September 12th 2020. The day the footballing world has been waiting for. The Premier League and the EFL announced in July that the 2020/21 season will be underway very shortly. Ahead of the new season, I have decided to take a look into the future of the 24 teams making up League One for the new campaign, with an in depth look at what each team has to offer for the coming year. Fifteenth on the list, is Keith Curle’s Northampton Town:
The 2020/21 season will be Northampton’s 123rd in their history, and their first back in League One after their play-off victory last season. Their last venture in League One before this coming season was the 2017/18 relegation campaign, when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was the manager that saw the club finish in 22nd. For the 2018/19 season, Northampton struggled back in League Two, finishing in 15th place. However, last season they improved exponentially as they sneaked into the play-offs in 7th place, before beating Cheltenham over 180 minutes 3-2, before confidently dispatching Exeter City 4-0 at Wembley. Since 2016, Northampton have spent two seasons in League One, before two seasons in League Two. For the coming year, they’ll be hoping to continue that pattern with survival in League One.
Keith Curle is heading into his third season with Northampton, having taken over from Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink in the summer of 2018 after their relegation from League One. Curle’s managerial career began in 2002, after his was appointed as the manager of Mansfield whilst also being a player at the time. He left the club after allegations of bullying a youth player, which was denied and then he was cleared off in 2006. Before that, he joined Chester City in 2005, but only lasted nine months and was sacked after a poor run of form. In 2007, Keith Curle was appointed as a short-term manager of Torquay United, but was unable to save the club from relegation in his four months with the club. He took a five-year hiatus from managing, accepting a position as part of Neil Warnock’s coaching set-up with Crystal Palace, before leaving with him to go to QPR. In February of 2012, Curle was announced as the new manager of Notts County, spending just under a year with the Nottingham side before his dismissal in February of 2013. 18 months later, he was announced as the new manager of Carlisle United, where he spent four years with the club, before his move to Northampton. In an interview with BBC Sport, Keith Curle revealed how he was desperate to add a promotion to his CV.
Since the start of the 2019/20 season, Northampton have used nine separate formations across four competitions last season. The most used one of those was the 3-4-1-2, which was the set-up for 23 of the 50 games this season. It was a formation that wasn’t used until November, but was a very popular one after that date. So, for the squad set-up, I will be looking at the 3-4-1-2. All of the formations were found using Transfermarkt.
GK – David Cornell
RCB – Charlie Goode
CB – Scott Wharton
LCB – Jordan Turnbull
RM – Sam Hoskins
RCM – Ryan Watson
LCM – Chris Lines
LM – Nicky Adams
CAM – Paul Anderson
ST – Andy Williams
ST – Vadaine Oliver
29-year-old David Cornell was Northampton’s first choice this season, playing 38 games in all competitions, getting 14 clean sheets. A stunning season from the Welshman. Supporting him was Steve Arnold, who played 10 times for the Cobblers last season. All stats supplied by WhoScored. Cornell was one of the standout goalkeepers in League One lasts season, having 13 clean sheets and making 87 saves. One of the main reasons why Northampton went up last year.
On the right side, 27-year-old Michael Harriman was the most used full back for Northampton last season, but with the club’s emphasis on the three-back, he was moved more to a right midfield position. He played 30 times last season, scoring once. Supporting him was free signing Reece Hall-Johnson, but he only featured seven times last season, getting one assist. Stats wise, Harriman made 19 tackles and 17 interceptions.
On the left, summer signing Joe Martin was the called upon left back in a four back set up, also being used on the left of midfield when needed. He played 21 times last season, getting two assists. Playing back up to him was Joe Bunney, who played six times for Northampton before he joined Bolton in September of 2019. In terms of the stats, Martin made 16 tackles and 11 interceptions from his 17 league appearances.
In the centre of the defence, Northampton had a few good options to work with. 25-year-old Charlie Goode was the standout performer for Northampton this season, with the summer signing from Scunthorpe playing 45 times last season, scoring four times and getting two assists. Alongside him was loanee Scott Wharton, who played 43 times and scored four times after his move from Blackburn. Jordan Turnball joined the Cobblers in 2018, playing 42 times this season and scoring five goals. Another defender who was key to Northampton’s success this season. winter loan signing Lloyd Jones featured seven times for Northampton after his six-month spell on loan from Luton Town. In terms of the stats, Charlie Goode made 38 tackles and 42 interceptions. A solid season for the defender. Compare that to Wharton, who made 37 tackles and 42 interceptions. An almost exact season to Charlie Goode.
