Cobblers skipper Marc Richards has returned for pre-season training in a positive mood, and is already setting his sights on a promotion challenge.
Town kick-off their Sky Bet League Two campaign at Bristol Rovers on August 8, and the squad have returned to work a week earlier than most of their rivals in a bid to get a competitive edge.
We were good in certain spells, we were bad in certain spells, so there are improvements to be made because we need to make a good push for the play-offs at leastCobblers skipper Marc Richards
There was just seven weeks between the final game of last season, the 3-2 home defeat to Wycombe, and the players going back to work at Sixfields on Monday, but Richards isn’t complaining.
That’s because he wants his second season back at the Cobblers to be a successful one, and that means challenging at the top of the table.
“It has been a shorter summer, but that is part and parcel of football,” said the 32-year-old. “The lads understand who, what, where and why, and it has to be done.
“Pre-season has come around quite quickly, but we have to be prepared for this season, to push on and be better than we were last season.
“We were good in certain spells, we were bad in certain spells, so there are improvements to be made because we need to make a good push for the play-offs at least.”
It was a changed squad that turned up at Sixfields on Monday and then at Moulton College on Tuesday, with some new faces replacing the old regulars that left the club over the summer, players such as Lee Collins, Matt Duke and Ben Tozer.
In their place are a quartet of new boys in Alfie Potter, Nicky Adams, Dave Buchanan and Josh Lelan, and Richards is looking forward to seeing who else signs up - but he also made it clear that he expects any new players to share his dream of promotion.
“I met a couple of the new lads on Monday, and a couple more today, and we are still building a squad,” said Richards.
“We have a few players signed, and we have whatever the gaffer is going to do, but I think the base of the squad is very good.
“Anybody that comes into the club now should be looking at promotion, and if they’re not then they shouldn’t be coming to this club.
“It is always tough, and football is not an easy sport. You don’t get anything for free, you have to work hard at it, and I am sure we will do that this pre-season.
“I think it is going to be a steady start to build up to a heavy end.
“But it it is just all about getting through pre-season, making sure you stay fit, and if you do that you have a good base for the whole season.”
Richards was left frustrated at how last term panned out, with the Cobblers getting themselves into a good position to challenge for the play-offs, only to fall away over the last 10 games of the campaign.
But the captain was encouraged by how the team performed when at their best, and he is hoping to ensure the club’s supporters see more of that in the new season.
“The gaffer has made some shrewd signings so far, and there will be more to come,” said Richards.
“When we did click last season, it was like playing in a promotion-winning team.
“But what let us down was our inconsistency, not keeping the ball out of the back of our own net, and not being ruthless enough up top.
“And everybody has a part to play in that, it’s not just the defenders defending, we have to defend from the front.
“And it’s also the same the other way round, we need goals from the defenders as well from set-pieces and corners.”
Meanwhile, the Cobblers have announced they will play Bold Dragoon Cricket Club in a charity Twenty20 cricket match on Thursday, July 2.
The game will be played at Old Scouts Rugby Club, Rushmere Rd, Northampton, with a 6.30pm start time. Gates will open from 5.30pm.
A BBQ will be available along with soft drinks (spectators are welcome to bring their own alcohol).
Admission is free with donations for parking being split between a new pavilion for Bold Dragoon CC, and the club asking for our half of the proceeds to be given to the Leon Barwell Foundation.