Zander Diamond has admitted he felt he had taken his career as far as he could with the Cobblers, and that it was ‘time to move on’.
The central defender, who was named the Town supporters’ player of the year at the end of last season, confirmed he rejected the offer of a new contract from Town boss Justin Edinburgh, and instead opted to sign for Sky Bet League Two side Mansfield Town.
The Scotsman’s decision brought to an end a three-and-a-half year association with the Cobblers, and Diamond has explained he felt he needed to move for ‘a fresh challenge’, having previously made the mistake of staying at his first club, Aberdeen, for too long.
“I did get offered a contract by Northampton, and I rejected it,” said the 32-year-old.
“It had come to the stage where I had been at the club for three-and-a-half years, and I looked at my personal life, and sometimes you just need a fresh challenge.
“I was at Aberdeen for many a year, and I felt I stayed there too long, and I vowed never to make that mistake again.”
And he added: “The offer that came in didn’t suit both parties anyhow.
“I respected what Kelvin Thomas had done, but it was just the situation was that both parties were maybe going in different directions, in terms of the deal Northampton offered.
“That kind of confirmed to myself that it was time to move on.”
It certainly wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to that contract offer to leave the Cobblers, with Diamond admitting he had made his mind up that he was going to leave the club long before the end of the campaign.
“I had probably made up my mind that I would be leaving in January or February if I am going to be brutally honest, and I am quite an honest person,” said Diamond, who played 45 times for Town last season, and 125 in his Sixfields career in total.
“But when the contract offer (from Northampton) did come in, it confirmed to me what I was thinking all along, and I said ‘right, I’ll just move on’.
“It didn’t hamper my performances, and I played for the jersey as much as I could, but in the back of my mind I knew I was going to leave.
“I spoke to Steve Evans after the end of the season, and I bought in to what he wanted to do at Mansfield.
“It is well documented that I stay in Derby, so it is only 30 minutes up the road, so it suited me to move on from Northampton, and I think I achieved everything I could there.”
Diamond initially joined the Cobblers on loan from Burton Albion in February, 2014, being tempted to the club by Chris Wilder with Town six points adrift at the bottom of league two.
Diamond played a key role in the club’s great escape that season, and signed a three-year deal that summer.
In those three years he played his part in a season of consolidation, the league two title-winning campaign, and then helped the Cobblers hold on to their league one status.
“From a personal point of view, I felt I took the club as far as I could have played for them, and hopefully they will go on next season and progress,” said Diamond.
“But I had done my time, I had done my job.
“I helped the team stave off relegation, to win the championship and get promoted, so it’s not bad.
“I have a good rapport with the supporters, and I think the time was right for me to move on.”
Some eyebrows were raised at Diamond’s decision to drop down to league two though, especially as he has just enjoyed such a strong season at the level above, but the player says it is a move that ‘ticks all the right boxes’.
And he compared manager Steve Evans’ wooing of him to that of Chris Wilder.
“I had about five different offers on the table, and there were a couple from league one, but once I had spoken to Steve Evans and he outlined everything he wanted at Mansfield, it was a good fit,” said Diamond.
“Location-wise, I looked up and down the country at the clubs that were interested, and the one that stood out was Mansfield.
“The infrastructure is all there, they have a training ground which they have just spent £4m on, the stadium is getting developed, and everything is looking good.
“It ticked all the right boxes, and the ambition is there, even more so from Steve himself, who wants to get out of that division.
“Once you hear that, and you hear the optimism and feel the buzz about the place, you want to get on board with that.
“It was similar to how I felt when I spoke to Chris (before signing for the Cobblers), he said all of the right things and it was an easy decision for me.
“I am happy, and buoyant, and I can’t wait to get going.”
And Diamond also made it clear that Northampton Town will always have a special place in his heart.
Asked if he would welcome a Mansfield cup clash with Town next season, Diamond said: “It would be nice to come back to Northampton in some capacity, whether that’s in another team’s jersey, or just as a guest.
“Kelvin said to me that I am welcome to come down and see a game any time, and that is the kind of rapport you want with a chairman and an owner.
“Northampton has played a big part in my life, and I will always look out for their results.”
In Thursday’s Chronicle & Echo - Zander Diamond on beating the drop, on winning the title, on Chris Wilder, on Rob Page, and on a club coming together in adversity