The lure of working with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink again played a major factor in Lewis McGugan’s decision to sign for the Cobblers as he attempts to relaunch his football career.
McGugan left Sheffield Wednesday by mutual consent last month, finally making a break from Hillsborough, where he had been frozen out of the first team picture by Owls boss Carlos Carvalhal for more than a year.
Despite being fully fit and ready for selection, McGugan hasn’t played since the final day of the regular season in 2015/16, when he scored the Owls’ consolation in a 2-1 defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Transfer-listed the following summer the former Nottingham Forest and Watford player wasn’t even handed a squad number for the past two seasons.
He has had to train with Wednesday’s Under-23 Development squad with Carvalhal making it crystal clear McGugan had no future at the club while he was in charge.
The 28-year-old still had a year to run on his contract at Hillsborough after signing for £300,000 from Watford in the summer of 2015, but last month he decided it was time for a fresh start.
He left Wednesday on August 31 which made him a free agent, and he has decided Sixfields is where he wants to try and get his stalled career up and running again.
And a major reason for that was Hasselbaink, who took over from Justin Edinburgh as Cobblers boss the week after McGugan had left the Owls.
“I have had a really bad last couple of years, where things haven’t really worked out for various reasons,” said McGugan, who began his career at Nottingham Forest after working his way through the youth system at the City Ground.
“I think it was best for everyone to just start again and move on and try and get my career back going, and that is all I am trying to do really.
I think it was best for everyone to just start again and move on and try and get my career back going, and that is all I am trying to do reallyLewis McGugan
“I have not played for a very long time, so it just a case of trying to ease my way back in and to just try to get back to playing football.
“It’s not going to be easy, because it has been such a long time, but I know the gaffer (Hasselbaink) from previously, so I know how he works and the standard that he works at, so I don’t think I’ll be too far off in getting back up to speed.”
McGugan, who is a former England youth international, worked under Hasselbaink when he was a coach at Forest, and it seems the pair hit it off straight away.
“He (Hasselbaink) was the coach for Steve McClaren at Nottingham Forest, so I have known him a long time, and we have always had a really good relationship,” said McGugan.
“He was a coach and starting out in his coaching career there, and we have always kept in touch.
“When he got the job here (at Northampton), we had a conversation, and I think at this point in time it is best for all parties.
“It will be nice to be given the opportunity to just get back in and around a first team, and in and around training and playing on a regular basis.”
McGugan has been training with the Cobblers for the past couple of weeks, so is already integrated into the squad, and he has signed a short-term deal that will see him a Town player until January.
He is set to make his debut for the club in Tuesday night’s Checkatrade Trophy clash at Peterborough United, but he says he is just looking forward to properly settling back into the life of a professional footballer.
“The plan is now I can hopefully be settled and get back into the environment of training every day, and being around and being involved in a first team squad,” he said.
“It’s not just about the fitness and the football, but mentally it helps you as well.
“It has been a long time since I have been involved in any kind of game, especially a competitive game, which is completely different to any kind of under-23 game, or training ground game.
“It is going to be a shock to the system, but I am going to be doing everything I can to get back up to speed as quckly as possible.”
An attacking midfielder, McGugan’s job at the Cobblers will be to try and spark the team into goalscoring action.
In his career so far, McGugan has scored 64 goals in 227 starts and 86 substitute appearances, but he has also created many, many more for his team-mates.
Hasselbaink describes the player as ‘an attacking, creative player who can make chances for others and he offers a goal threat from midfield’, and that is what McGugan is hoping he can bring to the Cobblers table as they set about trying to end their goal drought.
The Cobblers haven’t scored since Matt Crooks’ goal in the 43rd minute of the 2-2 draw at Southend United on September 16, a run that has now stretched to more than four-and-a-half games, and the Town supporters will be hoping their new signing can add an attacking spark.
“I have played in various positions throughout the midfield, but in the past four or five years of my career I have mostly been the attacking part of the midfield,” said McGugan.
“I have sometimes played behind the striker, but I like to score goals, I like to get assists, and that is a massive part of my game.
“Hopefully I can help the team in any way possible, and if that is by scoring goals then brilliant, but also by assists then that will be great too.
“I have managed to score a few good goals in the past, but hopefully there are more to come.”