Boss Chris Wilder has praised his ‘selfless’ squad as he prepares to make changes to the Cobblers starting line-up for Saturday’s FA Cup third round clash with Milton Keynes Dons.
The Town manager has kept alterations to his team to a minimum over the past three months as the Cobblers have embarked on a remarkable run of form.
But Wilder did rest playmaker Nicky Adams for last weekend’s 3-0 win over Barnet due to the player looking ‘tired’, and more players can be expected to be taken out of the firing line for this weekend’s sold-out clash at Sixfields.
The Town boss is keen to keep his players fresh as the Cobblers enter a hectic period of the season, and he says the players understand they are not going to start every game.
Following the FA Cup date with the Dons, next Tuesday sees Town travel to Plymouth Argyle for a top-versus-second encounter in Sky Bet League Two, which is a game Wilder will surely prioritise, and Town are on the road again next Saturday when they go to Dagengham & Redbridge.
“It is a congested time for us and everybody knows that, the players know that, and they understand that, which is why I have such a great group,” said Wilder.
“They are selfless and know it’s not about them. I have told them, and have said it quite a lot through my career, this is not an individual sport.
“This is a team, group effort, and whatever happens at the end of the season, whatever we do, whatever we achieve it is going to be done as a group effort, and everybody has to realise that.
“It is a tough job at times, and players will be disappointed through this period, but they are a group that are together and they recognise that.”
There are several members of the current Town squad that have found themselves starved of action recently, with the likes of Jason Taylor, Rod McDonald, Chris Hackett, Josh Lelan, Evan Horwood and goalkeeper Ryan Clarke having to be patient in waiting for the chance to shine, while Ricky Holmes and Sam Hoskins were only given rare starts last weekend.
But the experienced Wilder believes these players’ time will come, and that their contribution is going to be just as important as that of the regular starters.
“If we are to achieve, and hopefully we are on the right track to do that, then sometimes the players that don’t play the 46 games, they are the most important ones,” said the Cobblers boss
“They are the ones that get you over the line, and we have players that have the mentality and attitude that they will foresake individual glory for the group effort, and a group achievement.
“The players understand that when they walk through the door, they know that’s how I work, and that’s how this group has worked and will work while I am in charge.
“Some of them are disappointed and they have to understand that.
“When it comes to a time when they are out of the team and they feel that they do have to play on a regular basis, then my door is always open and we’ll see where we are.
“But this is a club going forward, it’s in a good place at the moment, and people recognise they are not absolute shoo-ins, but when they are not in the team they are not in the absolute wilderness for four, five or six months.”
And he added: “Everybody has to fight for their place here, there are no gimmes.
“We have left everybody out, and that’s not a threat or a statement to say that, but players have to understand they have to play well.
“Adam Smith has to play well, and he is playing well, because he has got Ryan Clarke behind him, who is outstanding.
“We talk about it all the while, and there are times when players will come out of the team because we feel tactically that might be the best thing to do, and sometimes to freshen things up.
“Players have to play well to stay in this team.”