Portsmouth boss Paul Cook says he ‘can’t offer enough superlatives’ to describe how good the Cobblers have been this season.
Northampton complete their title-winning campaign at Fratton Park on Saturday afternoon, and they can expect a warm welcome from their hosts.
Cook is in no doubt the Cobblers are worthy winners of the Sky Bet League Two title, and says he, his players and the Pompey supporters will recognise that fact this weekend.
“We will do something to recognise them, without doubt. You have got to have manners, one day we want it to be us,” Cook told the Portsmouth News.
“Northampton definitely deserve that.
“They have had an exceptional season. Chris Wilder has done an amazing job, from the problems they had early on to going on the run they had. Great credit to him and the players.
“They thoroughly deserve to be champions and thoroughly deserve to be described as the best team in the league.”
Cook went on to outline the Cobblers’ strengths, saying: “It does not just happen, it comes with hard work and endeavour.
“They are very good from set-pieces, have good players, all of a sudden John-Joe O’Toole has come to the fore, the centre-halves have all done well, Ricky Holmes has come in since they played us.
“When you watch DVDs of their games they are always at it and are a very, very good side.
“They are full of good League Two players, full of experience. All the fits are good, the balances are good, they have men in the team.
“I don’t think you can offer enough superlatives about their season, I really don’t.
“They are obviously playing at the height of confidence so tomorrow will be a tough game for us.”
As big a fan as he is of the Cobblers, Cook feels Chris Wilder isn’t out on his own as the best manager in league two this season - he says Acctington Stanley’s John Coleman deserves to share that accolade.
“I voted for Chris Wilder and John Coleman (as the best manager), I don’t think you could split them, they were my two votes,” said the former Chesterfield boss.
“John is equal for me, without doubt, I think Chris would be the first to say that.
“Northampton were expected to go close because they have spent money like us, Oxford and Luton. Accrington haven’t.
“If you put an actual gun to my head, I probably would have to go for John. But I don’t think you could do that because of Chris’ achievements. Those two for me were the stand-outs.’
Portsmouth are already guaranteed a play-off place and know they will be playing Plymouth Argyle, the only issue to be decided is whether they are home or away in the semi-final first leg, which will be played on Thursday night.
Pompey have a lengthy list of injuries, and Cook admits his main priority this weekend is ensuring they don’t pick up any more.
“When you know that you’re definitely in the play-offs, you want to cut straight to the chase,” said the Pompey boss.
“Unfortunately we can’t do that and now we face a Northampton side who thoroughly deserve to have been crowned champions.
“We could get to 81 points, which at the start of the season you’d think would be enough for automatic promotion, but unfortunately that’s not the case.
“The important thing from my point of view is to come through this weekend unscathed and there are a couple of key positions that we must protect.
“It will still certainly be a good game with a sell-out crowd, though, and while Northampton can look forward to their holidays, we’ll just look to continue with our work.”