It was inevitable somewhere along the line that Keith Curle would encounter his first blip in charge of the Cobblers, but despite four games without a win, including their most recent 3-1 loss at Newport, his love for the club, the job and the fans has not diminished.
Selected as the man to replace Dean Austin by chairman Kelvin Thomas back on October 1, Curle’s arrival at the PTS generated a mixed reaction from a fanbase that had grown weary of several failed appointments.
I’m still in love with the fans, I’m still in love with the football club and I’m still in love with the job. It’s a work-in-progress. Nobody said it would be easy when I first came in.
But the best way to win over sceptical fans is by turning around their team’s fortunes on the pitch and Curle quickly set about doing so, guiding Town to four wins in six league games and catapulting them from 21st League Two, perilously close to the relegation zone, to 14th, safely positioned in mid-table.
However, it’s not quite been so plain-sailing of late. The Cobblers have not won any of their last four games, beaten by Lincoln City and Newport County while drawing with Exeter and Grimsby. They’ve also conceded 10 goals during that time and slipped back to 17th.
Despite that wobble though, Curle denies his honeymoon period is at an end and says that his love for the task at hand remains as strong as ever.
“No, it’s not over,” he insisted. I’m still in love with the fans, I’m still in love with the football club and I’m still in love with the job. It’s a work-in-progress. Nobody said it would be easy when I first came in.
“You come in and you pick up the job of a team that’s third from bottom and there’s reasons why. You can’t just polish all the problems away with a couple of good results.”
So, with that in mind, what’s the objective for the rest of season? “The aim is we need to finish comfortably within this division and have a platform and pillars for us going forward.
“That hasn’t changed and that’s the mindset going forward.”
Northampton’s game against Grimsby Town last Saturday was notable for the fact that both Ash Taylor and David Buchanan started together for the first time since Curle took charge.
The Cobblers captaincy has alternated between the two over the past 12 months. Buchanan led the team under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink last season but Taylor was then given the armband by Dean Austin for his five games in caretaker charge.
The centre-back continued in the role this season until a six-week hamstring injury returned captain duties back to Buchanan, who kept the armband even when Taylor returned to fitness and started against Grimsby.
Curle says he does not place great emphasis on who leads out his team though, saying: “I had a chat with both Ash and David on Friday and told them that I’m keeping David as captain.
“There’s not too much emphasis on it. They’re both good individuals and both good captain material and both good professionals and bounce off each other well.”
It hasn’t taken long for fans to discover that Curle is a tinkerer. He likes to chop and change both personnel and formation between matches, even when winning and playing well.
Asked if that can have a detrimental effect on his side, he replied: “No, not at all. We work on things and there’s an understanding.
“I’m still finding out about these players because, ultimately, come January, you work out if you have the right pieces to go on the journey you want to go on.”
Following their FA Cup exit, the Cobblers are currently enjoying a rare weekend off before they return to action at Cambridge United in the Checkatrade Trophy next Tuesday.
“We’ll be competitive,” said Curle on that game. “We’ve got a competitive squad and there’s competition for places with players coming back.
“The team that we put out will be a team that I think will get us a good foothold in the game and potentially win the tie because we need to get back to winning ways.”