Boss Justin Edinburgh believes the rules on loan deals and player availability brought in at the start of this season are unfair on the Cobblers and the other lower league clubs in English football.
From the start of the current campaign, short-term loan deals were abolished, with clubs only able to bring in or send out players on longer term window-to-window loan arrangements.
That has led to lower league clubs carrying larger squads than they normally would as they try to ensure they have cover for every position, which in turn has led to many players kicking their heels as they have been starved of any sort of game time.
The Cobblers boss is satisfied with the business he and head of recrtuitment Andy Melville did during the January transfer window, bringing in six new players and letting three others leave, but he admitted it was also hugely frustrating as they missed out on other targets.
And one particular ruling that irks Edinburgh is the one that states a player can only play for two clubs in any one season.
“We knew the rules before the start of the season, but I think it’s tough for clubs outside of the Championship. I feel it is hard on us,” said Edinburgh.
A player might have had a 15 or 20-minute appearance for his parent club in the EFL Cup or something, then goes out for one loan, and when he comes back he is restricted in his trade. That has really condensed the options of players we have looked to bring in, I feel that has been a real hindrance to us, certainly in this windowCobblers boss Justin Edinburgh
“The big rule for me this season has been the two club rule, where a player is only allowed to play for two clubs in a season, and it is one that really has to be reviewed.
“A player might have had a 15 or 20-minute appearance for his parent club in the EFL Cup or something, then goes out for one loan, and when he comes back he is restricted in his trade.
“That has really condensed the options of players we have looked to bring in, I feel that has been a real hindrance to us, certainly in this window.
“I am a big believer in that you try and do your business and deals throughout the close season in the first window, and I am not a lover of the January window.
“We are fully aware of the rules and regulations this season, but I think it is a restriction on the lower league clubs.”
As well as stifling recruitment opportunities, Edinburgh also believes the fact players can’t be sent out on short-term loans to get some game time is not a good thing.
The three players that left the Cobblers in January were Joel Byrom, Lawson D’Ath and Alfie Potter and they all departed because they had been starved of first team action, with Rob Page only giving them limited opportunities.
In the past, those players may have gone out to another club for a month or two to get match-fit and try and prove a point to the manager, but with the rules this year they have basically had to leave the club just to get playing.
Then there are younger players, such as Emmanuel Sonupe and Raheem Hanley, who have rarely been involved in the first team picture.
Again, in the past they may well have been loaned out to get some experience and match fitness, but this season they have to be kept as the club has to ensure it has ‘bodies in the building’ in case of injury and suspension.
On players not being able to go out on short-term loans, Edinburgh said: “I feel that also restricts the player, and him developing.
“We aren’t belessed with the biggest squad, especially with the injuries we have picked up.
“There might be one or two players in the squad at the moment, that if we were to get one of two of our injured players back in a few weeks’ time, that might be an ideal opportunity for them to go out and get some game time for a month, and then bring them back to us.
“Unfortunately, we can’t do that and I do feel it is a little harsh on the lower league clubs.
“I get it that in the Premier League and Championship they can quite easily run with squads of 30 and have under-23 squads and under-18 squads, etc. But it is a restriction for us.”
And he added: “You want to be getting your recruitment right full stop, but you can then be restricted with the rules as they are.
“You can only have five loan players in any 18-man match day squad, and you have to be cautious of that. So it has been a tough time for us through this window.”
As it turned out, Edinburgh did end up having to bring in three more loanees after he got the job, which has left him with six loan players in his squad in Lewin Nyatanga, Gregg Wylde, Hiram Boateng, Keshi Anderson, Luke Williams and Michael Smith.
The Town boss did try and sign players on fixed-term deals, missing out on a defender on deadline day, but admits that in the January window it is not easy to make signings on a permanent basis.
“Where do you go and find players that clubs don’t want, on a fixed-term permanent deal?” said the Cobblers boss.
“A lot of the players we were being offered were for loan, and it was a case of juggling that and trying to get it right.”