Cobblers midfielder Sam Foley has given an interesting insight into the differences between playing for current manager Keith Curle and former boss Dean Austin.
Austin was handed the permanent job following a brief stint as caretaker manager at the end of last season, but 12 games into the current campaign, he was sacked and replaced by Curle.
He (Austin) wanted to make the pitch big and have lots of gaps so you could pass the ball into the spaces but, on turnover of possession, there were just too many gaps and you ended up being too far away from the opposition.
While the former favoured an expansive, possession-based style of football during his reign, the latter has simplified things by going back to a more direct approach, focusing on the basics and looking to eliminate errors.
In patches, the Cobblers played some terrific, eye-catching football under Austin but it came at the expense of defensive solidity and that coupled with their wasteful finishing eventually cost him his job.
Foley has been a regular under both managers – only three outfield members of the squad have more starts for the Cobblers this season – and when asked for a player’s view of the different approaches of Austin and Curle, he said: “We’re obviously playing a different style of football now.
“The previous manager wanted to play a more footballing style and you could tell that from watching.
“He wanted to make the pitch big and have lots of gaps so you could pass the ball into the spaces but, on turnover of possession, there were just too many gaps and you ended up being too far away from the opposition.
“Whereas the new gaffer has come in and it’s been a roll your sleeves up kind of job - get close to your man, out-fight and out-battle them and then earn the right to play.
“That’s what we’ve been doing in previous weeks and that’s the difference. You don’t need to be Pep Guardiola to see that and see what’s happening because the lads are always trying.
“We’ve never had the boys not trying at this club and they’ve just been given the opportunity to get close to the opposition and really, really get on them. If we can continue to play like that, we’re only going to head one way in the division and that’s up.”
On a personal level, Foley had been robbed of the chance to continue his excellent season when, all the way back on October 27, referee Charles Breakspear deemed his challenge on Oldham’s Chris Missilou to be worthy of a straight red card.
The contentious nature of the decision, allied to the EFL’s bizarre rules that stated he couldn’t play in the Checkatrade Trophy, effectively turning his three-game ban into a four-game ban, made it a long, frustrating four-week wait on the sidelines prior to his return on Saturday.
“As soon as the red card was shown, you have to accept it,” he said. “But obviously it was difficult at the time.
“I did catch him but I’ve played a lot of games in my career where I’ve tackled players and caught them and never had a red, so it’s disappointing and frustrating.
“It was more missing the length of time because Junior (Morias) got a red card recently and he’s back available next week, whereas it feels like I’ve been out for about four weeks.
“The fixtures didn’t fall kindly for me and that was very frustrating but it’s just great to be back on the pitch.”