COMMENT: His leaving is a blow, but Cobblers will always be indebted to Chris Wilder

So, after a season that will go down in Cobblers folklore, a season that the fans will remember for the rest of their lives, the manager has decided it is time for pastures new.

Thursday, 12th May 2016, 6:32 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th May 2016, 7:36 pm
FITTING SEND-OFF - Chris Wilder shows off the Sky Bet League Two trophy during the Cobblers' champions open-top bus parade in Northampton last weekend (Pictures: Sharon Lucey & Kirsty Edmonds)

Just days after Chris Wilder saw his Town team finish their record-breaking Sky Bet League Two title winning season with another victory, at Portsmouth, he has quit Sixfields to take charge of his boyhood heroes Sheffield United.

There was the early week dalliance with another league one club in Charlton Athletic that broke down, but once the Blades came calling, Wilder was only ever going to make one decision.

He was born in Sheffield.

He lives in Sheffield.

He is a former Sheffield United player.

And he is a lifelong Sheffield United fan.

His move north capped off a whirlwind of a week at Sixfields, a turn of events that few would have predicted.

For most, Monday’s announcement that Wilder had been given permission to talk to Charlton was a bolt from the blue.

I mean, anybody who saw Wilder enjoying himself on the open-top bus during Sunday’s champions parade will be amazed that just hours later, he was discussing a possible departure.

We now know his destination is Sheffield not Charlton, but Wilder quitting, and the fact he taking assistant Alan Knill and head of sport science Matt Prestridge with him, is a huge blow for the Cobblers, their supporters - and the players too.

This kind of scenario is nothing new for lower league clubs, who regularly see their managers working wonders, enjoying success, and then being picked off by bigger clubs with deeper pockets.

Just look at Burton Albion, who have lost both Gary Rowett (to Birmingham City) and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink (to Queens Park Rangers) in the space of two years - yet they have still managed to win back-to-back promotions, so it need not be a negative for the club left behind.

Losing a successful boss is not a new scenario for the Cobblers either, as the most recent time the club won promotion before this year, back in 2006, Colin Calderwood upped sticks and joined Nottingham Forest within a matter of weeks.

It’s just the way football works.

There will be Cobblers fans who are struggling to understand why Wilder has left a club on the up, with a cracking playing staff, all under contract, and has a stable infrastructure behind the scenes.

But it is Wilder’s call, and the pull of his hometown proved too strong to resist.

There is the size of the club as well.

Sheffield United is a genuine sleeping giant, with more than 11,000 season tickets already sold for next season

They are in a slump at the moment, and are now preparing for their sixth straight season in the third tier of English football, but Wilder clearly believes he can succeed where other managers have failed in recent years.

There will be some Cobblers fans who will be bitter that Wilder has walked out on the club, angry that he has jumped ship with the club on the up - but they shouldn’t be bitter, or angry.

Disappointed? Yes. Upset? Yep. Frustrated? Yep. But angry? No. Not for me.

That’s because Chris Wilder doesn’t owe Northampton Town anything, indeed, if anything it is the Cobblers that owe him.

It is only 28 months ago that Wilder left Oxford United to take over a Cobblers team on the brink of the non-League abyss, six points adrift at the bottom of Sky Bet League Two and looking doomed.

He was entrusted by then chairman David Cardoza to pull off the great escape, and he did it.

It is pure speculation to imagine where Northampton Town FC would be now if they had been relegated in 2014, but I think it’s safe to assume the consequences wouldn’t have been pretty.

A fairly mediocre season followed if truth be told, but in the second half of the campaign there were glimpses of what was to come - and that brings us to this season.

On the pitch it has been a bit of a dream, the team playing great football, scoring great goals, and breaking club record after club record on their way winning the title by 13 points.

Wilder was the architect of the team, but that is only the half of it when it comes to his contribution to the very survival of the club.

We all know how close the club came to going out of existence back in the dark days of November.

The fact that the club is still here, and that 1,000s of supporters were able to line the streets to acclaim their champions last weekend - a lot of that is down to Wilder.

During all the chaos and confusion, he kept the players focused, he kept spirits and morale high around the club, fielded question after question after question about takeovers and the money troubles.

He even worked for three months without pay, as did Knill and Prestridge, and it would have been easy for him to wash his hands of everything and walk away.

But he didn’t.

Wilder also played a major role in enticing Kelvin Thomas into buying the club, and he made that speech at Notts County.

A speech that, it is no exaggeration to say, probably led to the club being saved.

There is so much that Cobblers supporters should be thanking Wilder for.

As a Cobblers fan, I am as disappointed as anybody that Wilder has left as I think he really could have achieved great things if he stayed. But I don’t blame him.

We all know how fickle football can be, and as a manager, there are only certain moments in your career when you are ‘hot property’, and for Wilder that moment is now.

He is ambitious, wants to manage at as high a level as he can, and he feels there is more potential at Sheffield United than there is at Northampton, and that can’t really be argued with.

So I wish him well.

Northampton’s loss could end up being Sheffield United’s gain, but this need not be a downer for the Cobblers.

Kelvin Thomas is already making all the right noises about the next appointment, and it appears interest in becoming the next Cobblers boss is very high.

Why shouldn’t it be with the group of players at the club?

And if Town can get the right man in to manage such an excellent squad, there is no reason why the club’s upward trajectory cannot be continued next season.

For me, there is no doubt Wilder can leave Sixfields with his head held high, and with his part in the history of this club writ large.

Wilder will of course return to Sixfields next season, but will be heading for the visitors’ dugout when he rocks up with the Blades.

And when he does, I can’t imagine his reception being anything other than a rousing one from the grateful Cobblers supporters.

Which is exactly what he deserves.