Curle explains McWilliams' turnaround from outsider to Cobblers regular
Cobblers boss Keith Curle has explained why Shaun McWilliams has gone from outcast to regular starter after the midfielder's man of the match display against Crawley Town on Saturday.
McWilliams started just two of Town's final 13 matches last season - admittedly in part due to injury - and looked to have slipped further down the pecking order after Curle signed Chris Lines, Ryan Watson and Alan McCormack in the summer.
The 21-year-old was only on the bench for the first two games of this season but injuries to his midfield rivals presented an opportunity in the team and he grabbed it with both hands.
He's started all 11 games since, culminating in Saturday's outstanding performance against Crawley when he scored his first goal for the club with a well-taken finish from Sam Hoskins' cross.
It has been quite the turnaround for the academy-product and hometown boy, and explaining the reasons for it, Curle said: "I think I spoke a lot about the environment last season and in my opinion I didn't think it was the right environment for him.
"This season he's in an environment where players are putting more demands on Shauny and they've got an understanding now of what he's able to do.
"Players within the changing room are more demanding and they're encouraging him to get forward and encouraging him to outrun his opposition.
"He's on one of the development programmes we've got in place and he's learning, he's developing and he's enjoying the environment that we've created."
McWilliams' goal on Saturday capped a fine individual performance and, after two up-and-down seasons, he'll be hoping it's the moment that he finally nails down a starting place once and for all, even when the likes of McCormack and Watson return.
Curle added: "It was an excellent goal - we've been encouraging him to get into those areas because any midfield player arriving into the box can be dangerous, even if it's second phase.
"It was a great finish from the lad and he was probably glad it was on his left foot because he usually spoons that one!
"He had great energy levels, a great willingness to learn and a good attitude. He was rewarded with his goal on Saturday and you saw from his celebration that he enjoyed it and hopefully there's more to come."