In the middle of the pitch, 34-year-old Chris Lines featured 39 times last season for Northampton, scoring twice and getting five assists. Alongside him was Ryan Watson, who was a summer signing from MK Dons. He played 37 times last season, scoring seven times and getting two assists. Academy product Shaun McWilliams played 21 times for the Cobblers last season, scoring once from the midfield. Summer signing Luke McCormack was involved for 21 games in all competitions last season, after his arrival from Luton Town. Hashtag United product Scott Pollock featured 18 times last season in his first break out campaign, scoring once in the league. Stats wise, Lines was the more defensive option, making 16 tackles and 21 interceptions. Ryan Watson scored a decent amount of goals last season, having a 68% dribble success rate, and a pass accuracy rate of 67%.
On the wing, 27-year-old Sam Hoskins played 47 times last season, missing only three games, spending a lot of his time on the right-hand side. Hoskins scored 12 goals and also got six assists. A very good year. Summer signing Nicky Adams joined in July from Bury, playing 46 times for the club last season. He struggled for goals, but he did get 16 assists. Was a very unselfish player. October signing Paul Anderson played 25 times for the Cobblers last season, scoring once and getting four assists. Winter signing Mark Marshall featured eight times last season, without an attacking contribution. In terms of the stats, Sam Hoskins had a dribble completion rate of 44%, and a pass accuracy rate of 58%. Compare that to Nicky Adams, who had a dribble completion rate of 52%, and a pass accuracy rate of 63%. Neither were standouts stats wise, but they still had incredible seasons in front of goal.
Going forward, Andy Williams was the leading man for Northampton last season, playing 41 times and getting nine goals and three assists. A good season for the veteran. Summer signing Vadaine Oliver played 40 times last season, scoring eight goals and getting four assists. Both strikers having 12 goal contributions last season. Another summer signing, this time Harry Smith, played 29 times last season for the Cobblers, scoring seven goals and getting one assist. The summer signings keep coming, with ex-Stockport’s Matt Warburton featuring 28 times last season, but he was only able to score twice. Billy Waters played 13 times for Northampton before joining Newport on loan in January, but he was unable to score a goal. Winter loan signing Callum Morton was a revelation for the Cobblers last season, scoring eight times in 12 games. Was a big reason for Northampton’s end of season form.
Being recently promoted to League One means Northampton will need to work on their squad ahead of the new season, with big changes coming in and coming out of the club. In terms of outgoings, the biggest one was defender Charlie Goode, who has left Northampton to join Championship Brentford for a reported seven-figure fee. A big loss for one of the stalwarts of the club. Also leaving was star keeper David Cornell, who has joined fellow League One side Ipswich after his release. Another League One sale is Vadaine Oliver, who has left the Cobblers to join Gillingham.
Dropping down the leagues were Jordan Turnbull and Andy Williams, who have joined Salford and Cheltenham respectively. Young defender Ryan Hughes has been snapped up by non-league Rushden & Diamonds. With the ‘unretained’ lists released a few months back, it means that Paul Anderson, Jack Newell, Bradley Lashley, Billy Waters, Sean Whaler, Jay Williams, Reece Hall-Johnson, Cameron McWilliams and Alan McCormack are all without a team. With loan deals up, it sees Scott Wharton, Callum Morton, Lloyd Jones and James Olayinka leave.
With 21 players leaving the club at the end of the season, Northampton needed to be active in this current window. With David Cornell’s move to Ipswich, the Cobblers acted quickly to bring in a new goalkeeper, with Jonathan Mitchell joining on loan from Derby after a season with Macclesfield. Should be able to make the step up. Northampton’s back three last season have all left, with Goode, Wharton and Turnbull not here for the new season. So, for incomings, they have brought in three new centre-backs. 23-year-old Fraser Horsfall has been snapped up from Macclesfield on a two-year deal, fighting off a few EFL clubs for his signature. The second of three centre backs is Cian Bolger, with the Irishmen leaving Lincoln City for Northampton on a free transfer.
