Cobblers legend Marc Richards is delighted to be back at Sixfields - as a youth-team coach.
Town’s 2016 title-winning skipper left the club in the January transfer window, signing for Swindon Town, where he enjoyed a brilliant start to his County Ground career.
He netted 11 goals in 18 starts and two substitute appearances, but his goals couldn’t quite lift the Robins into the Sky Bet League Two play-off places.
It means he will be coming face to face with his former club and team-mates out on the pitch when the Cobblers clash with Swindon in league two next season - but the truth is he will be a man with a foot very much in both camps.
Richards made it clear when he made the switch to Swindon that he would love to return to the Cobblers one day, in some capacity.
Well, that hasn’t taken very long to happen, as Richards was handed the role of assistant coach to the Northampton Town Centre of Excellence Under-14s team in March.
That meant that as well as playing for Swindon, three times a week in the evenings Richards now helps put on training for the Town youngsters, and then takes his place as part of the management team alongside U14s lead coach Marc Collier on match days, which are on Sundays.
And the 35-year-old, who scored 63 goals in two spells as a Cobblers player and still lives into the town, is delighted to be back among the Sixfields fold.
So how exactly did Richards’ appointment come about?
“I heard about the vacant role, and I approached Mark Lyons (Cobblers’ assistant academy manager) and said it was was something I would like to do, and it progressed from there,” said Richards, who in two spells at Sixfields made 210 appearances for the club.
“Coaching in football once I retire is something I would like to do, and it is something I can work at while I am still able to play.
“Having been involved with Northampton as a club and knowing how well run they are, it is a good base for me to learn.
“I have another year at Swindon and I want to carry on playing as long as possible really, until the legs can’t take it any more.
“Then, hopefully when the time comes for me to hang my boots up I might have two or three years of coaching with the youngsters under my belt.”
Richards has already passed his FA Level 1 and FA Level 2 coaching badges, and this summer will complete his UEFA B, or FA Level 3, which will mean he is qualified to be a head coach of youths up to age 16, and an assistant coach for a professional club.
The next step would be the UEFA A License, which you need to be a manager or head coach of a professional club, but for now Richards admits he has enough on his plate combining being a player with Swindon, and an assistant youth-team coach with the Cobblers.
Talking about his first few weeks combining the jobs, Richards said: “It was quite full on actually.
“I am travelling to Swindon for training and travelling back to Northampton, and there is training on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, and then it is game day on Sunday.
“It is pretty much all go, and I don’t get much time to do anything else other than train and then go and coach.
“It’s a long week and it’s long days, but I enjoy it, and I have enjoyed getting to know the lads I am working with and watching them, and hopefully with my knowledge and experience I can help their progression.”
One obvious advantage that Richards has to the majority of other coaches in the excellent youth set-up at Sixfields is his vast playing experience, and also the fact he is a former Cobblers player and captain.
That can only be of benefit to the Town U14 players, with Richards saying: “I think my connection with the club does help, obviously with me being the captain in a team that has won a trophy in the past few years.
“I hope a few of boys recognise me, but if not, it’s not important.
“What is important is that I can help them in any way possible, just from my experience in the game and playing a lot of lower league football in league one and league two.
“That is where Northampton’s first team is at the moment, and if I can help push any of the young lads in that direction then that is only going to stand me in good stead, and the club.”
There is obviously a lot that is going right with the Cobblers’ academy at the moment.
Trevor Gould is the head of the Cobblers youth set-up, and under his guidance five players have graduated from the system in the past few years to win full-time professional contracts.
They are Shaun McWilliams, James Goff, Joe Iaciofano, Morgan Roberts and Sean Whaler, and from his own experience, Richards can see why the Town youth set-up seems to be paying dividends.
“I have known Mark Lyons and Lee Garlick (academy head of coaching) for a number of years now, and what I know of them is that they are very good coaches,” said the former Town front man.
“If the coaches that work under them are up to their level, then the youngsters are in good hands.
“I already know from working with Marc Collier that he has an eye for a coaching session and players, and the information he is giving is really good.
“I am really excited to be part of it.”
Richards clearly has coaching and managerial ambitions of his own, and admits he is really pleased to be working for the Cobblers, a club he obviously holds very close to his heart.
“I left Northampton as a player on good terms and I am happy they have allowed me to come back and coach to a level that suits us both at the moment,” he said.
“I am still playing and enjoying doing that, but I am also looking towards the other side of it now and getting experience, and Northampton is a really good club for me to do that.”