ON THE CASE: Sporting spotlight can prove there's no finer town, super Stokes and a warning for Arteta

Anybody who lives in Northampton already knows what a great sporting town it is.

Friday, 10th January 2020, 10:54 am
Updated Friday, 10th January 2020, 11:04 am
The BT Sport cameras will be in town for the Cobblers versus Derby County FA Cup fourth round tie on January 24

It's a unique place, with a top flight rugby union club in the Saints, a Football League club in the Cobblers, and a first-clasas cricket team in Northants.

No other town in the UK can boast such sporting riches.

Yes, of course London and cities such as Manchester, Leicester and Bristol can make similar claims, but when it comes to towns, Northampton is surely top of the sporting pile.

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The BT Sport cameras will be in town for the Saints versus London Irish clash on January 24

And later this month, the rest of the country and beyond will get a glimpse into our world.

That's because BT Sport have announced they will be broadcasting matches featuring both the Cobblers and Saints at their home grounds at the same time, on the night of Friday, January 24.

Saints' Gallagher Premiership clash with London Irish at Franklin's Gardens was always on the schedule (Chris Boyd's men are a regular and entertaining fixture on the channel), but BT Sport have also now opted to beam the Cobblers' FA Cup fourth round clash with Derby County around the country, and the rest of the globe.

That match will be played at the PTS Academy Stadium, and is set to see English football icon Wayne Rooney strut his stuff for the Rams.

Ben Stokes was England's match-winner against South Africa

So yep, for one night only, Northampton will be more or less the centre of the sporting universe, with two matches being played at stadia about 500 metres apart.

It is a great chance for both clubs, and their 1,000s of supporters, to showcase what is great about them, and this fantastic sporting town.

Northampton is a place that has its detractors and gets plenty of criticism from plenty of quarters, but there is plenty to be proud of as well, including its sporting heritage.

As the line in the Cobblers' and Northants' club song says, 'no finer town you'll ever see, no finer town there'll ever be'...

Mikel Arteta celebrates with his players after Arsenal's recent win over Manchester United

And everybody else across the country will now have the chance to see it for themselves.

The playing of the Saints and Cobblers matches on the same night does throw up some logistical issues when it comes to travel to and from the games, and there is no doubt the areas surrounding the PTS and the Gardens are going to be busy!

But it's something that we are all now aware of, and with the matches two full weeks away, everybody has plenty of time to make suitable arrangements.

Whether heading to the Saints or the Cobblers, we can all get our heads around the fact we might need to head to the game a little earlier, and we might be a bit later home.

Harry Kane is out until April after tearing a hamstring on New Year's Day

But it's a small price to pay for what will hopefully be a memorable night for the town.

Another week, another display of cricketing heroics from Ben Stokes.

The all-rounder was the key man as England claimed a sensational victory over South Africa in the second Test in Cape Town on Tuesday.

His bowling was hostile, his fielding and catching sensational, and his batting explosive, with his 47-ball 72 in second innings ultimately the match-winning moment, as it gave England the time needed to bowl out the stubborn Proteas.

The Durham man has been brilliant since he returned to the England team following his off-field issues, and is just getting better and better.

The frightening thing for England's rivals is that it looks like there is still more to come from the 28-year-old, who is only just entering his peak years.

There were plenty of comparisons this week between Stokes and the legendary Ian Botham, with opinion divided on who has the edge.

For me, as brilliant as Botham was (and, sadly, I am old enough to have seen him in his prime!), if Stokes can stay fit then he will write his name into the history books as England's best all-rounder.

New Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has been getting plenty of praise for his impact since taking over from Unai Emery at the Emirates, and the Spaniard was all smiles again on Monday as Leeds United were beaten in the FA Cup.

The Gunners' results and performances have certainly picked up under Arteta, and even Mesut Ozil has come out of the woodwork to put a shift in.

And that is what doesn't sit right with me, and why Arsenal fans should feel cheated by the players they idolise.

Arteta has obviously brought some much-needed discipline and organisation to Arsenal, and he should be applauded for that, but what sticks in my craw is how everybody is saying the players are now working harder, running faster and tackling more than they did before.

In other words, they have now decided to do what they are paid handsomely to, which is work hard and give 100 per cent effort, which is something that should be the absolute minimum, regardless of who the manager is.

Just ask Chris Wilder.

The fact the Gunners players haven't been doing the hard yards for however many months or perhaps even longer is shame on them, and if I was Arteta, I would be keeping a very close eye on certain members of his squad.

Because if they can down tools under Emery, they can do it under Arteta too - a leopard never changes its spots.

Harry Kane is out of action until at least April with a hamstring tear, and that is obviously a bitter blow for the player and for his stuttering club Tottenham Hotspur.

But it could be an absolute blessing in disguise for England, for a couple of reasons.

One, it means Kane is getting a much-needed rest, and that should ensure he is fresh and sharp for the summer's European Championships.

Two, Kane's injury means boss Gareth Southgate now has to look at different options to lead the England attack, something he has been reluctant to do in the past.

For me, it has got to the stage that England have become over-reliant on Kane, with it being the case that when he is fit, he plays, no matter what.

But England surely have to have a plan B for when Kane is not around for whatever reason, because who's to say he won't get injured mid-tournament this summer?

And Southgate, with two friendlies to be played against Italy and Denmark at the end of March, now has the chance to get that plan B in place, and make it clear that, as good a player as Kane is, he can be replaced. England certainly aren't short of attacking options.

And in the long run, that can only be beneficial to England.