Despite having now been in the role for almost eight weeks, overseeing 11 games during that time, Cobblers boss Keith Curle says he’s still ‘learning’ new things about his squad – and vice versa.
Appointed on October 1 after Dean Austin’s sacking, Northampton’s record under Curle reads six wins, three draws and two defeats in 11 matches across three competitions, compared to one victory in 12 previously.
We’ve said to the players we want a relaxed environment in and around the changing room but, when we come out onto the pitch, we need to be aggressive.
But whilst he’s inspired a significant leap up the League Two table – from 21st to 14th in the space of two months – he says he’s still learning about the squad, especially with several players having spent much of his time in charge in the treatment room.
There has also been regular changes between matches, both tactically and personnel-wise, with Northampton initially playing 3-5-2 before going to 4-4-2 more recently.
“It’s an enjoyable environment because it’s a learning environment,” said Curle, who has club captain Ash Taylor and fellow defender Shay Facey back fit.
“Not only are the players learning about myself and the coaching the staff I’ve brought in, we’re learning about them and identifying strengths and weaknesses within our own camp. That’s allied to gaining points against opposition.
“We’ve used different formations and different personnel within those formations, and we’re still ironing things out.”
Curle cited a lack of ‘aggression’ as one of the reasons behind his side’s below-par display against Exeter City last Saturday, and he reiterated those feelings ahead of Saturday’s home clash with Grimsby Town.
“Being aggressive is not about flying into tackles and headbutts,” he explained. “You can have an aggressive demeanour that can put other people on the back foot without even laying anything on them.
“There’s nothing wrong with being competitive because we’re playing in a very, very competitive sport. We’ve said to the players we want a relaxed environment in and around the changing room but, when we come out onto the pitch, we need to be aggressive.
“You need to have that aggressive tone to be competitive. Good players have that naturally and it comes to the fore not so much when it’s needed, it’s there on a day-to-day basis.
“If you look at top clubs and top footballers, they have an aggressive demeanour and that can be in their passing, in their tackling and in their approach.”