Aidy Boothroyd has pinpointed a trio of aims for his Cobblers squad in the 2013-14 season - to be more athletic, more mobile and better away from home.
Although the third of those objectives is something of an obvious statement - Town’s away form last year was the second worst in the division - the first two hint that there could be a tactical change of approach for Northampton in the coming months.
Boothroyd was criticised for his playing style in some quarters at times during the past campaign but it was highly effective at Sixfields, where the team won 10 games on the bounce and were unbeaten for more than four months.
The focus on the new season has been sharpened by the release this week of the team’s fixtures for the coming season, and Boothroyd is aware alterations need to be made if the squad is to improve on their sixth-place finish last time around.
“The first thing I look at is the first game, the last game, what’s going on over Christmas and when we have a high-intensity period of games,” he said.
“There’s a little bit more travelling this year and that will affect us and there are a lot of unknown quantities with the new teams that are in the division, the promoted and relegated sides.
“Similar sort of teams will be up and around the top and it’s going to be a tough league again.
“We will have to keep on the coat-tails of the teams up and around the top, hopefully that will be us but if it’s not then we have to stay with them and stay in the pack.
“We know we have to improve our away record. We need to do that, be more mobile and be more athletic.”
The squad are due back at Sixfields for a day of fitness testing on Friday (June 28) with the first day of the pre-season training schedule set for the following Monday (July 1).
Such a period is rarely cherished by professional footballers but this year’s is likely to be especially difficult for Alex Nicholls, whose original target return date from a broken leg was this summer.
News on the forward is good, though, with Boothroyd confirming a key step of progress should be made in the next fortnight.
“He’s good,” he said. “He’s got a couple of appointments in the next two or three weeks and hopefully we can take the pins out of his leg.
“He’s on the mend but he’s had a lot of complications and that’s why he’s going to be a little bit later.
“We want him to take his time because we want him to get back to being as good as he was when he got the injury.”