Cobblers boss Keith Curle says he will not hand out first-team opportunities to the club’s younger players for the sake of it, even if his side mathematically secure their safety with games to spare this season.
With 12 fixtures remaining, the first of which comes at Crewe Alexandra this weekend, Town boast a comfortable 12-point cushion over the relegation zone in Sky Bet League Two, partly thanks to Saturday’s late 2-1 victory at Stevenage.
Sometimes I will face criticism for it but ever since I went into management I made the decision to be my own man and I will make decisions.
That means Cobblers could head into the final few games of the campaign with little to play for and that in turn might well present first-team chances for the club’s talented academy players, although many of those are currently out on loan, including striker Joe Iaciofano who joined Banbury this week.
But even if the likes of Camron McWilliams, Scott Pollock and Morgan Roberts are available for selection, Curle has warned chances will not be handed out like confetti – they must prove they are worthy of a place in the team.
“The younger players within the group will get an opportunity if they earn it,” he said. “I have a very competitive squad at the moment and I have senior pros desperate to impress, not only myself but potential watching suitors to further their careers.
“I’m not going to hand out a Northampton Town shirt unless it’s deserved and that goes all the way back to the first game against Bury when I gave the players their first shirt. I said to them back then that, every time they wear it, they have to earn the opportunity to perform.”
There will doubtless be chances for every member of Town’s squad to impress and stake their claim over the remaining 12 games, particularly given Curle’s relentless rotation policy.
“I don’t shy away from changes,” he added. “If I see something, I’m brave. Sometimes I will face criticism for it but ever since I went into management I made the decision to be my own man and I will make decisions.
“I will take advice. I’m good at taking advice and I’m a good listener. I’ll take on board information from trusted staff and personnel, from the scouts to the head of recruitment to the coaching staff.
“I take on board all the information and then I watch all the videos and collate all the information and come up with a plan.”
Reflecting further on his side’s victory at the Lamex, Curle said: “The pleasing thing was the mentality after the equaliser. There was no disappointment. We’re professional footballers and we’re going to concede goals - the mentality doesn’t change.
“I think we’ve got the mentality now where we need to nullify the opposition and earn the right to play. At times, we did that very well on Saturday.
“We had to be competitive, we needed a strong mentality and have a good understanding of roles and responsibilities within the team. I thought the players adhered to that very well individually.
“We shaded the individual battles throughout the two teams. There are still lots of things we can work on and areas we can improve, but as a group and as a collective, I’m very pleased.
“As a changing room we needed that result and the terraces needed that result so very well done to everybody concerned.”