Aidy Boothroyd has described winger Chris Hackett’s first four months as a Cobbler as ‘absolutely outstanding’ and says the player is fully living up to his expectations of him.
Hackett has been Town’s key man since his close-season arrival at Sixfields from Millwall, where he endured an injury-hit final season but for whom he played in a promotion-winning side.
The 29-year-old was restricted to a substitute appearance in Wednesday night’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat to Leyton Orient, and as those 20-odd minutes were his only action for a fortnight, he should be fresher than ever for the visit of Cheltenham Town on Saturday.
Boothroyd is delighted with the form of Hackett, and he will urge his team to concentrate on feeding him with a constant supply line of possession.
“He’s not exceeding my expectations,” he said. “He is one of the first ones to training every morning – usually it’s him, Kelvin Langmead and Clive Platt fighting over the gym equipment first thing.
“He’s been absolutely outstanding. He has played in a variety of positions for us and, as you say, is the form player at the moment but I think he has been all season.
“He does very well for us wherever he plays. His talents and his physical abilities come to the fore wherever he is and the goal he scored against Wimbledon was one of the best that has been seen here for a little while.
“When he gets the ball at his feet he is a massive danger and at the moment it’s about getting him in that position as much as we possibly can.”
In many ways Hackett, a class player who always plays and always delivers, is typical of Boothroyd’s recruitment strategy of the summer and certainly fits the ‘quality over quantity’ policy.
The manager has cut his playing staff substantially during his first 12 months in the job and believes it is vital the current group embark on a run of good form in the next month as it will prove formative in the season.
“It’s all about the balance of a budget,” he said.
“A year ago we had 32 players and now we’ve got 20 with one or two kids.
“We’ve got players that I think are better than the level that we’re at, but until we are winning consistently then we won’t be better than that level.
“There will come a time when everything just clicks into place and we go on another run again.
“If we do lose or we do draw then we have to make sure we start winning again and the next month, because of the volume of games, gives us a good chance to do that.
“The league will sort itself out in that time. It’s a key time for us and it’s a key time for other teams that are in the pack.
“In the winter it levels out a little bit and you find out which teams are going to be the ones that challenge.”