O’Toole praises Curle’s positive impact but admits to regrets over Austin sacking

John-Joe O'Toole and former Cobblers boss Dean Austin
John-Joe O'Toole and former Cobblers boss Dean Austin

John-Joe O’Toole admits he and his team-mates must shoulder some responsibility for the downfall of previous manager Dean Austin, but he also believes the Cobblers have benefited from a ‘different approach and a different voice’ since the appointment of Keith Curle.

Austin was sacked last Sunday evening when Northampton’s poor start to the season reached a new low with their 4-0 mauling at Mansfield Town the previous afternoon, which dropped them to within touching distance of the League Two relegation zone.

It’s been a bright week of training and sometimes you need a different approach and a different voice and maybe a slightly different mentality.

Within 24 hours of Austin’s departure, Curle had been chosen as the man to replace him and Town have started positively under the former Carlisle United manager, drawing both games against Bury and Swindon.

“So far it’s gone well,” said O’Toole, who scored in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at the County Ground. “It’s early days but he’s been good and training has been bright so hopefully we can crack on the more we get to know each other and he gets to know the squad - it can only get better.

“Whenever there’s a change of manager you want a reaction and I think we’ve definitely had that this week. It’s a clean slate for everyone and we’ve all got a point to prove.

“The manager hasn’t worked with any of the players and he’ll go off what he’s seen and he’s heard, but it’s been a bright week of training and sometimes you need a different approach and a different voice and maybe a slightly different mentality.”

The decision to sack Austin was not quite so clear-cut despite the team’s struggles on the pitch, with many supporters believing that the players should take a large chunk of the blame for their continued substandard performances over the last 12 months.

Curle is the fifth different Cobblers manager since Chris Wilder left, and O’Toole admits it’s up to himself and his team-mates to turn the situation around following Austin’s regrettable departure.

“None of the players wanted to see Dean go,” insisted the midfielder, who’s now under his sixth different manager in four years at Northampton. “Me, personally, I thought he was very good and I felt for him because as a group we didn’t do well enough for him.

“I’m sure there are things he might look back on and think he could have changed but as a person he was committed and a very hard-working fella so we all wish him the best.

“Sometimes in football you can’t always put your finger on it. He had a great knowledge of football and his attention to detail was very good but sometimes it just doesn’t quite work.

“It’s just a hard situation we all found ourselves in, especially early on. We weren’t getting the luck but you can’t keep saying that - you’ve got to make that luck yourself and you’ve got to turn yourself into a lucky team.

“Some of the performances were very poor, especially the Mansfield game, so the chairman took the decision to change it up and sometimes as a group of players that’s what you need.

“We’ve got to look forward now. It’s been a bright first week and I’m sure the more we get to know the new manager the more it will improve.”