Gary Rowett is a manager who knows exactly what it takes to get a team competing at the top end of Sky Bet League Two.
As boss of Burton Albion, Rowett saw his team lose in the play-off semi-finals in 2013 and the play-off final in 2014, before he was head-hunted by Birmingham City halfway through last season, with the Brewers well on their way to winning the league two title.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink came in and finished the job, but the team that went up was very much made by Rowett, and he believes the Cobblers have the ingredients to enjoy a successful campaign in the forthcoming season.
Rowett brought his Birmingham team to Sixfields for a pre-season friendly on Tuesday and was impressed with what he saw from the home team as they held the Blues to a 2-2 draw.
“It was a brilliant workout for us. I am sure Northampton are going to be competitive in their league this season and we were tested,” said Rowett.
“When you play against Chris Wilder’s sides, you always know they are going to be strong and determined and I thought Northampton looked very, very good.
“I spoke to a couple of people from Derby, and they said they did very well against Derby at the weekend and I think that bodes well for Chris this season.”
So what does Rowett believe is the secret to consistently competing at the top end of league two?
“I spoke to Chris before the game, and just said that last season we trimmed our squad down and brought in three or four higher quality players, or stronger players, and that was the difference for us,” he said.
“We brought in the likes of (Stuart) Beavon, (Lucas) Akins and (John) Mousinho, which we took a little bit of a gamble with because we paid them a little bit more than some of the others.
“But I think that’s the difference, and I look at Northampton and they work incredibly hard and have some good players in there.
“I think sometimes it is about continuity, and maybe only using 16 or 17 players, rather than 25, 26 or 27 players over a season.
“Chris has been around this league for a long time now, and I’m pretty sure he will be looking to push for that top seven at least this season.”
To get through a campaign using so few players, as Burtron did last year, means the Cobblers are going to have to steer clear of injuries.
Rowett accepts that and admits Wilder will have to have a little bit of fortune with injuries, but he also feels the chances of players getting injured can be decreased with proper post-match care and attention.
“You do need luck, but I think you also need a very good plan in terms of how you are going to prepare the players,” said Rowett.
“We always did that. We looked at our recovery strategy, and I felt it was really, really good last season.
“We did a lot of work on making sure 48 hours after a game we were doing the right things, and also 48 hours before a game.
“That meant we perhaps didn’t train as much, but when we did train we trained with more intensity, and I think that helped us.”
Wilder may well be already on the same songsheet as Rowett.
Throoughout the summer the Cobblers boss has stressed the importance of bringing in the right kind of player, players that are up to the stresses and strains of a season.
The likes of Nicky Adams, Dave Buchanan and Alfie Potter have all played a lot of games in recent seasons without serious injury, and Rowett believes recruitment is key.
“I think in your recruitment you have to pick players that are durable,” said the Birmingham boss. “You want players that are going to play games, and you do get those players that might only play 15 or 20 games because they are always picking up niggles, and we just didn’t sign those type of players.
“You do need luck, but I think at Northampton there is the nucleus of a very good league two side, and they just need to keep the likes of Marc Richards, Zander Diamond and Ryan Cresswell fit and I am sure they will do well.”
Rowett is also a fan of Town boss Wilder, and said: “Chris knows this division.
“If you look over the past three or four years he has been a unlucky, and I think at Oxford he had a horrendous run of injuries when they probably should have got in the play-offs.
“At Northampton last season they were looking very good at one stage, but just dropped away with some injuries towards the end, so he just needs that little bit of luck. I think in Chris Northampton have a really good manager.”