Time for Cobblers supporters to sit back and enjoy the ride after a hectic summer

Cobblers cruised to the Sky Bet League Two title last season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)Cobblers cruised to the Sky Bet League Two title last season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Cobblers cruised to the Sky Bet League Two title last season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
It seems like a lifetime ago, but in reality it is only a little more than three months since thousands of Cobblers fans lined the streets of Northampton to salute their all-conquering heroes on their open top bus parade.

Chris Wilder and his team had just 24 hours previously completed one of the greatest seasons in the club’s history with a 2-1 win at Portsmouth.

A win that saw Northampton finish 13 points clear of the field in Sky Bet League Two, and a victory that saw them stretch their remarkable unbeaten run to 23 league games.

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There was an air of positivity around the town, an air of pride in what the team had achieved, and an air of excitement about what was to come as the Cobblers moved up a division.

And then came the bombshell - Wilder was leaving.

The man who had masterminded the Cobblers’ success was off, he was going to manage his boyhood team, Sheffield United, and he was taking assistant manager Alan Knill with him.

It was a blow to everybody, from the players to the chairman, to the directors, to the club staff and to the supporters, but, as everybody ‘in the game’ always says - that is football.

Wilder may have gone, and a few key players may have followed him out of the door, but the club is still here, the supporters are still here, and there will still be a team to cheer on this season.

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To put it bluntly, Wilder and last season are history - the club has to look forward.

Rob Page has come in as manager and is trying to put his stamp on a squad that is still 75 per cent intact from last season.

The new boss has made it clear he wants to build on what Wilder achieved, and simply add to it rather than rip anything up and start again.

He has made a string of new signings, players in the main that have all been there, seen it and done it at league one level.

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He is a manager who has also succeeded in league one, steering Port Vale to mid-table finishes in his two seasons in charge in Burslem.

So there is every reason to be confident Page and his squad will be able to do the business over the next 10 months or so.

Pre-season obviously hasn’t gone as well as the manager or anybody else would have hoped results or injury wise, and the weekend hammering at Eastleigh was not ideal, but it mustn’t be forgotten that it is just pre-season.

Results simply don’t matter.

Back in the summer of 1987 I had to take a phone call from a furious Graham Carr, because as a rookie journalist I had written in the Northants Post that the Cobblers had suffered a ‘embarrassing’ 5-0 defeat at Blyth Spartans on their pre-season tour of the north east.

It was a mistake on my part.

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I wasn’t at the game, so shouldn’t have been judging the team, and Carr made that very point to me - in a very colourful way!

He was furious with what I had written, and told me the squad had been put through a harsh training session on the day of the game, and that was why they had been beaten.

He said the result was to be expected, and the hard graft was all part of the season preparation.

Carr told me that I, nor anybody else, should judge the players until the season starts.

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I learned a valuable lesson that day (as well as a few new words!), and that was not to judge any team on their pre-season results - especially when you’re not even at the game!

And Carr’s point was rammed home a week or so later when the Cobblers opened their division three campaign with a 5-0 win at Chester City!

It might be asking a bit much for the Cobblers to inflict such a pasting on Fleetwood Town this Saturday, but it’s on the future and league performances that Page and his team should be judged, nothing else.

It was only last September that I watched the Cobblers get completely outclassed by Plymouth Argyle and lose 2-0 at Sixfields, and in their next home league game they lost 2-1 to Dagenham.

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Wilder’s team didn’t look very much like champion material in either of those performances that’s for sure, but over time the team gelled, grew in confidence, got to grips with the style of football the manager wanted them to play, and eventually flourished.

There is no reason why the same cannot happen this season, but everybody has to be patient.

To coin another football cliche, the forthcoming campaign ‘is a marathon not a sprint’, and Page has to be given the time to mould his team.

After all, this is a time of excitement for all concerned with the Cobblers.

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The team is playing in the third tier of English football for the first time since 2009, there are going to be some big clubs heading for Sixfields and some bumper crowds.

There are going to be new grounds for the travelling supporters to visit, with great away days at the likes of Charlton, Sheffield United, Bolton Wanderers, MK Dons and Coventry City.

Of course it is going to be a challenge, and the team might hit a few bumps in the road along the way, but it is a ride we should all be looking forward to.

I can’t imagine many Cobblers supporters in August, 2015, were thinking their team would break a string of records and waltz to the Sky Bet League Two title in such stunning style.

But they did.

So who’s to say Page’s class of 2016/17 won’t do the same?

It’s a funny old game you know... up the Cobblers!