COBBLERS Q&A: We talk to influential midfielder Alan McCormack as he gets ready to celebrate his 500th senior appearance
Alan McCormack may have only been at the Cobblers for a matter of months, but he has already made a lasting impression both on and off the pitch at the PTS Academy Stadium - and this weekend marks a monumental personal landmark for the player.
The Irishman will make his 500th senior appearance (if selected!) in Sunday's home FA Cup second round encounter with Notts County, and it is going to be an incredibly proud moment for the man from Dublin.
He made his debut as a 19-year-old, playing for Leyton Orient in a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Cheltenham Town, but it is fair to say things have gone on an upward curve since then.
Now 35, McCormack also played for Preston North End, Southend United, Motherwell, Charlton Athletic, Swindon Town, Brentford and Luton Town, before making the switch to the Cobblers last summer.
In recent seasons, McCormack has enjoyed plenty of success, winning promotions with Swindon, Brentford and Luton, and the Cobblers fans will be hoping he will sparkle some of that magic dust on their team last season.
And the signs are encouraging.
McCormack signed in the summer after a successful, but injury-hit, stint at Luton Town, and then suffered a hamstring strain in the opening game of the Sky Bet League Two season against Walsall.
He old spent two months on the sidelines before being eased back into the action, and since his return to the starting line-up the Cobblers have been on fire, winning six and drawing one of their past seven games.
McCormack has obviously been a key part of that upturn in form, and that fact will come as no surprise to supporters of any of his former clubs, who still hold the player in very high regard.
On the eve of him racking up his 500th senior appearance, we spoke to McCormack about his long and successful career, and his hopes for the rest of this season and beyond...
So Alan, you are on the brink of 500 career appearances, how does it feel?
"I have been close for quite a while now, and it has been on my mind for quite a long time.
"It has been over a couple of years now that I have been getting close, since when I went past the 450 mark and got on to 460.
"It is nice to finally be withing touching distance and be one start away from it, and if it is Sunday, to be making that milestone.
"I am very proud of how I have done it, how far I have come to get here, and to stay within the beliefs in myself and continue to be the person I am.
"I am looking forward to Sunday, I will have the family here to support me, and then have a little celebration in the evening."
Some players aren't aware of personal milestones, and need telling when they are coming up, but this is something you have been aware of?
"Yeah, I have definitely been aware of it, although I wasn't aware of it until it started to get close and it was mentioned to me.
"That was a couple of years ago now, and I thought I would get it done the following season, which didn't happen, and then I thought I would get it done last season, and unfortunately I didn't.
"So I knew I was quite close coming in here, and I knew it was something that as I got older I wanted to achieve it, get to that milestone, and then pick a new milestone and keep that as my focus on playing, my focus on staying fit every game and trying to mix it with the younger players nowadays."
So, once you have that 500 appearance out of the way, what is the next target... what is the new milestone to aim for?
"I will have to think about that one, as I'm not too sure. Maybe reaching the 550?
"If I could get towards that target then it would be nice, but at the moment my main target was the 500 and then I think the main one from then will be year-on-year playing.
"I want to play for as long as I can, until I feel I really can't keep up with the players today, and can't feel I can play to the level of the standard that is set upon everybody in the dressing room.
"When that starts to go then I will think about packing it in, but until then I feel I am very much able to play in this league and the league above.
"So at the moment it's about getting next year sorted and continuing to play, and then go year from year after then."
When you started out as a footballer as a teenager, did you ever imagine you would be standing here at the age of 35, having enjoyed such a long and successful career?
"I genuinely don't know what I thought back then, it is so long ago. It is 17 years, so I can't remember.
"I do remember after my first game just thinking 'I have played a professional football game', and I could be classed as a professional footballer, I have made my debut.
"But the years go so quick, and they genuinely have just flown by in the blink of an eye."
And I presume being a footballer was always the dream when growing up in Ireland?
"Yes, when I was a kid I always had a football in my hands, and me and my best mate that's all we did, play football.
"School would finish and we would get together and play football until we called home for dinner, or because it was too dark to play.
"Wherever we went we always had a ball with us and we would play, whether it be on concrete, grass, a car park, somebody's back garden, and it was the dream to be a footballer.
"I have lived that dream in the best possible way I can, and there are things that I would like to have been better, but I would say the past five or six years has definitely been the highlight of that dream.
"When you are a kid and you picture yourself playing football, you picture winning trophies, playing in the Premier League or scoring winning goals.
"What has happened over the past five or six years, that dream has been lived to its full potential."
So, in recent seasons you have enjoyed promotions with Brentford, Swindon Towm and Luton Town, who went up in successive seasons while you were there, do you believe you can get another one on the CV with the Cobblers?
"At the moment I do. We are a good team and we are getting better every week, and we are probably still not playing to our potential.
"We have shown it in glimpses, and those glimpses are being shown more for longer periods in games, so I definitely feel there is a lot more to come from us.
"A part of any team improving is cutting out your weaknesses, and making sure they appear less in every game, so we are getting better.
"We are doing well, everybody is enjoying it and it is a happy place to be at the moment."
I know it might be hard to pick one or two out, but what stand out as the highlights for you in the past 17 years and 499 football matches?
"There have been so many highlights. Even if maybe you don't have a fantastic game yourself, there are the meaningful games that stand out.
"There is the FA Cup draw at Chelsea (with Southend United), the winner I got here at Northampton a few years ago for Swindon, when Paulo Di Canio then ran the full length of the sideline to celebrate.
"They are amazing memories that stand put and you can take away with you, and there are the promotions at Luton.
"It has been incredible, but in terms of one particular moment, I don't know, that is a hard one.
"But hopefully there are more to come, and I am desperate to get another promotion this year.
"As a player you should be happy with one, but when you get one you want two, and when you get two you want three, and so on.
"I want to get as many as I can, because when I hang the boots up that is it, I won't be able to get any more as a player, and you are a long time retired."
Alan McCormack factfile
Born: January 10, 1984
Clubs: Preston North End; Leyton Orient (loan); Southend United (loan); Motherwell (loan); Southend United (loan); Southend United; Charlton Athletic; Swindon Town; Brentford; Luton Town; Northampton Town
Senior appearances: 499 (437 starts)
Senior goals: 28