Chris Wilder has told the Cobblers supporters: ‘Judge me as manager from now’.
The former Oxford United boss has been at the Sixfields helm for 17 months, having taken over with the team rock-bottom of Sky Bet League Two in January, 2014.
There has been a big turnaroud in players, with Wilder first bringing in emergency recruits to avoid relegation from the Football League, then strengthening last summer, and then changing the face of his struggling squad again in this year’s January transfer window.
He announced even more change this week after the Cobblers wrapped up their season with a 3-2 home defeat to Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday, a result that saw them finish 12th in league two.
Seven out-of-contract players were released and two others in John-Joe O’Toole and Chris Hackett were transfer-listed.
It all means Wilder has been left with a squad he feels is his own for the first time since he became Town boss, and he said: “I think we have a fantastic base.
“When I first came into the club in the January, we had to offer contracts to players, and good lengths of contract, to get them through the door for the survival.
“Maybe in a different situation and scenario we wouldn’t have done that.
“The likes of Ricky Ravenhill and Emile Sinclair and other players wouldn’t have come for six months, and now we are at the stage I would like to be judged from, because it is my squad, and my group.
“I think people will understand that.”
With the players released, and with Hackett and O’Toole expected the leave, Wilder has just 12 outfield players contracted, with two of those in Sam Warburton and Danny Clifton expected to be sent out on loan.
It’s certainly not the biggest squad, but Wilder is happy with the quality and is now setting about adding the strength in depth required.
“Out of the players we have under contract, if I put a team up, then I think it would be good enough to compete at the top end of league two,” said the Cobblers boss, who currently doesn’t have a goalkeeper on the books, with Matt Duke released and no decision taken on Shwan Jalal.
“Now the key is to lift and improve, and provide competition to that group, so that when we do have an injury to Ricky Holmes, or have to give Lawson D’Ath or Ivan Toney a rest because they are young players that have played too many games, then we have players to go in and play in that position and offer competition.
“What we want then is those players to stay in the team, and it is up to likes of Ricky and Lawson, for example, to force their way back in.
“That is what we are looking for.”