AT various stages of Tuesday night’s defeat to Huddersfield Town, the comment was made in and around the press box, partly in jest, partly in tongue-in-cheek criticism, that ‘Shaun Harrad would have scored that.’
In reality there were probably only two or three goalscoring opportunities that would have caused the former Burton Albion striker’s eyes to light up, but the point stands – namely that here was a side without their most out-and-out number nine, centre-forward and fox in the penalty box.
Cobblers supporters are united this morning in their view that selling Harrad was the wrong thing to do.
Most make the point that a player of Harrad’s skill set is precisely what the team needs right now, and others note that his move to a league one side is a reminder of his quality.
On the whole, though, they are angry, both at the timing and the nature of the transfer and the fact that the Sixfields supporters never truly saw the best of Shaun Harrad.
It is somewhat ironic that his best performance came against the team he will now represent – Bury – although a tally of six goals in 18 games is a very good concern considering most of those appearances were for a struggling side.
But his stay in Northampton never really got going, with a tooth operation that delayed his debut almost setting the tone in that respect. From his conversations with this reporter in the summer, Harrad was as frustrated about this as anyone, and he was genuinely looking forward to a fresh start.
He was excited about the prospect of playing alongside Jake Robinson and Adebayo Akinfenwa, players whose arrivals have in a way had a hand in his departure, and who must now – in the absence of any Harrad-shaped replacements – start to deliver.
Of those two, the focus will undoubtedly fall on Robinson. Those chances that it was suggested Harrad would have scored on Tuesday night? Robinson would have scored them too.
At least, he should be. Football is a ruthless sport sometimes in that whoever you support, your favourite players are sold on or retire and somebody else takes their place.
Cobblers supporters almost have this concept in their DNA, having seen arguably the best team to ever represent their club (Graham Carr’s 1986/87 division four barnstormers) torn apart within a few years of the champagne corks popping. The next generation of fans all had their own player whose sale broke their hearts, whether that was Steve Brown, Ray Warburton or Scott McGleish.
The epithet that ‘the king is dead, long live the king’ might as well be painted on the west stand gates but that is the nature of the beast at most lower-league clubs.
The blow of this one would have been cushioned by a better start to the league campaign and that is something Gary Johnson would have been hoping would provide the sugar for this particular pill to the supporters when it was finally handed out.
It’s up to his players now to do the job he felt Harrad could not. Four of the five strikers on the books today – Akinfenwa, Robinson, Bas Savage and Lumbardh Salihu – were signed by the current manager, and it’s now over to them, and the man in charge, to prove the right decision has been made this week.