Chairman Kelvin Thomas has revealed the financial challenge facing the Cobblers in Sky Bet League One this season.
Promotion as champions from league two in May saw Town’s playing budget significantly increased in the summer, but in terms of many of their rivals this season, the Cobblers are still relative paupers.
And Thomas feels that a little more realism may be needed as Rob Page and his players attempt to compete at a higher level.
The chairman insists he still wants the team to be challenging at the top end of league one, and says he has told Page that is expected, but feels the current poor run of five defeats in six league games that has seen the team slip to 15th in the table is an example of how tough the challenge is for the Cobblers.
Indeed in terms of playing budgets, Thomas revealed the team is performing at about par.
“It is difficult because you never want to say ‘we want to be a mid-table side and we’re happy with that’, we’re not” said the chairman.
“We want to kick on and we want to improve things, and your expectations grow when you start doing well and you start winning games.
“If you look at it purely on budget, I think the benchmark on numbers put us about 15th or 16th in the league in terms of budgets, so you could say we are in and around it.
“I have told Rob he needs to overachieve on that, and that is what we will be looking for.
“Of course it is difficult because I know what some of these budgets are.
“We will go to Oxford on Boxing Day and then Sheffield United on New Year’s Eve, and I know that Oxford’s budget is 40 or 50 per cent bigger, and Sheffield United’s is probably three times ours.
“But it’s not all about that, it’s not all about money, and that has been proved because we go away to Charlton and get a draw there and their budget is up there above Sheffied United’s.
“It is not all about that, but it’s about being a bit realistic and understanding that we are not going to steamroller this league.
“It is a step up in level, and you look at our fixtures and there are no gimmes in this league, whereas in league two there are games where you would expect to win.
“I don’t think there are games in this league where you would go in there and expect to win, and it is going to be tight.
“Results are going to continue to be up and down a little bit, but it is now important we make a couple of changes in January and make sure we get it right.”
Thomas also offered words of support for manager Page, and also said he believes the spirit among the players at Sixfields is still good with everybody pulling in the same direction.
“Rob and I talk all the time, we spoke on Saturday and he was gutted as we all were, and the fans were,” said Thomas.
“I think he is really disappointed for the fans, and he has said that on numerous occasions, and he means it. Rob is a good character, a good guy, and wants to win football matches.
“We are not doing that so he is frustrated, and the players are frustrated, but I still believe there is a good spirit in the group.
“I have been in and around it, and that doesn’t change for me, and just watch how the players celebrate when they score.
“There is a good spirit and everybody wants to turn it around and get the results.
“We are lacking a bit of confidence, and that shows, but things do take time.
“Chris (Wilder) didn’t have the season he had last year, and the club didn’t have that, straight away.
“Look at Michael Appleton at Oxford, they got promoted last season but the season before he really struggled, and you have to have a little patience sometimes and show support.”