Wilder: Returning Richards is the ‘best centre forward’ in league two

FIT AGAIN - Marc Richards travelled with the Cobblers to Stevenage last weekend, but wasn't named in the matchday squad (Picture: Sharon Lucey)
FIT AGAIN - Marc Richards travelled with the Cobblers to Stevenage last weekend, but wasn't named in the matchday squad (Picture: Sharon Lucey)

Cobblers boss Chris Wilder believes he is welcoming back the ‘best centre forward in the division’ with the return to fitness of skipper Marc Richards for the Easter weekend double header.

Richards hasn’t played since the 1-0 win over Oxford United on February 16 due to an Achilles strain.

But the 18-goal top-scorer is back in full training and available for a weekend that sees the Cobblers host Newport County on Good Friday (ko 3pm) and then go to Mansfield Town on Easter Monday (3pm).

Wilder says the former Chesterfield man’s return to fitness is a huge boost for the squad as they try to close out promotion and also claim the Sky Bet League Two title, but he admits he isn’t sure whether the 33-year-old will start against Newport, or have to settle for a place on the bench.

“Marc has trained this week, so we will have a decision to make,” said the Cobblers boss. “He has trained with the group on Wednesday, and we will see if he has had a reaction.

“I have said all along that if we get Marc back into the group, it gives us a massive boost.

“I believe he is the best centre forward in the division, for what he does and every aspect of his play, and he is the club captain as well.

“It will be a big boost to get him back but he has to be right, he has to be ready, and we have to look after him as well.

“But if we do get him back for the weekend then it is a great boost for his fellow players, because I think they understand the role he plays in the team, and what affect he has had on our season so far.”

With Richards’ return, the only player unavailable for the Newport showdown is long-term absentee Paul Corry.

Meanwhile, Cobblers Academy Under-12s youngster Carney Chukwameka has made the switch to the Aston Villa Academy, under the terms of the EPPP (Elite Player Performance Plan.)

Northampton lad Chukwameka, who attends St James Primary School in the town, joined Northampton as an under nine, and has spent the past four years under the guidance of the club’s foundation stage coaches.

Cobblers Academy manager Trevor Gould said: “There was a lot of interest from a number of Premier League clubs in Carney, and under the EPPP guidelines once a player is identified by a Category One Academy there isn’t much we can do.

“The fact that Carney generated that interest is a tribute to both Carney himself and the Academy here in terms of our recruitment and our coaching and development of young players.

“Carney has a wonderful attitude, this is a tribute to the work of our foundation stage and this news should act as a big encouragement to local players that the Northampton Town Academy is the best place for local, young footballers to develop.

“Our scouts watch lots of local football, and we also get to see many youngsters on the club’s holiday courses and through our community work and we are always looking to recruit and develop young talent.

“We wish Carney and his family all the very best at Aston Villa and will be watching his development closely, with pride.”