Jefferson Lake’s Torquay preview: Cobblers boss Boothroyd is winning the long game


Although the Cobblers’ recent record at Torquay tells a story of just a single league victory since 1997, supporters will head to Plainmoor fully aware it was also the scene of one of their club’s finest recent hours.

And as well as the promotion-securing 2-1 success in the final-day sunshine 12 years ago, there was also a moment to remember on the first afternoon of the 2010/11 season.

On that hot August afternoon, the game was emphatically lost but a star was born.

Michael Jacobs was introduced at half-time and although within five minutes the home side had added two further goals to the one they scored in the first half, the afternoon belonged to the ‘Rothwell Ronaldo’.

That nickname was further solidified with a glittering start against Brighton the following Tuesday in a Carling Cup run that included wins at Reading and Liverpool.

The rest was history for Jacobs, an instant hero and eventual double player of the year.

This weekend’s game gives the fans whose thirst for success was briefly slaked by those cup successes the chance to see the latest emerging prospect, Lewis Hornby, take the next step on what has so far been an excellent first senior season.

The presence of matchless contributors such as Chris Hackett and Adebayo Akinfenwa might mean annual accolades are beyond the reach of Hornby at the moment, but it is worth noting he is 18 months younger than Jacobs was on that breakout afternoon at Torquay.

The case could even be made that, bearing in mind that factor, Hornby is actually a better player than Jacobs was.

Regardless of such debates, Hornby’s emergence is the tangible realisation of the second half of Aidy Boothroyd’s policy for the season.

The manager wanted a small squad of around 18 or 19 players who would be paid good money to play every week and to play well.

Hackett is a good example of this.

The squad would be topped up with additions from the youth ranks to fill in when those players were injured or suspended; anything more would be seen as a bonus, and Hornby’s emergence can definitely be viewed as that.

Everyone connected with the club - the coach, the players, the supporters, the board of directors - want the team to be successful as soon as possible, but true success is built around a long game.

It is built around a shrewd recruitment policy and the gradual development of quality players from the youth system, of which there are now plenty.

So while a defeat at Torquay would make it four on the spin and equal Boothroyd’s worst run as Cobblers manager, the future remains bright.

The score on the day of Jacobs’ arrival was Torquay 3 Northampton 0, but everybody remembers his performance first and the scoreline second.

The long game.