STEP BACK IN SPORTING TIME... 2003 - Cobblers sack Terry Fenwick... after 49 days in charge

February 24, 2003 - Terry Fenwick is sacked as Cobblers manager, just 49 days after being appointed in place of Kevan Broadhurst.

Friday, 26th February 2021, 11:52 am
Updated Friday, 26th February 2021, 11:54 am
Terry Fenwick remonstrates with his players during what would be his final game in charge of the Cobblers, a 2-1 defeat to Bristol City (Picture: Pete Norton)
Terry Fenwick remonstrates with his players during what would be his final game in charge of the Cobblers, a 2-1 defeat to Bristol City (Picture: Pete Norton)

The former England international had been in charge for seven matches, drawing two and losing five, when he was shown the door.

It was a farcical few weeks in the club’s history... and Fenwick’s remains the shortest reign of any appointed Town manager since 1897.

We hit the Chron archive to look back and find out what the main players were saying at the time...

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Terry Fenwick had only been appointed Cobblers manager by then chairman Andrew Ellis in January... by the end of February both men had left the club

A SUMMARY...

There was an air of chaos around the Cobblers in the months of January and February, 2003.

And the shambolic nature of proceedings on and off the pitch at Sixfields probably hit its peak on February 24 that year, when Terry Fenwick was sacked as manager... just 49 days after being handed the job in the first place.

Yep, seven weeks after taking over from Kevan Broadhurst, former England defender Fenwick was out of a job, having guided the Cobblers to just two points out of a possible 21 available in his seven games in charge.

Terry Fenwick allowed striker Jamie Forrester to leave the Cobblers on a free transfer after just one game in charge

Town managed draws with Crewe Alexandra and Queens Park Rangers, but lost to Blackpool, Peterborough United, Cardiff City, Luton Town and Bristol City.

It was a run that had seen the Cobblers drop from 15th in Nationwide League Division Two to second bottom, but it wasn’t just on match-days when things were going awry.

One of Fenwick’s first acts as the club’s new boss had been to allow fans’ favourite Jamie Forrester to leave on a free transfer, with the striker heading to Hull City having played one match for the new manager. It was certainly a brave move.

On top of that, the man who had made the decision to get rid of Broadhurst and hire Fenwick, his old pal Andrew Ellis, had also departed the club.

Martin Wilkinson was made caretaker manager after Fenwick's sacking but couldn't stop the team being relegated

Ellis had stood down as chairman on February 11, officially due to the fact he didn’t have the time to devote to the club due to other business interests... in reality there had been a clash of personalities in the boardroom.

Ellis was replaced by Ken Good (consortium leader David Cardoza still at this point trying to stay in the shadows) who quickly made his mark by sacking a manager just two matches after he had taken his position.

It’s fair to say, things at this point in the Cobblers’ history were very messy, and things were swiftly unravelling. Town had started the new year with a 2-1 win at Barnsley and were sitting in mid-table in the third tier of English football.

Eight weeks later, the team was playing under a third different manager, a second chairman, and heading back to the basement division... archive 2003 stories by Jeremy Casey.

David Cardoza would become Cobblers chairman in April, 2003

THE BARE FACTS OF FENWICK'S 'REIGN'...

49 days... Seven results...Terry Fenwick as Cobblers boss

L - Blackpool 2 Cobblers 1

L - Cobblers 0 Posh 1

D - Crewe 3 Cobblers 3

L - Cobblers 0 Cardiff City 1

Tony Blair was in the news in February, 2003

D - Cobblers 1 QPR 1

L - Luton 3 Cobblers 2

L - Cobblers 1 Bristol City 2

THE CHAIRMAN'S REACTION...

‘This club’s bigger than any indidual’

ACTING chairman Ken Good has revealed that Terry Fenwick was sacked as Cobblers boss because he felt he could not publicly back the former England defender.

“The main difficulty I had was that I was struggling to give any significant or meaningful vote of confidence,” said Good.

“And without being able to do that it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair on Terry, it’s not fair on the players and it’s not fair on the supporters.”

Good felt that the board had to stick their necks out and either commit to sticking with Fenwick until the end of the season or sack him immediately to ensure there was no debate over his position after every match.

“If we had got to the stage where we were saying, ‘we’ll have to see how each game goes’ then the pressure would have been too much, I can’t see how that would have been helpful,” said Good.

“So we have made a decision. It’s one that nobody wanted to make, particularly after only a few weeks, but we have to bear in mind that there are a lot of points to play for.

“This club is bigger than any individual and in Martin Wilkinson we are lucky we have someone already on the backroom staff that has a wealth of knowledge of the players at both this football club and this level.”

Good admitted that the fans’ angry reaction during Saturday’s defeat to Bristol City had played a part in the decision.

“We had to take into account the supporters reaction as well as the views of other people and directors at the club and the affect that that reaction was having on the team and was likely to continue to have on the team.”

THE SACKED MANAGER'S REACTION...

