Cobblers midfielder Joel Byrom admits his former club Northwich Victoria ‘have got nothing to lose’ in Saturday’s FA Cup second round clash at Sixfields (ko 3pm).
Byrom played for the Cheshire club for 18 months early in his career, and he is expecting a tough encounter against a side that will be full of confidence.
Northwich are top of the Evo-Stik Northern League First Division North, and have lost just one of their 17 league games this season, winning the other 16.
They were winners at Vanarama National League strugglers Boreham Wood in round one, and will head to Northampton dreaming of another giant-killing scalp.
Byrom says the Cobblers players will respect their opponents, but he is confident it will be him and his team-mates who progress.
“Northwich are going to be a threat because they are coming here with nothing to lose, and the pressure is all on us,” said the 29-year-old.
“We have been good at home this season and we have to take every confidence from the past month or so with the way we have been playing.
“We need to respect Northwich for the team they are and the fact they have done so well this season so far, but we need to take the game to them and get the win.
“Confidence is going to be high in both camps, and it should be a good game.”
Byrom played 49 times for Northwich between January 2008 and July 2009, scoring nine goals - including a hat-trick in a 4-2 Blue Square Premier win over Rushden & Diamonds.
He left to join Stevenage, and that move coincided with Northwich sliding down the leagues thanks to money troubles, and Byrom is pleased to see them on their way back.
“It was a good club when I was there, but they struggled a bit with the money and they ended up getting demoted a few leagues for that,” said Byrom, who hails from Oswaldtwistle, just outside Accrington.
“It is good to see them back and doing well in the FA Cup, and they are doing really well in the league, only having been beaten a couple of times.
“That is good for them, but obviously we are looking to get the win this weekend.”
After starting his career as a youth trainee at Blackburn Rovers, Byrom had to go about building his career the hard way after he was released by the Ewood Park club.
He joined Accrington before going to Northwich, and then moved on to Stevenage, helping the Hertfordshire club realise its dream of becoming a Football League club.
Byrom then followed Graham Westley to Preston North End, before making the switch to the Cobblers after struggling for first-team opportunities at Deepdale.
The cultured midfielder has been a huge success at Sixfields, and he believes that his stint in non-League, and the fact he at one time feared he may not make the grade, made him a better player.
“I think it helps that I played non-League,” said Byrom.
“Obviously, I started at a Premiership club with Blackburn, and within six months I was nine steps down the ladder or something stupid like that.
“It is a wake-up call, and when you get to grounds like this (Sixfields) you enjoy it, and because you have been down in non-League you respect what everything is and you don’t take things for granted.
“I have come on as a player since then, and it helped me a lot playing in the non-League.”
And did he fear he wouldn’t carve out a professional career?
“That is in the back of your mind and is probably what spurs you on a little bit,” admitted Byrom.
“At that time (after his release from Blackburn), I just wanted to play and enjoy my football as much as I could because I loved the game.
“I was working as well, so it was part-time.
“I would train in the mornings a couple of times a week and then I would work in the afternoons.
“It is a learning curve, and I really enjoyed doing it to be honest.
“It is a reality at the time. One minute you are playing at Premiership club, the next you are working part-time and playing a couple of mornings a week.
“It is just the fact you love football that you stay in it, and I did well enough at Northwich to get myself a move to Stevenage, and it went on from there.”