Chairman Kelvin Thomas has admitted he endured ‘a few sleepless nights’ as the Cobblers battled to secure their Sky Bet League One survival - and is relieved the club can now celebrate staying up.
Town entertain Gillingham in their final game of the season on Sunday (ko midday) with the visitors needing a win to guarantee their own safety, and Thomas is glad that his own team’s future is secure, and praised Justin Edinburgh for the job he did in ensuring that is the case.
The chairman, who had to sack Rob Page in January after a run of nine defeats in 11 matches, admitted it has been a season of ‘ups and downs’, and that the team didn’t perhaps perform as well as he or the fans would have hoped, but he is confident that under Edinburgh things will improve next season.
First and foremost though, he is looking forward to enjoying the final game of the campaign this weekend, and celebrating the fact the Cobblers will still be in league one when the new season kicks off in August.
“I will be honest with you, as a chairman there have been quite a few sleepless nights in terms of relegation and being worried about it, and our position,” said Thomas.
“The amount of times you end up looking at that league table, you almost know it off by heart!
If you had said to us at the start of the season you would be staying up, would you have taken that? You probably would, but with a hint of we want to be doing a bit better than we have done overallCobblers chairman Kelvin Thomas
“But it is nice we are not in that position and can go into Sunday’s game as a bit of a celebration of surviving, and giving ourselves the opportunity to go on next season.”
Looking back on 2016-17, Thomas said: “It was an interesting one, with ups and downs.
“If you had said to us at the start of the season you would be staying up, would you have taken that?
“You probably would, but with a hint of we want to be doing a bit better than we have done overall.
“It was almost a season of two halves, with Rob coming in and starting so well, but then struggling a bit, and as a club we didn’t get the results that we wanted to.
“We then made the change, and bringing Justin in and his job was to keep us up.
“That was the singular focus at that point having sat there at Bristol Rovers (when the Cobblers lost 5-0) and having decided to make that change.
“The position then was to stay up, and I think Justin has done a good job in doing that.
“Results in the past few weeks have not been good enough, we all appreciate that and Justin has brought that up, but I think there are a lot of factors in that.
“But I am pleased to say he did his job in ensuring we are still playing league one football, and that was the important thing.”
Thomas and Edinburgh will now set about rebuilding the squad for what is going to be another tough league one campaign next season, and the chairman made it clear plenty of work has already been done on that behind the scenes.
“I have been really impressed with Justin and his knowledge of players, and his quite direct approach in what he wants, who he wants, and getting his group together, and that is important,” said the Town chairman.
“We have started a lot of that work, and hopefully we will be able to make some announcements over the next few weeks on that and then really build it into the summer.
“We have a good pre-season planned, based around trying to get the team ready for the league one campaign.”
With Doncaster Rovers, Plymouth Argyle and Portsmouth already up, and Rotherham, Wigan and possibly one from Blackburn Rovers, Birmingham City and Nottingham Forest coming down, it is arguably going to be an even tougher division next season than it was this time around.
Thomas says the Cobblers will be ready for that challenge.
“The reality is, budgets are always up and down and you don’t know what clubs are going to spend and what clubs aren’t going to spend,” he said.
“It was good to see Chris Wilder get his promotion with Sheffield United, but there are going to be some big clubs coming down to replace them, and/or Bolton or Fleetwood.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen and we are the type of club that will take what comes at us, and then we will have to build on what we can do.
“We have to put a team together within our budget, and that is what we will do, and then we will take on allcomers and see what we can do.”
Thomas also feels that the fact the Cobblers has got a management team settled and in place will be a big help to the club this summer.
This time last year, the club was celebrating the league two title success, but within days was looking for a new manager after Wilder’s departure for Sheffield United, and Thomas admits that did cause problems.
Problems they won’t have to endure this summer.
“Chris’s departure didn’t help our planning, and it changed a lot of the dynamics in the group,” admnitted the chairman.
“It did have an impact on us in terms of possibly Rob’s opinion of some of the players and so on, so I think we have a little more consistency this season with Justin having been here and what they have achieved in terms of staying up.
“Now it’s a case of working together and working hard to get the right players in and I do think it will have a more consistent approach to it, rather than last season when it was all a bit new and fresh.”