Chris Wilder says he doesn’t have to motivate his Cobblers players for their final game of the season on Saturday - because they should be doing it themselves.
The clash against Wycombe Wanderers could be seen as a dead rubber for Town, who can no longer reach the play-offs after last Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Burton Albion.
But a determined and proud Wilder definitely doesn’t see it that way, and he expects his players to feel exactly the same.
Wycombe come to Sixfields needing a win to keep their hopes of automatic promotion alive and so will be fired up for the encounter, and Wilder is demanding his team match that.
And he also wants a big reaction to the first-half performance at Burton last week, with an off-the-pace Cobblers going 3-0 down inside the first 41 minutes before losing 3-1.
“I can’t be interested in what Wycombe do, and what their manager does to motivate their players,” said Wilder.
“I have said all along that I sometimes don’t understand this thing about motivation for professional footballers.
“That might seem silly me saying that after the first-half performance at Burton, but the players have to drive themselves forward, there is still a hell of a lot to play for.
“I am not a happy man if I am honest after seeing that at Burton, although I have to say that hasn’t happened many times this season.
“We have our own game to play, and players should definitely be up for that, especially with us wanting to finish in the top 10.
“There are also some decisions still to be made on players, so we’ll be telling them what we expect, and I expect them to show a reaction (from Burton).
“To be fair to the players, they did show a reaction second half.
“There were harsh words said in the dressing room at half-time, and harsh words said afterwards.
“It’s how we react to those words that matters, and I fully expect us to react in a positive manner on Saturday.”
Wycombe travel to Sixfields in fifth place in Sky Bet League Two.
To get automatic promotion, they need to beat the Cobblers, and hope Southend lose at Morecambe and Bury don’t win at already-relegated Tranmere.
It’s a bit of a long shot for the Chairboys, but they faced a similiar last-day scenario at the opposite end of the table last season.
They were three points adrift of safety ahead of the final game of last season, but they preserved their Football League status with a 3-0 win against Torquay while Bristol Rovers lost at home to Mansfield Town and were relegated instead.
And manager Gareth Ainsworth is praying for a repeat performance this year and hoping they enjoy an ‘amazing day’ at Sixfields.
“Last year was real pressure, facing something unprecedented in Wycombe’s history by dropping out of the league and we really did need a fairytale,” said Ainsworth.
“This is one of those situations where you could have an amazing, amazing day.
“I think there’s more belief that we can do it this year than there was last year, which is important.
“There’s also the excitement that we could be in the play-offs as well.
“The fans thinking that the play-offs is not failure is really, really good for me because they’re thinking the same as me.
“The play-off is fantastic, it’s brilliant but automatic promotion, wow, that could be something incredible.”
The Wycombe boss beieves an early goal could be the key against the Cobblers, as it would pile the pressure on their rivals, and he said: “In league two there are only three games that people are concentrating on, so if we can get an early goal that will filter around all the grounds, including the ones that matter at Tranmere and Morecambe.
“An early goal is crucial. Any goal is crucial but an early one... I’d take one in the 90th minute but I’d definitely have one in the first and see what that does to other teams.”
THE Chronicle & Echo Northampton Town Supporters’ Player of the Year will be announced just prior to kick off at Sixfields on Saturday.
The winner will receive his award on the pitch.