Dean Austin believes he deserved more time than just the 10 league games he was given as Cobblers boss, and says he has been humbled by the messages and support he has had from the club’s fans following his sacking at the weekend.
The 48-year-old was relieved of his duties in a Sunday night phone call from chairman Kelvin Thomas, a day after his team had suffered a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Mansfield Town on Saturday afternoon.
It was a bad day at Field Mill, but speaking exclusively to the Chron, Austin believes that was the ‘rock bottom’ moment for the team, and that he is ‘convinced’ the team will turn the corner.
He maintains new manager Keith Curle has inherited a very good squad, and said he ‘would put money on’ the team’s recovery starting in their game against Bury at the PTS Academy Stadium on Tuesday night (ko 7.45pm).
Austin was only given the Town manager’s job on May 12 after a five-match caretaker stint at the end of last season, and in all his reign lasted just 12 competitive matches, with 10 in Sky Bet League Two.
Despite some encouraging performances, the results didn’t follow, and with just one win this season – at Colchester last month – the Cobblers find themselves 21st in league two, and just two points above the relegation zone.
When we won at Colchester everybody was raving about my team and telling me how good they were. But it wasn’t meant to be, and sometimes you have to take these knockout punches in fights and pick yourself up and recover, and I will do thatDean Austin
Thomas was at Mansfield on Saturday, and he and the Town board decided the time was right to bring Austin’s reign to an end, moving quickly to install former Mansfield, Notts County and Carlisle United boss Curle into the PTS hot seat less than 24 hours later.
Austin says the decision to sack him was too hasty, as he was only a few months into the two-year plan he had devised and that things would have come good, but that he has to take the sacking on the chin as ‘we know the perils of the job’.
“I have to be honest, the most humbling thing that has happened to me is the amount of messages and support that I have had from the supporters, saying they don’t think I have had a fair crack of the whip,” said Austin.
“They are saying 10 games is no time, but we know the perils of the job.
“But I maintain, and I will say this, in any process you are working through, and obviously the people at the club aren’t interested in the process, but any process takes time.
“I know for a fact that up until two games ago we had the best stats for shots on goal in the division.
“Now I know stats don’t win you games, but they do tell you that not everything is bad.
“There’s an old saying that when you are losing it doesn’t mean you are not doing everything wrong, and when you are winning it doesn’t mean you are doing everything right.
“But you have to continue to learn and move forward, and sometimes when you are in a process and things aren’t going well, you have to hit a rock bottom, and I know 100 per cent that Saturday was our rock bottom.
“The only way forward for them now will be to pick up.
“People say to me that I have shown too much faith in the players, and that I backed them too much and gave too many players, too many chances, but I still maintain that this group will turn it around, and I will put money on it that it starts tonight.
“Matt Crooks is fit tonight, Daniel Powell is fit tonight and they were coming back into the team, Shaun McWilliams should be fit for the bench and ready to start on Saturday, so that is three of your four injuries back in the fold.”
Austin feels the team rarely had the rub of the green during his brief time in charge, and says he has been told as much by people whose opinion means the most to him.
“I have two unbelievable mentors that I speak to, people who are very important in my life, and one of them sent me a message and said ‘Dean, I hope the ball runs for you, because in the three games I have seen it hasn’t’,” said the former Watford assistant boss.
“The second mentor said to me ‘you are better to be lucky than good’, and I don’t think I have had a lot of luck either.”
After a year of turning up at Moulton College for work every day, Austin now finds himself with plenty of time on his hands, and on Tuesday he was heading out with some former Tottenham Hotspur team-mates to play in a charity golf day.
He admits he would much rather be preparing the Cobblers team for their date with the Shakers, but he has to accept what has happened to him, and has a positive outlook for Town fans as they prepare for life under Curle.
“It is disappointing what has happened, but it is done now,” said Austin. “But that is football, sometimes you have to take these things on the chin and move on, and that is exactly what I am going to do.
“I am going to take a little bit of time to reflect, although I have a busy week on the golf course this week!
“I will then go away on my own and really reflect on this experience, which has not by any stretch of the imagination been a bad experience.
“We have hit some bumps on the road in terms of Saturdays with the results, but I think the team have proved they can play.
“They have proved that the ability is there, they have proved they can do it, and when they won at Colchester everybody was raving about my team and telling me how good they were.
“But it wasn’t meant to be, and sometimes you have to take these knockout punches in fights and pick yourself up and recover, and I will do that.
“I am a very positive person, I am humbled by the messages I have had, and I would like to thank everybody out there who has been so good to me, with regards to messages of support.
“I have to move on and we will see what the future holds.”
And as for the future of the team he leaves behind?
“I know it’s very easy for me to say, but I know these players will turn it around, I don’t care what anyone says,” said Austin.
“They will turn it around and I really hope that they do, because there are great people at the club, the fans are unbelievable, and the boys are not bad people.
“Yes, we have had some bad luck and some kicks in the nether regions when we haven’t deserved it and that has blown the wind out of our sails, and that’s what has happened.
“But Saturday was rock bottom and the only way is up. I am convinced you will see this team move up the division very quickly.
“I hope the fans can really, really get behind the boys because I think the page will be turned.
“It is all there for them, I honestly believe that, and my plan was always to shake things up over two or three windows, and that still has to be the case.
“I didn’t want to make wholesale changes in the summer because I felt too many had been made in the two previous windows, and I think for any organisation to be successful you have to have a certain amount of continuity there.
“But they will be fine, and I wish everybody at the club well.”