Ryan Cresswell has been a professional footballer for almost 10 years, and has played more than 250 senior matches.
He has played with a string of goalkeepers at his 10 clubs, and believes current Cobblers shot-stopper Adam Smith is ‘right up there’ with the best he has seen.
The former Leicester City man has enjoyed an excellent start to his Sixfields career, and has been one of the team’s most consistent performers in what has been an inconsistent start to the campaign.
The 22-year-old has started every game in Sky Bet League Two, only dropping out of the side to be replaced by Ryan Clarke for cup games, and Cresswell is a big fan.
Asked how highly he rates Smith, central defender Cresswell said: “He is right up there. I see him every day in training, and the stops, the saves and blocks he makes.
“He is 100-miles-per-hour and really good, and to be honest, if he can keep his performances consistent this season then he has got good things ahead of him. He is sharp, he is quick off his line, and he makes decisions so quickly.
“A lot of the time he makes the right ones, and that breeds confidence into the back lads, and that can only stand us in good stead, and stand him in good stead as well.
“He is playing well and hopefully he can keep that going.”
A key factor in Smith’s impressive performances is the fact that he has former Oxford goalkeeper Clarke breathing down his neck, and competing for a first-team start.
Cresswell is also an admirer of Clarke, and believes the Cobblers have two goalkeepers in their ranks that are the envy of every other club in league two.
“Clarkey is great as well, and we have two goalkeepers at this football club that I would say would walk into any other starting 11 in this division,” said Cresswell.
“We are lucky enough to have them both.”
Having a good goalkeeper behind you is obviously a key element in a team boasting a strong defence, but another is stability in the back four. That is something that the Cobblers haven’t been able to achieve to date this season thanks to injury and suspension.
Cresswell is an ever-present for Town, but he has already had three different central defenders as partners in the club’s 11 games.
Zander Diamond started the season but has suffered injuries, with Rod McDonald then stepping up. With the former Hereford man struggling for a bit of form after a promising start, Shaun Brisley was brought in from Peterborough United on loan, and he has played the past two games, which have both been won.
So is the chopping and changing of partners a problem?
“You just have to try and get on with it,” said Cresswell.
“You have to try and get a relationship going as such, and really read into each other. Me and Bris played together a few years ago now at Macclesfield Town, I played when he made his debut, so we do kind of know each other a little bit, and strengths and weaknesses.
“Hopefully we can get a run going.”
As well as injury disruption to the central defence, full-backs Brendan Moloney and Evan Horwood have yet to feature this season due to injury.
Youngster Josh Lelan started the season as right-back, but was taken out of the firing line to be replaced by Adam Yates on loan from Port Vale.
Yates then also got injured, so Darnell Furlong has been brought in from Queens Park Rangers, and Cresswell is now hoping the defence can stay settled for a little while.
“It’s no coincidence that the sides that do really well are sides that have a consistent base as such,” said the 27-year-old. “That would probably be your goalkeeper and your back four, as well as your centre mid.
“It is always good to have a strong spine, and the only way you can develop relationships is by playing games together. Hopefully we can do that.”