As first days at a new club go, Neal Eardley’s introduction to life as a Cobblers player was a pretty dramatic one.
Invited to train with the club last weekend, the 28-year-old right-back rocked up for his first day’s training at 9.30am on Monday morning with Rob Page in place as the Town manager.
Just 45 minutes and a couple of meetings with head of recruitment Andy Melville and the club physios later, Eardley walked into the Moulton College dressing room to meet new team-mates coming to terms with the fact Page had lost his job.
It was a shock to the system for the Wales international who admitted it was ‘a bit strange’, but all the drama didn’t stop him wanting to sign on at Sixfields, which he did on Thursday after impressing in training and in a trial match at Stevenage on Tuesday.
But what about that first morning?
“I turned up at the training ground at around half past nine,” said Eardley who spent the first of this season at Scottish Championship club Hibernian.
“When I arrived I had a quick chat with Andy Melville, the chief scout, and at that time the manager was still in place.
“So it was quite a quick turnaround from arriving in the building, going upstairs and talking to the physio, and then going back down to changing room half and hour to 45 minutes later, and finding out the gaffer had left!
“It was a bit strange in many ways, and I don’t think there are many footballers that would tell you that has happened to them before on their first day at a new club with the manager being sacked.
“But I think in terms of the situation we are all in the same boat now, in terms of the fact we are just waiting to see who it is that comes in.
It was quite a quick turnaround from arriving in the building, going upstairs and talking to the physio, and then going back down to changing room half and hour to 45 minutes later, and finding out the gaffer had leftNew Cobblers signing Neal Eardley
“First and foremost we have an important game on Saturday, which we are all fully focused on to get a result, and then everything else will take care of itself.”
Eardley seems certain to make his Cobblers debut against Scunthorpe United on Saturday (ko 3pm), as with Brendan Moloney sidelined until early February and Aaron Phillips also struggling with a hamstring strain, the team needs a specialist right-back.
Paul Anderson filled in at Bristol Rovers last weekend, but he is also out due to suffering a gash to his knee in the first half of that game.
A seasoned campaigner, Eardley started his career at Oldham where he made more than 100 appearances, and then spent four years at Blackpool, where he was a regular in their Premier League season in 2010-11.
He left Bloomfield Road in 2013 and signed for Birmingham City on a three-year contract, but his time in the second city was blighted by injury, the player himself saying ‘I loved every minute at Birmingham, but it just didn’t work out on the field’.
Last summer Eardley opted to go north to try his luck at Hibs, but with him vying for place in the team with captain David Gray, things didn’t go to plan and he only managed two appearances for the Easter Road club, who released him at the end of his short-term contract last week.
That openend up the chance for Eardley to sign for the Cobblers, and Llandudno-born player can’t wait to get playing on a regular basis again.
Asked about why he has come to Northampton, Eardley said: “It is just the opportunity to play some football.
“I got a phone call last weekend saying there was an opportunity for me to come in and train, and then I played in the behind-closed-doors game on Tuesday.
“That went well, so we managed to get things done quite quickly, and I am here now, really pleased about it, and looking forward to the challenge. I am just looking forward to getting going.
“I am here to do well for the football club, but that goes hand in hand with the fact your are going to go out on a Saturday or a Tuesday night and give it 100 per cent, and hopefully the fans will recognise that.
“You can’t ask for much more than that, as long as you are putting in the graft for the badge and for the rest of the boys.”