Cobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has hailed the positive impact that John-Joe O’Toole has had on the squad since returning from his troublesome groin injury.
Hasselbaink accepts that O’Toole is not yet 100 per cent match fit after being out of action for six months, but he says the 29-year-old’s sheer presence on the field of play means he can still play a crucial role.
O’Toole made his long-awaited comeback as a substitute in the 1-0 Sixfields defeat to AFC Wimbledon 12 days ago, and he again came off the bench to help inspire the Cobblers to come back from 2-0 down and claim a 2-2 draw at Rochdale last week.
The former Bristol Rovers man was then given his first start since April 17 when he lined up in the centre of midfield for last weekend’s trip to Gillingham, and he played his part in the Cobblers claming a first away win since March.
He was taken off after 64 minutes at the Priestfield, leaving Cobblers fans concerned he may have picked up another knock, but Hasselbaink says his substitution was always part of the plan as they try to get him back up to maximum speed.
“John-Joe is fine,” said the Cobblers boss. “He has not had a pre-season, he has been injured, and we have trained him hard in the past three weeks.
For him to be on the pitch, it takes a bit of pressure off other people because he is not fazed by anythingCobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink on John-Joe O’Toole
“He is ahead of schedule and it was a big call from me to play him in that kind of match (at Gillingham), but we know that John-Joe is a very cool guy, and nothing fazes him.
“As important as the match was, we needed that kind of character on the pitch.”
Hasselbaink then went on to explain what difference O’Toole makes to the Town line-up and the players around him, even when he is not at his very best.
“Did he have a good game? No,” said Hasselbaink. “Did he play his best game? No.
“But for him to be on the pitch, it takes a bit of pressure off other people because he is not fazed by anything.
“We also know that if we can get him right as quick as possible, he is simebody who can be dangerous in both boxes, and we need people like that.
“He was always going to play 60/65 minutes to build him up, and hopefully to get him up to 100 per cent as quickly as possible.”
If O’Toole keeps his place this weekend, it will be his first Sixfields start since the 1-1 Easter Bank Holiday Monday draw with Shrewsbury Town, when he was sent off in the closing stages.