Finishing the trifecta is Brentford’s Luka Racic, who has joined the club on a season long loan. Northampton have made a habit of bringing in players that performed in League Two last year, with them confirming the signing of Forest Green’s Joseph Mills, with the left back signing a two-year deal. Mills had a great season last year, getting eight goals and seven assists. Also coming in from League Two is defensive midfielder Christopher Missilou, with the Frenchman joining from Oldham. In attack, Northampton have just recently announced the loan signing of Joe Nuttall from fellow League One side Blackpool.
The Problem Areas?
With a lot of squad turnaround, Northampton have a very new look defence this season. In goal, Steve Arnold is joined by Jonathan Mitchell. Should be untouched this window. Defensively, Michael Harriman is still with the club and can be an option at right back or right midfield. On the left, Joseph Mills will do battle with Joe Martin if they adopt a four-back position, with Mills being comfortably on the left of midfield. At the back, Goode, Wharton and Turnbull have been replaced by Racic, Bolger and Horsfall. May look for one more centre-back. In the middle of the pitch, Northampton have added Missilou to the ranks, joining Chris Lines, Ryan Watson, Shaun McWilliams and Scott Pollock. On the wing, Scott Hoskins, Nicky Adams and Mark Marshall are still with the Cobblers. With Mills, Martin and Harriman comfortably on the wing, wouldn’t be an area looked at unless there is a sale. Going forward, Northampton are a bit light, having only Harry Smith, Joe Nuttall and Sam Warburton to work with, losing Andy Williams, Vadaine Oliver and Callum Morton in the summer, there three top attackers. Definitely an area to be strengthened.
I’m not suggesting by any means that I am a scouting guru who has an extensive knowledge of the world of football, but I do like the process of the transfer windows, and trying to be someone who can identify talent when it becomes available. For each team, after identifying the problem areas, I want to try and see if I can find any players for a specific set of positions who could be suited to each club, based on previous transfer years and the club’s reputation surrounding incomings:
Centre Back –
Scott Wharton – Blackburn – 22 y/o – Loan Deal
Spent last season with Northampton. 43 games in all competitions. 37 tackles and 42 interceptions in League One. Four goals last season. Two years left with Blackburn. Loan spell in League One? Convince a permanent?
Charlie Raglan – Cheltenham – 27 y/o – Transfer Fee
Was very good for Cheltenham last season as they got into the play-offs, and is looking like a player who could make the move to League One.
Connor Johnson – Wolves – 23 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Wolves in the summer. Currently on trial with Northampton.
Lloyd Jones – Luton – 24 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Luton in the summer. Joined Northampton on loan in January, could be seen as a cheap option to return.
Ryan Inniss – Crystal Palace – 25 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Palace in the summer. Spent last season on loan with Newport County, playing 29 games. Could be a good supporting option for Northampton.
Callum Semple – Queen of the South – 21 y/o – Free Agent
Released by the Scottish side in the summer. Played 12 times for them last season, scoring three goals. Could be an option.
Callum Morton – West Brom – 20 y/o – Loan Deal
Spent last season on loan with Northampton, scoring eight goals in 12 games. Very impressive forward, who has been linked with a return over the past few weeks.
David Nugent – Preston –35 y/o – Transfer Fee
Elder statesman who could be moved on from Preston in the summer, with Northampton registering an interest in his signature.
Antonio German – Polis DRM FA – 28 y/o – Free Agent
On trial with Northampton currently. Spent a small amount of time on loan with the Cobblers back in 2014.
Will Keane – Ipswich – 27 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Ipswich in the summer, but is a very good League One striker on his day. Needs to keep himself fit, but will be firing if he is.
Tom Nichols – Bristol Rovers – 26 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Bristol Rovers in the summer. Spent last few months of the season on loan with Cheltenham. Could be an option for League One.
Devante Cole – Doncaster – 25 y/o – Free Agent
Released by Doncaster last season. Scored goals for Motherwell last season, good option to have.
It’s always difficult to tell how each team is going to fair in the new season, because although we have seen signings and the influence of pre-season friendlies, you can never tell how a season is going to pan out. Just by going off how each team is expected to deal with the current COVID-19 financial troubles, and what each team is capable of doing under much greater restraint right now, I think that Northampton might be struggling to survive next season. If they can’t bring in two top class strikers, then I can’t see them scoring many goals next season.
What do you guys think? How do you think Northampton will fair in the new season? Will Keith Curle work his magic and keep the Cobblers up? Or will it be too much for the club to handle next season? Let me know in the comments below and make sure to follow All Out Football on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.