ON THE CASE: A player proving the doubters wrong, Cobblers momentum, Boyd's straight talking and poor show from Morgan

It was great to see Paul Anderson sign a new contract for the Cobblers this week - and I have to admit, that is not something I thought I would be writing when the player rejoined the club in the summer.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 10:33 am
Updated Friday, 17th January 2020, 10:34 am
The Cobblers players and supporters enjoy last Saturday's win over Salford City (Picture: Pete Norton)

The former Nottingham Forest and Ipswich Town man had previously spent a fairly uninspiring season at the club in the 2016/17 season, failing to impress after being signed by Rob Page.

He struggled in what was a struggling side under Page and then Justin Edinburgh, although he did net seven goals in 38 appearances, and in the summer of 2017 left the club to sign for Mansfield Town.

After a reasonable start, things went awry for the player at Field Mill and he was left out in the cold by manager David Flitcroft and released by the Stags last January.

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Paul Anderson has signed a new contract at the Cobblers (Picture: Pete Norton)

Indeed, it looked like the 31-year-old's full-time career might be coming to an end as he made just four substitute appearances for Plymouth Argyle following a free transfer switch.

He was then released by the Devon club in the summer, and it was a big surprise when free agent Anderson was re-signed by Town boss Keith Curle at the beginning of October.

It was a move met with some raised eyebrows among the Cobblers faithful - and, I will admit, with me too - but I have to say he has been something of a revelation.

In his previous spell, Anderson was played wide and would drift in and out of games.

Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd

He always seemed to be on the periphery of the action, but under Curle he has been placed at the heart of proceedings usually as the most advanced central midfielder, and he has flourished.

I will hold my hands up and admit that Anderson has completely changed my opinion of him.

He has been hard-working, dynamic, creative and one of the key players in Curle's team since rejoining the club, and it is a genuine boost for the club and its supporters that he will be staying until the end of the season.

It's always a special time when a football club really comes together - and I get the feeling that is what's once again starting to happen at the Cobblers.

Liam Plunkett celebrates claiming the wicket of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson in the Cricket World Cup Final

Fans of a certain vintage can think back to the glory days under Graham Carr, the play-offs and Wembley trips under Ian Atkins, the promotions under Kevin Wilson and Colin Calderwood, and of course that remarkable title-winning campaign that was masterminded by Chris Wilder.

It makes sense for management, players and the fans to all come come together in times of success, and when it comes along, all too sparingly at the Cobblers, that has always been the case.

But it has also happened in times of turmoil, stress and danger, when the club has been on the brink of relegation, or in financial strife.

Indeed, in many ways there is more of a bond when the club pulls together in times of real strain.

Thankfully, the current feeling of togetherness around the Cobblers is coming from a position of strength and positivity.

The past two away games have seen travelling followings of 1,400 and 1,000, and they have been rewarded with excellent victories, in the FA Cup at Burton Albion and the league at Salford City.

The fact that both clubs only charged £10 a ticket certainly helped - and the price of lower league football is perhaps something to discuss on another day - but it still takes some commitment to travel hundreds of miles to watch your team.

The momentum certainly seems to now be with Keith Curle and his players, and there is definitely a bond growing between them and the supporters, and that is something that can carry a club a long way.

That's what makes this Saturday's clash with struggling Morecambe at the PTS Academy Stadium so important.

The travelling fans have had a ball, and now it's important the home support gets a taste of it as well.

Because if Curle and his players can really get the PTS swinging - then who knows where it will take them?

It was so refreshing to listen to Saints boss Chris Boyd following his side's European Champions Cup win over Benetton at Franklin's Gardens last Sunday.

The boys in the green, black and gold kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the quarter-finals, as they claimed a 33-20 bonus point victory, scoring four second-half tries to see off the battling Italians.

The team clearly hadn't been at their best, but they had got the job done - although there was no talk or soundbites of 'a bad day at the office', or 'it's the sign of a good team to win when not playing well'.

Not a bit of it - instead, Boyd tore into his players.

He brandished his team's showing as being 'rubbish' and 'dreadful', apologised to the Saints supporters, and said that 'anybody who has an ounce of respect for the game of rugby would be horrified by that performance'.

Boyd accused his team of having a 'lack of respect' for the occasion and their visitors, and admitted 'it's the first time in my tenure that I wasn't proud of what we were producing at all'.

He hinted that he felt his players showed a hint of arrogance in a match they were big favourites to win, before saying 'that would be massively disappointing' if it was the case.

And all this after a 33-20 Champions Cup win!

It is a sign of how much of a perfectionist Boyd is, and also an intriguing insight into what makes him tick as a coach.

The fact that it is not all about the winning, but about how you win, how you conduct yourself as a player, how you perform as a team, and how you have to do what you are supposed to do in a team environment.

And, judging by Boyd's reaction last weekend, any Saints player who ignores what their coach is telling them and wants them to do, does so at their own peril!

There was no doubting how well Eoin Morgan captained England on their way to that memorable World Cup win in the summer, with a fantastic campaign culminating in that sensational super over win over New Zealand in the final at sun-soaked Lord's.

Along with head coach Trevor Bayliss, Irishman Morgan meticulously planned England's route to 50-over glory, transforming the way his team played the game.

On the field, he was an inspiration, and clearly a great leader of men.

But off the field, it seems that when it comes to man-management Morgan still has a lot to learn.

Liam Plunkett was one of the main men in England's charge to glory, contributing with bat and ball throughout the tournament, and claimed three for 42 from his 10 overs in the final.

But it appears that great day at Lord's could well be the Yorkshire all-rounder's final game for his country.

Now, Plunkett is 35 in April, and he is clearly entering the twilight years of his career.

It is reasonable for the England selectors to look at more youthful players as they start planning for the future, but the least they could have done was to speak to Plunkett face to face and let him know their plans.

They haven't.

Plunkett has not been contacted by the ECB or Morgan to explain what is happening, and found out about his omission from the upcoming ODI series in South Africa - England's first 50-over action since the final at Lord's - via social media.

It is a pretty shabby way to deal with a player who has given his country great service, and I'm afraid doesn't show Morgan in a great light.

I mean, would he like it if he found out he was being dropped as captain via Twitter?

Of course he wouldn't.

I've always been told to treat others as you would like to be treated yourself, and Morgan and the ECB have let themselves down with their treatment of Plunkett.