Boss Keith Curle feels John-Joe O’Toole decided to leave the Cobblers to take on ‘a new challenge’ in a bid to ‘get his mojo back’.
Curle says that after discussions with the player, Town made O’Toole ‘a very good offer’ to stay, but after spending the past five years at Sixfields, he feels it was probably the best for both parties for that the 30-year-old moved on.
O’Toole told the Cobblers he he was turning down their contract offer earlier this month, and signed a two-year deal at Sky Bet League One side Burton Albion.
Curle says he respects and understands that decision, and believes the fresh start will be a positive for the player.
O’Toole was a firm favourite among the Cobblers fans, winning the player of the year award in the 2015/16 title season.
He scored 12 goals in that campaign, and then matched that tally as Town survived in league one the season after, but he struggled to replicate that form in the past 12 months.
JJ wants to play more games, get more game time, and get his mojo back and his desire, and we respect that and we respect his decisionCobblers boss Keith Curle
The former Bristol Rovers man has struggled with injuries, and although he still made 34 appearances last season, he scored only three goals.
When fit, O’Toole was a regular in Curle’s team selections until the end of March, but he then found himself sidelined, making just one more late susbstitute appearance for the club in the 1-1 draw with Mansfield on April 13.
“I think John-Joe mentioned it in his interviews, and I think it is time for a new challenge for the lad, and I fully respect that,” said Curle.
“I had some good conversations with John-Joe,
“I was able to express how I felt about him and his performances, and also his future.
“JJ wants to play more games, get more game time, and get his mojo back and his desire, and we respect that and we respect his decision.
“We made him a very good offer, but the lure of being able to compete at a higher level within new surroundings and a new environment appealed to JJ.”
With O’Toole and David Buchanan both having left the club at the end of the season, it means Sam Hoskins is the only player remaining who was part of the 2016 title-winning squad.
The dismantling of one of the best groups of players the club has seen has been swift for a variety of reasons, but Curle believes that is mainly down to the high turnover of managers the club has had, and the fact the team has struggled on the pitch.
Including Chris Wilder, the Cobblers have had six different managers in just three years - Wilder, Rob Page, Justin Edinburgh, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Dean Austin, Curle - and Curle believes such a turnover will have taken its toll on all of the players, including O’Toole who has worked under all of them.
“You get longevity at a football club when the club is on an upward spiral,” said Curle.
“When it’s not you get new managers coming in, and JJ has had five managers in three years (since Wilder left).
“That means adapting to new personalities and new demands from those different managers, and this football club has not been on an upward spiral.”
O’Toole signed for the Cobblers in the summer of 2014, and went on to make 159 starts and 35 substitute appearances for the club, scoring 35 goals.