Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has praised the efforts of Raheem Hanley, who has forced himself into the Cobblers first team in the past few weeks.
The former Swansea City defender has been at Sixfields since the summer of 2016, but didn’t make his first start for the club until last Tuesday’s Sky Bet League One loss at Wigan Athletic.
Underused by the man who signed him for the club, Rob Page, Hanley then found himself completely marginalised by Justin Edinburgh when he took the helm in January this year.
Under contract until next summer, Hanley was transfer-listed by Edinburgh in May and told to find a new club, and when he returned for pre-season he was told to train with Jon Brady’s Under-18s.
Hanley looked at other options, but a pre-season trial at Oxford United came to nothing, and he was left to kick his heels on the sidelines at Sixfields - at least that was the case until the arrival of Hasselbaink.
The new Town boss came in with an open mind and fresh set of eyes.
Hanley was invited back into first team training, and after impressing he was named in the squad for the trip to Southend United on September 16.
It was such a surprise that Hanley had to be given a squad number the day before the game, as he previously didn’t even have one.
Hanley’s full debut followed in the 1-0 loss at Wigan, and although he was missing from the squad for Saturday’s 1-0 home defeat to Bradford City - he has yet to make a League appearance at Sixfields - he was back in the starting line-up at MK Dons.
Hanley performed well on the left side of midfield before being substituted in the closing stages, and he is in line to keep his place for this weekend’s trip to Rotherham United.
Hasselbaink is delighted with Hanley’s efforts, and says his selection, along with that of George Smith in his first couple of games in charge, proves that there is a clean slate at Sixfields.
“Like George Smith, he (Hanley) has been training really, really well and they have been putting themselves about,” said the Cobblers boss.
“They have been showing what they have got on the pitch, and I am new here.
“So, it is a clean slate for everybody, and if players are going to catch my eye then they will get an opportunity, and that is what they are doing.
“I have given them an opportunity, and Raheem has done really well against MK Dons.
“He has done better against MK than he did against Wigan, in what was a harder match for him after a while (out), and I am happy with how he conducted himself.”