Colin Calderwood

COBBLERS QUIZ: Just for fun... looking back to the oh-so close to glory season that was 2003/04

Welcome to the latest of our regular quizzes focusing on a season in the Cobblers' not too distant past.

By Jeremy Casey
Monday, 6th April 2020, 11:52 am

Sport is on lockdown for the foreseeable future and the Cobblers, like every other sports team in the country, are currently sat on the sidelines.

So for those of you looking for a little bit of a football fix, we at the Chron are putting together a regular little quiz, focusing on a Town campaign of the past - and it's just a bit of fun.

Today, we are heading to the season from summer, 2003 to May, 2004.

There was plenty of optimism around Sixfields ahead of the campaign, with the new owners splashing the cash to give manager Martin Wilkinson plenty of backing.

In came the likes of Josh Low, for a club record fee, Martin Smith, Ashley Westwood and Marc Richards, with the Cardozas seemingly making a good start on their promise of 'a five-year plan' to get the club into the championship.

Another sign of the new investment was that the the squad headed off to the USA for a pre-season training camp, and although the opening game of the campaign saw Town beaten 1-0 at home by Torquay, they won four of their next five games to make it a reasonable start.

But a late collapse in a horrible Friday night trip to Cheltenham Town, with the hosts scoring twice in stoppage time to win 4-3, was the start of the wheels coming off.

Town lost four out of six, and Martin Wilkinson, always a reluctant manager, was sacked with the Cobblers 16th in division four having garnered 13 points from the first 10 games.

The Cobblers were looking for their fourth manager in the space of just two years.

The choice of replacement came out of left-field, with Town appointing rookie Colin Calderwood, a reserve team coach at Tottenham Hotspur, as boss.

He was to be assisted by the experienced John Deehan - although the two had never worked together before.

After a sluggish start, things started to click though and the second half of the campaign was something of a triumph.

The Cobblers hosted Manchester United in the fourth round of the FA Cup, and their league form late in the campaign was so impressive they booked a place in the play-offs, to take on Keith Curle's Mansfield Town.

The first-leg at Sixfields was lost 2-0, and although the second was won 3-1 at Field Mill on a memorable and controversial night (thanks, Phil Crossley - you are not forgiven), the season was over for Calderwood's men as they lost in a dramatic penalty shootout.

The defeat also signalled the end of the Cobblers careers of some notable players, with the likes of Ian Sampson, Chris Hargreaves and Paul Trollope never playing for the club again.

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