The Cobblers return for pre-season training a week on Monday, but it’s fair to say the squad for next season is far from complete.
Town boss Chris Wilder knows he still has plenty of recruitment to get through ahead of the new Sky Bet League Two campaign.
Four new signings have been made, with Alfie Potter, Nicky Adams, Dave Buchanan and Josh Lelan coming in, but we we can expect to see another spate of new arrivals at Sixfields in the coming weeks.
So where exactly do the Cobblers need to strengthen to ensure the squad is capable of making a challenge for automatic promotion or the play-offs next season?
The most obvious position that needs urgent attention is of course between the sticks, with the club currently without a goalkeeper.
Here, we run through the squad tied down for next season and how the cover is position by position, including the two transfer-listed players John-Joe O’Toole and Chris Hackett and youngsters Sam Warbuton and Danny Clifton.
We also take a guess as to how many players short the squad still might be with the big kick-off just a couple of months away.
Squad - players contracted for next season: Brendan Moloney, Josh Lelan, Zander Diamond, Ryan Cresswell, Evan Horwood, Dave Buchanan, Jason Taylor, Joel Byrom, Alfie Potter, Ricky Holmes, Lawson D’Ath, Nicky Adams, Marc Richards, Ivan Toney, John-Joe O’Toole, Chris Hackett, Sam Warburton, Danny Clifton.
Goalkeepers - None
How many needed? 2
It goes without saying that Wilder is going to have to sign two new goalkeepers, and he is confident he will bring in the shot-stoppers he wants in good time. Expect announcements soon.
Right-backs - Moloney, Lelan
How many more needed?: One
Brendan Moloney is nailed on to be the first choice right-back providing he stays fit, but by all accounts Lelan will provide excellent cover. The former Derby County man also played as a central defender in the Under-21 Premier League, but he has only played a handful of senior games and is inexperienced. Jason Taylor filled in at right-back on one occasion last season, so I think Wilder will want another option to play on the right. Having decided to part company with Ben Tozer, Wilder has also lost that player who can operate in a variety of positions, so will probably want another experienced ‘utility man’ to help cover full-back and the central defensive/midfield area.
Left-backs - Horwood, Buchanan, Warburton
How many more needed?: One
Evan Horwood finished last season as the first-choice left-back, but he will receive fierce competition from Buchanan, who was a regular for Preston North End in league one until the turn of the year. Buchanan’s strength is his defensive work rather than getting forward, and with Wilder keen to sort out a defence that was the team’s Achilles heel last season, it could be that Buchanan is first pick. Warburton is a promising left-back, but is set to be loaned out to get experience.
Central defenders - Diamond, Cresswell, Lelan
How many more needed: One
If fully fit, Zander Diamond and Ryan Cresswell may well be Wilder’s ‘dream team’ in central defence, but the Town boss is keen to bring in a left-footed centre-back to replace Lee Collins, who was released at the end of last season. That would then give him the option of playing with a back three. Lelan is an option, but I would imagine the youngster would only be used in the centre of defence. in an emergency
Central midfield - Taylor, Byrom, Adams, O’Toole
How many more needed: None if O’Toole stays, one if he leaves
As it stands, the central midfield area is fairly well stocked, but Wilder has made it clear he wants shot of O’Toole, telling the player’s agent he has no future at the club. The fact remains though, that if nobody takes O’Toole, he will be back at Sixfields as he has two years left on his deal. Taylor and Byrom forged an effective partnership last season, and Adams will add a different dimension. He is forward runner with an eye for creating and scoring goals, something the Cobblers sadly lacked from midfield last term.
Wingers/wide midfielders: Holmes, D’Ath, Potter, Hackett
How many more needed: None
If you’re looking for a diminutive, tricky winger, then Sixfields is the place to go. Ricky Holmes, Lawson D’Ath and Alfie Potter all give Wilder great attacking options, and tremendous flair. All three are equally happy on either flank, or even in a central area off the front men. They are all high energy, and that is the way Wilder wants to play. When D’Ath and Holmes clicked in matches last season, they were a pleasure to watch and Potter is cut from similar cloth, whereas Hackett isn’t. He’s an old fashioned right winger, who can’t really operate anywhere else - hence the decision to transfer-list him. Even if Hackett does leave, the Cobblers have enough in wide areas, especially as Horwood can also operate as a left midfielder. Youngster Danny Clifton will be loaned out to gain experience.
Strikers: Richards, Toney
How many more needed: Two
Marc Richards is a quality striker who could probably walk into any team in league two, but he’s 32 and not getting any younger. Ivan Toney is a teenager who has undoubted potential, and on his day is a class act. But this is an area where Wilder needs to bring in at least two bodies to provide competition, and cover for injury/loss of form.
Current squad number: 14 (plus two transfer-listed - Hackett & O’Toole - and two set to be loaned out - Clifton and Warburton)
Number of players needed to be signed: 7/8
Goalkeepers - 2
Right-back - 1
Left-back - 1
Central defender - 1
Central midfielder - 1 or 0
Wide midfielder - 0
Strikers - 2