‘I don’t feel I have been given time, or any support from any angle’

Angry Terry Fenwick last night hit out at the Cobblers board after he was sacked as Town boss after just 49 days – the eighth shortest managerial reign in English football history.

Acting chairman Ken Good and chief executive David Cardoza informed Fenwick that he was being ‘relieved of his duties’ yesterday afternoon.

The former England defender was in charge at Sixfields for just seven games and during that time the team managed two draws and suffered five defeats.

“It is a hammer blow to say the least, but that’s football I suppose,” said Fenwick.

“I can’t do anything about it because it’s what the powers-that-be want.

“I don’t feel I’ve been given any time, and I don’t think I was given any support from any angle.”

Six of Fenwick’s seven games in charge were against promotion-chasing teams while the other was the Sixfields derby with Peterborough United.

Particularly frustrating for Fenwick is that the Cobblers are about to embark on a run of games against a batch of fellow strugglers, and he said: “I believe I would have got the team out of trouble.

“We have played six of the top eight teams in my time, and we have now got a good sequence of games coming up that you would like to get stuck into.

“I was trying to get people fit and ready and whatever else, but I’ve not been given the opportunity.”

The final straw for Good, Cardoza and other members of the Town board was Saturday’s defeat to Bristol City.

The crowd were chanting ‘Fenwick out’ during an appalling first-half display, and the Chron’s Fanzone page as well as the club’s official website were bombarded with messages from supporters calling for the manager to be sacked.

The abuse was not a problem for the experienced Fenwick and not unexpected, and he said: “Every team in the drop zone, the manager is under pressure.

“The fans are never happy and if you look on websites for clubs in the bottom half of every division, it will all be the same sort of thing on every one.

“I have been in the game too long to let that worry me, but unfortunately the people that I am working for haven’t. Surely football people have to be a bit stronger than that?”

The Cobblers have slumped from 15th to 23rd in Nationwide League Division Two during Fenwick’s short reign, but the 43-year-old claims he was always up against it with the lack of strength in depth in the squad.

“At the end of the day, Northampton have been fifth from bottom in division two for the past two seasons, so they haven’t particularly got a great squad to compete in that league,” said Fenwick.

“And when your hands are tied you are trying to tactically change things around and whatever else which I’ve had a go at, but unfortunately I’ve played against all the top teams in the league.”

THE NEW CARETAKER BOSS'S REACTION...

‘The fans deserve better. They must wonder what the hell’s been happening’

CARETAKER boss Martin Wilkinson is aiming to repay the Cobblers for showing faith in him and giving him a job at Sixfields almost three years ago.

Kevin Wilson hired a then out-of-work Wilkinson as chief scout in the summer of 2000 and he has served the club well, being promoted to assistant manager under Kevan Broadhurst.

He is now in the top job following Terry Fenwick’s sacking yesterday, and he is determined to repay the Cobblers by getting the team out of the relegation zone and securing Nationwide League Division Two safety.

“I owe Northampton Town, I genuinely do. They helped me when I was out of a job and everybody has been smashing to me,” said Wilkinson, a former boss at Peterborough United and Carlisle United.

“I have been to supporters’ meetings and the fans deserve better. They must wonder what the hell’s been happening.

“We often sit there and say what we should do and what we shouldn’t do, and I am now in a position where maybe I can do something about it. Let’s hope I can.”

Wilkinson is taking over a team that has won just once in 16 matches and now effectively needs to win seven games in 13 to avoid relegation.

That is a big ask for any manager, but Wilkinson believes the talent is at the club to complete a second successive ‘great escape’.

“You look at it one way and there are only 13 games left and we’ve only got 31 points,” he said. “I would say we need at least 20 or 21 points more, and if you look at the average we have picked up less than one point a game.

“Now that is going to be a fair old challenge, but at the same time when you look at the teams around us in the same situation, it is there for us if we win our games. We have gone through our bad spell and we now have to try and get it together, and I believe we have the players that can do it.

“All I want to give them is some organisation and some confidence and let them believe they can do it because that is the important thing. If the players believe they can stop in this division then we certainly will.”

Wilkinson, who will be utilising the services of both Mark Kearney and Paul Curtis in everyday coaching, added: “It is going to be a challenge but it’s not about Martin Wilkinson, it’s about the people of Northampton Town.

“It’s about the players, the backroom staff and the supporters because I tell you now the supporters will play a big part in giving the players and myself confidence.

“I just hope they understand the circumstances and get behind the team and back them. Having said that it is a two-way thing, we have also got to show the supporters that we are going to be up for it.

“They want to see us winning 50-50 tackles and showing some determination, and a bit of pride and passion. They are words that have been used a lot but they are important, and that is what we are aiming for. I am just hoping that we can turn it around.

“But I haven’t got a magic wand, it is going to be hard work and graft.”

SO, WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?...

QUITE a lot, and not much of it very good...

