COMMENT: We’re in this together - now Cobblers must make most of the feelgood factor

After months of uncertainty, speculation and worry, the future of Northampton Town has been secured with the club finally being sold this week.
The Cobblers supporters and players enjoy the FA Cup first-round win over Coventry CityThe Cobblers supporters and players enjoy the FA Cup first-round win over Coventry City
The Cobblers supporters and players enjoy the FA Cup first-round win over Coventry City

When David Cardoza announced in June that he was considering selling to a mystery Indian consortium, few would have predicted the trials, tribulations and anxiety that would follow.

All the unrest involving unpiad loans, unpaid tax bills and unpaid wages was finally settled on Thursday when a consortium led by former Oxford United chairman Kelvin Thomas completed their takeover of the club.

So what now for the Cobblers? Here, sports editor Jeremy Casey explains why he thinks this is a great chance for the club to embrace the feelgood factor and make big strides in the future.

New Cobblers executive chairman, Kelvin ThomasNew Cobblers executive chairman, Kelvin Thomas
New Cobblers executive chairman, Kelvin Thomas

I have been watching the Cobblers for more than 40 years now, ever since my dad first took me to the old County Ground in the mid-1970s.

From the day I watched my first game, I was hooked.

The club has been in my blood virtually all of my life, as I graduated from sitting with my dad in the old main stand to venturing into the Hotel End with my mates, the claret and white bar scarf a fashion necessity.

I moved on to have the absolute privilege of covering the club as a journalist, first with the Northants Post in 1987, and then the Chronicle and Echo.

Cobblers boss and assistant Alan KnillCobblers boss and assistant Alan Knill
Cobblers boss and assistant Alan Knill

Between 2000 and the end of 2005 I was the Chron’s ‘Cobblers man’, and it was a job I was proud to do, and one I enjoyed immensely, regardless of results on the pitch.

Since 2005 I have been the Chron sports editor and still keep a close handle on events at Sixfields, through the good, not-so-good, and bad times.

And as bad times go, the past three months have been up there (or should that be down there?) with the worst.

Sure, there was the administration in 1992 following the disastrous and short-lived chairmanship of Michael McRitchie.

That led to the infamous Exeter Rooms meeting held to save the club, with the formation ot the NTFC Supporters Trust helping to do just that.

There was the club being within a Pat Gavin double of going out of the Football League in 1993, and being saved by the fact Kidderminster Harriers’ ground wasn’t up to scratch when the team did finish bottom of the Football League 12 months later - even though Aggborough was palatial compared to the delapitated (and much-loved) County Ground.

There was the club’s perilous financial state in 2002 following the collapse of ITV Digital, with the likes of John Fashanu and Giovanni Di Stefano trying to get their hands on Northampton Town.

The club desperately needed a backer, and that situation was rescued with the takeover by the consortium led by Andrew Ellis, and backed financially by David Cardoza and his dad Tony.

There have also been the too numerous flirtations with relegation out of the League in recent years, most notably in 2014 when a last-day win over Oxford proved enough.

But it’s arguable that none of those situations saw the club come as perilously close to extinction as it has in the past month.

I don’t want to really go into the ins and outs of Borough Council loans and shambolic redvelopment of the east stand at Sixfields that still stands as a barely-started shell today.

The situation has been well documented, and there are people far better qualified than me to comment.

But in short, the club found itself owing the council £10.25m it didn’t have, with the money seemingly having disappeared, in debt to the taxman to the tune of £166,000, and unable to pay the players, management or staff.

They faced a High Court hearing over a winding-up order petition from HMRC which was adjourned, and faced going into administration and being deducted points, or even worse, liquidation.

Chairman Cardoza has been trying to sell the club since June, and as he pulled the plug on investment, the club got ever closer to going under, until this week Cardoza agreed to sell his majority shareholding to Kelvin Thomas, the former chairman of Oxford United.

That deal was confirmed on Thursday, and it is a fresh start, a new dawn, and a fantastic opportunity for the Cobblers.

A fantastic opportunity to take the positivity currently engulfing the club and run with it.

Because I don’t remember there being a time when manager, players, coaches, club staff and supporters have been so unified, so committed to the cause as one.

The Cobblers have always had a strong, passionate and loyal following, but the support from the fans this season has been incredible, they have travelled in huge numbers and made themselves heard for 90 minutes solid.

At Sixfields they have been 100 per cent behind the team.

Then there has been the fund-raising, with the supporters putting their hands in their pockets.

The Supporters Trust has done a fantastic job, raising more than £50,000 in a bid to keep their club alive when things looked at their most bleak.

It has of course helped that the team has been playing so well, and the players have been fantastic.

This team is a joy to watch and they are producing arguably the best football produced by any Cobblers team since the title-winning class of 1987.

They clearly also appreciate the support they are getting from the terraces.

The staff behind the scenes at Sixfields have been nothing short of superb.

Without having received a penny in pay since the last day of September, every single one has continued to work for the club.

They have stuck it out and ensured the team has that platform to strut their stuff on match-days. They have gone beyond the call of duty.

It is clearly more than just a job to these people, and their efforts in ensuring the club still exists should never be forgotten.

Then there is the management.

Chris Wilder has been a fantastic leader throughout the troubled times, on and off the pitch, with excellent support from Alan Knill.

On the field Wilder has somehow kept the players focused, despite everything going on around them.

Despite the fact other clubs have approached him to switch jobs.

Despite the fact other clubs have tried to pinch some of his key players.

Off the pitch, Wilder has maintained his professionalism and dignity, and kept his own counsel for the most part, until that emotional and impassioned direct plea to Cardoza to sell the club to Thomas following the win over Notts County.

At a freezing cold Meadow Lane, Wilder was not only speaking for himself, but for all of the staff at the club, the people that, as Wilder’s loyal assistant Knill pointed out, ‘have no voice’.

Well they did have a voice, that voice was Wilder’s, and it was a forceful one.

The fact he had kept his opinions to himself until that point made his plea all the more powerful.

And it seems Cardoza, at last, listened.

Thomas is stepping into a club that is, despite everything, more as one than it has possibly ever been.

He is stepping into a club with an in-form and attacking team that is great to watch.

He is stepping into a club that boasts a dedicated, loyal and hard-working staff that have proved just what it means to them to represent Northampton Town FC. Imagine what they are going to be like when they get paid!

He is stepping into a club that has a manager who has proved he is not only very, very good at his job, but one who wears his heart on his sleeve, a heart that a large slice of now surely belongs to Northampton.

He is stepping into a club with a unified and enthustiastic support, a fanbase that has proved how much they love ‘their’ club, a fanbase that has shown week in, week out how much passion they have for the Cobblers.

A fanbase that has shown they are very much ‘proud to be’ Northampton Town.

Yes, this is a great chance for the club to put their troubles behind them, to grasp the nettle and move forward.

A chance to take the togetherness, pride and momentum that has been developed in the past few dark months, and really make some progress.

A chance to really make good on that feelgood factor.

Everybody involved with the Cobblers knows the club has been handed a lifeline - now they have to stick together and make the most of it.