layer of the football knowledge cake lopped off à la a deranged Paul Hollywood with a pallet knife.

If head-turning gaffers like Cook and Cowley are unobtainable then Cobblers could do well to resist the middling talents of Phil Parkinson or Joey Barton, guys that need a job basically and are unused to the peculiar footballing landscape in Northamptonshire

Structure is king and there is the opportunity to shore up the processes at the football club, create an ethos that everyone can buy into and ensure a seamlessness through the age ranks.

The creation of a technical director role is as important as the next manager choice to co-ordinate football operations and ensure the upheaval of the multiple manager sackings of recent years doesn’t happen again.

Brady seems the obvious choice for the Technical Director position, being too much of an asset long-term to risk in the febrile head-coach position. 

With that, Kevin Wilkin, Hotel End favourite and going great guns at Brackley, becomes an interesting contender, with managerial nous and the ability to sit under Brady. If you add Marc Richards into the mix as U18 boss and Sampson as Academy head then you have a strength to proceedings and a distinct Northampton Town flavour.

Getting the ball on the deck will be the first challenge and the club is crying out for investment to give the Cobblers a chance to do a Lincoln and challenge at the top end of League 1.

But ditch the tin can alley approach of putting managers up and then firing them, build the structure and trust in Brady and Cobblers will be in a stronger position medium-term, with fans itching to get back to Sixields to watch an outfit that people can believe in.

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