The decision to sack Terry Fenwick and make Martin Wilkinson the caretaker boss didn’t change the Cobblers’ fortunes, as they were relegated, finishing rock-bottom of Nationwide League Division Two, a whopping 11 points from safety.

The team's relegation fate had effectively been sealed on a remarkable day at Port Vale.

With six matches remaining, Town had to win to give themselves a lifeline and went 2-1 up in the 89th minute with a goal from Lawrie Dudfield.

Five minutes of stoppage time later, the Cobblers somehow contrived to concede twice to lose 3-2! Any fire and fight left in the team was doused, and the relegation was confirmed with a 4-0 Easter Monday trouncing at Tranmere Rovers.

There was also another backroom change, with chairman Ken Good leaving the role and the club in mid-April after he was charged with failing to provide a breath test following a car accident near Kislingbury.

A year later he was banned from driving for a year, and it emerged his accident had occurred after a meeting with David Cardoza at TGI Fridays at Sixfields... Good’s departure saw Cardoza, who had always been the main man in the background anyway, belatedly step to the fore and become chairman.

Wilkinson was given the manager’s job on a full-time basis, with former player Richard Hill being brought back to the club as his assistant.

The summer of 2003 saw a spending spree as Cardoza decided to invest heavily for life back in the basement division - including Wilkinson forking out a record £165,000 for Josh Low, and bringing Martin Smith to the club.

By October, 2003, with Town having endured a terrible start to the new season, Wilkinson had resigned, Hill had left, and Colin Calderwood was the new boss.

WHAT ELSE WAS GOING ON IN THE WORLD?

National news... Feb 25, 2003

TONY Blair was attempting to convince MPs to support a new resolution issuing a final warning against Saddam Hussein to disarm.

The diplomatic battlelines over a possible war with Iraq were drawn up when the US and Britain submitted the resolution to the UN Security Council.

But an alternative proposal by France, Russia and Germany scuppered any US-British hopes of a smooth passage for the resolution.

Prime Minister Blair was setting out his case in a statement to the Commons. MPs were not being given the chance to vote on whether to go to war.

MORE than 30,000 Nike basketball shoes are drifting through the Pacific Ocean towards the state after spilling from a container ship off northern California, USA.

They may be soggy, but they are wearable – but there’s a hitch.

“Nike forgot to tie the laces, so you have to find mates,” said American oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer.

Northampton news... Feb 25, 2003

TAXPAYERS across the county will pay almost eight per cent more council tax this year after Northamptonshire County Council finalised its budget last night.

Labour councillors voted through plans for a £550 million budget, which includes more than £6 million of cuts as well as the 7.9 per cent rise.

Although the hike is almost three times the rate of inflation, Northamptonshire’s increase is the lowest of all shire county councils in England.

Next year’s budget will also give £25 million more to schools, 14.5 per cent more money for social services and 20 per cent more cash to be spent on highways.

LUCKY postman Nic Paul of Harpole made a special delivery to his bank yesterday after he won £32,000 on top ITV1 show, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Millions watched on Saturday as Nic answered questions on Chris Tarrant’s top-rated show.

The 30-year-old said: “I was worried before the show about losing on the first few questions and coming away with nothing. I’m thrilled to have won such a big prize.”

Saturday’s appearance was a reward for persistence – Nic has phoned about 600 times over the past five years to get on the show.

Northampton sport... Feb 24, 2003

PROP Robbie Morris defied the critics with a storming England debut against Wales and then admitted: “I don’t know yet whether I will be in the Saints side on Sunday.”

The Northampton forward, only 21 last Thursday, grabbed his chance in Cardiff as boss Clive Woodward ran into a frontrow crisis.

Props were falling like dominoes in the build-up to the clash against Wales with Phil Vickery, Jason Leonard, Trevor Woodman and Julian White all ruled out.

But Morris stepped up and came of age. Morris, who joined Saints team-mates Ben Cohen and Steve Thompson in the team, was checking back in at Franklin’s Gardens today as Saints begin their build up for Sunday’s Powergen Cup semi-final clash with bogey side London Irish at Oxford’s Kassam Stadium.

And Morris, who earned the praise of England coach Andy Robinson, said: “It’s a big game, another grudge match against London Irish and I will go into training this week and see what happens.

“But I just don’t know whether I will be involved or not.”

MUSIC AND MOVIES...

UK top five singles - February 24, 2003

1 - All The Things She Said - Tatu

2 - Cry Me A River - Justin Timberlake

3 - I Can’t Break Down - Sinead Quinn

4 - Stone - Kelly Rowland

5 - Pain Killer - Turin Brakes

UK top five albums - February 24, 2003

1 - Justified - Justin Timberlake

2 - Get Rich Or Die Tryin - 50 Cent

3 - Greatest Hits - Tom Jones

4 - Let Go - Avril Lavigne

5 - By The Way - Red Hot Chili Peppers

UK Box Office number one film

The Ring

Tatu were number one in the UK singles charts this week in 2003
Justin Timberlake's Justified was the number one album