Chris Wilder takes charge of his 100th game as Cobblers manager when Portsmouth come to Sixfields on Saturday.
It’s fair to say it has been an eventful two years at the Town helm since Wilder made the switch from Sky Bet League Two rivals Oxford United in January, 2014.
Brought to the club by David Cardoza following the sacking of Aidy Boothroyd, Wilder was charged with the task of keeping the Cobblers, who were marooned at the bottom of the table at the time, in the Football League.
It was a test he passed, with the Cobblers beating Oxford 3-1 on an emotional final day of the season at Sixfields.
Since then, it has all been about progression for Wilder, who has set about totally revamping the squad and playing style.
There have been problematic times, and things haven’t always gone as smoothly as hoped, but this season everything seems to have clicked into place on the pitch, in spite of the much-documented off-field woes that have, thankfully, been sorted out.
I will never criticise anybody and how they want to go about things, but obviously the style we came into to the style now is quite differentCobblers boss Chris Wilder
The Cobblers go into Wilder’s 100th game in charge two points clear at the top of league two, and when he started they were bottom, which is testament in itself to the job the 48-year-old has done at Sixfields.
Looking back to his first day at the club, Wilder remembered: “First and foremost, the thinking then was please don’t take it to the Oxford game, get a result before then to stay in the division!
“That was what we needed to do, we just had to stay up, because I do believe that when established Football Leagueclubs find themselves out of this division they find it a tough place to be.
“If you look at Luton and how long it took them to get out of the Conference, and the established teams such as Grimsby, Cambridge, Oxford that have been there.
“People think it’s just a one-season journey like Bristol Rovers, but it becomes a grind and it can become soul destroying at times, and that is not a criticism of the division (the National League), it’s just they are Football League clubs and it is tough to get back out.
“So when we came in it was all about staying in the League, which we managed to do.
“We have tried to change a few other bits and pieces in and around the club, and there is still work to do, we understand that.
“We have talked to the chairman about a training ground as we have not had a facility that really kicks us on to the next level, so that is something we are looking at.
“In terms of the personnel, they are all my players now.
“I think Chris Hackett is the only lad that we have inherited and offered a new contract to, so all of the other lads that are in the building are mine and Alan’s (Knill) players that we have looked at, recruited, and want to be playing for the club.”
This season has been a great one for the team and the fans too, with the team playing an exciting brand of passing, attacking, high-tempo football.
There were times in the second half of last season where things clicked, but not consistently enough. But this season, the style Wilder wants to play is clear for all to see, with the summer additions of Nicky Adams and Alfie Potter the final pieces of the attacking jigsaw.
“There has been a big change in personnel, a big change in attitude, and style, definitely,” said Wilder.
“I will never criticise anybody and how they want to go about things, but obviously the style we came into to the style now is quite different.
“I should imagine that is a fair observation for anybody who watches us, and it’s a good place to be. The atmosphere at the club is good at the moment and we need to continue as there is a lot of work still to be done.
“We don’t want to be a stand-still club, we’re not a pat-yourselves-on-the-back club, we haven’t achieved anything. But from that first game, to where we are now, we have made some huge strides.”
So, what has been Wilder’s favourite game of his 99 in charge? The crucial wins over Oxford and Dagenham in 2014? The FA Cup win at Coventry City? The rampant 5-1 win at Accrington?
“The favourite has to be the last one (at Luton)... we enjoyed that game and it shows how far we have come,” said Wilder.
“We have gone to a tough place where we have not won for a number of years, against a team that, even though they are on a tricky run, have a lot of players that can hurt you.
“They have a manager who is passionate, and the game sort of showed the strides we have made.
“The way we played, the way we recovered from going a goal down, the way we played to go 3-1 ahead.
“Then there was the disappointment of letting Luton back into the game, and then us taking the game away from them and the atmosphere at the end.”
Chris Wilder’s Cobblers record
P 99 W 45 D 19 L 35 ( Win ratio - 45%)
P 50 W 28 D8 L 14 (Win ratio - 56%)
P 27 W 17 D 4 L 6 (Win ration - 63%)