Buchanan: Cobblers could have reached the Championship had title-winning squad not been 'ripped apart'

Former captain was 'devastated' by Wilder's departure just weeks after title success
Gutted: Chris Wilder's exit less than a week after the season finished was a major blow for the Cobblers.Gutted: Chris Wilder's exit less than a week after the season finished was a major blow for the Cobblers.
Gutted: Chris Wilder's exit less than a week after the season finished was a major blow for the Cobblers.

Former captain David Buchanan believes Cobblers' title-winning squad from 2016 had the potential to reach the Championship before it was 'ripped apart' in the following transfer window.

Buchanan also admits he was 'deflated' by the departure of manager Chris Wilder, who left the club to sign a three-year deal with then-League One outfit Sheffield United just five days after the season ended.

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Ricky Holmes followed Wilder out the door by signing for Charlton Athletic and Nicky Adams then headed back up north for family reasons, while loan trio Danny Rose, John Marquis and James Collins, all key during the second half of the season, also moved on.

"When I look back at that squad of players, we shouldn't get away from just how good that team was," says Buchanan, who was an ever-present under Wilder.

"Hindsight if a wonderful thing but I think had we been able to keep that squad together, we would have gone to the Championship as well.

"I can say that on the back of being in the Preston squad that reached the Championship the season before and you also look at what Luton did last season - they were used to winning football matches and carried it on by winning League One.

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"We won so many games and we won the league at a canter and you look at the players that were in the squad that have now gone on - the likes of Ricky Holmes, James Collins, James Marquis - they all went on to bigger things.

"Collins and Marquis were both at the top of the scoring charts in League One so potentially, had Chris stayed, it could have been very different."

Wilder's departure was unquestionably the most significant blow and given his remarkable success at Sheffield United over the last few years, Cobblers fans could be forgiven for wondering what might have been.

"For me, it was so deflating because I had just signed a three-year contract after leaving Preston," Buchanan adds.

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"We had won a title and I played virtually every minute of every game that season and then for the manager to go, I was absolutely devastated.

"I was gutted but, ultimately, when you do that well for a club like Northampton, you're going to lose a few players, it's just going to happen.

"We probably couldn't match the money that other clubs were offering, like Portsmouth and Doncaster, and we also had Nicky leaving.

"Once you start losing players and you lose the manager, it's always going to be tough. Anybody who came in after Chris Wilder, after what we had achieved, it was going to be a struggle for them."

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Rob Page was identified as Wilder's replacement but despite a promising start, the 2016/17 season disappointingly fizzled out before relegation followed 12 months later.

"All the managers after Wilder, I got on great with most of them, certainly Rob Page," says Buchanan.

"I think the recruitment side of it had a massive impact though. A new manager has got a new ideas and you want to implement your philosophy and what type of players you want to bring in.

"You might have worked with a player before and no matter how well somebody has done, you want to bring them in.

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"The recruitment has got to be right but the squad was ripped apart too soon. We were used to winning and I felt we could have kept the nucleus of that squad playing while bringing in new players.

"We could have slowly integrated new players instead of making eight, nine, 10 signings or whatever it was and I felt the lads that got promoted should have been given more of a chance to show what they can do."