Bullish Buchanan in high spirits ahead of new season as he prepares to battle for wing-back role

EYE ON THE BALL: David Buchanan has had things all his own way in the two years he's been at Sixfields, but summer signing George Smith may provide stiff competition in 2017/18
EYE ON THE BALL: David Buchanan has had things all his own way in the two years he's been at Sixfields, but summer signing George Smith may provide stiff competition in 2017/18
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There might be a new kid on the block and a slight change of job description this season, but David Buchanan will not be giving up his place in Northampton’s team lightly.

Famed for his pristine fitness record and tenacious approach on the pitch, Buchanan has held a tight grip on the left-back berth for successive seasons, whether it’s been under Chris Wilder, Rob Page or Justin Edinburgh.

So much so it’s now difficult to envisage a Cobblers game without Buchanan charging up and down the left-wing, crunching into tackles and barking out orders.

The 31-year-old full-back has started 107 of the 108 games Northampton have played since his arrival in the summer of 2015. Of those matches, he’s finished 104. The only one he missed came as the result of a harsh red card and subsequent suspension towards the end of last term.

He’s become a mainstay in the side and a firm favourite among fans, but it might not be quite so straightforward this time around.

Not only does he face competition from young George Smith, who signed from Gateshead in May, he must also adapt to playing in a different position if Edinburgh’s preferred 3-5-2 formation remains a viable long-term option.

George Smith is one of Northampton's lesser-known signings but could make a big impact

George Smith is one of Northampton's lesser-known signings but could make a big impact

That means the two full-backs will become wing-backs, giving them greater freedom to roam forward and create width in attack whilst placing less emphasis on defence.

But it’s a not a position that will be entirely new to Buchanan.

“It’s something I’ve done before,” he revealed. “I played it at Preston when we got promoted to the Championship so it’s something I’m used to.

“If that’s the system we’re going to go with then I’m sure we’ll work on it on the training ground and everybody will have to get used to it.

It’ll be difficult for the manager to pick a starting XI because everybody is as good as everyone else but last time we won the league, in League Two, we had a squad similar to this.

“If he’s going to play 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 or whatever it may be, it’s up to each individual player to make sure they’re good enough to be playing in the position they want to.”

Smith was chosen at left wing-back ahead of Buchanan for Saturday’s Maunsell Cup final against Kettering when Edinburgh trailed 3-5-2 for the first time, though it was the former Preston North End man who finished the game.

Buchanan’s defensive ability is undisputed but if Edinburgh wants his full-backs to carry more of an attacking threat, it could well be the 20-year-old who occasionally gets the nod.

By his own admission, Smith loves to get forward and attack, so Buchanan will have to watch out.

“That’s part and parcel of football,” accepts Northampton’s vice-captain. “I’ve had to get people out of the way to kick-start my career and he’ll be looking to do that to me.

“Obviously I want the jersey but I said in my first interview that I’m here to help him develop as a footballer because if he’s doing just as well as me, that can only be good for the football club.”

While several of his team-mates from last season have fallen by the wayside, Buchanan’s place in Edinburgh’s plans was never in doubt.

But with 11 new names to learn, he’ll be joined by a very different looking Cobblers team for next month’s first fixture against Shrewsbury Town.

He added: “We have a new group of players and all the new boys have integrated well. They’ve become part of the group and worked really hard.

“There’s no bad eggs here and the fitness levels have been good. It’ll be difficult for the manager to pick a starting XI because everybody is as good as everyone else but last time we won the league, in League Two, we had a squad similar to this.

“If someone steps out there’s another person just as good ready to come in their place so I’m very excited and optimistic for the season and I think with the squad we’ve got now we have a great chance of doing well.”