Defender Zakuani hoping to be an instant hit at Sixfields
It takes a brave man to swap London Road for Sixfields, but Gabriel Zakuani should have little trouble winning over the Cobblers faithful if his all-action display against Queens Park Rangers is anything to go by.
Having made more than 200 appearances across two spells at Peterborough United, Zakuani left Posh when his contract expired in June, and Cobblers boss Rob Page wasted little time in luring the 30-year-old to Sixfields.
Zakuani had discussions with several clubs but opted for Northampton, and his tough-tackling, robust display in Tuesday’s friendly with QPR underlined why he was a man in demand.
“I spoke to quite a few managers but Rob was the one who caught my eye the most and I forgot about the rivalry (with Peterborough) and I wanted to do what’s best for my career,” said the Congolese international.
“I watched him when I was younger and he was a quality defender and leader and that’s what I see myself as.
“He likes the way I play and that gave me a lot of confidence and it was the move I wanted.”
Zakuani showed all his qualities on Tuesday when his speed, anticipation and strength helped keep QPR quiet for much of the game, only for a lapse in concentration to allow Nasser El-Kyayati to stroke home an 81st minute opener.
But Northampton rallied and earned themselves a share of the spoils through Alex Revell’s late stunner.
“We were all disappointed with the last couple of defeats we’ve had so we stepped it up against QPR and enjoyed it,” added Zakuani.
“They had plenty of the ball and the step up was noticeable because they made clever runs and you’ve got to be smart in what you do.
“You can’t go chasing because then they’ll pick you off but we kept our discipline and matched them in most areas.
“I’ve been in this league a long time and I think if we keep that same discipline I’m sure we’ll be alright.”
It hasn’t taken Zakuani long to settle into life as a Cobbler, and he said: “I feel like I’ve been here for a long time. The boys have been good to me from day one and when we went away to Loughborough there was a lot of team bonding.
“I feel like I’m a big part of the place already and I’ve enjoyed it so far. I’ve now played my first game in front of a home crowd and hopefully they can see what I’m about.”
Zander Diamond partnered Zakuani at the heart of Northampton’s defence on Tuesday and the two seemed to have already struck up a promising partnership.
Zakuani said: “We’re still working on it. It can always get better but I think we definitely showed we’re getting that understanding against QPR.
“We’re both good talkers so we help each other out a lot and that makes our games a lot easier.
“I’m really enjoying it so far. I’ve worked with Zander the last few days for the game against QPR and we’re getting to know one another and each other’s habits more and more and I think we complement each other quite well.
“All the centre-backs here are very capable as they showed last season, but I’m experienced at this level and I’ve played higher as well so I’m confident I can do my bit to show the gaffer that I should be playing.
“Either way I’ll be pushing everyone right until the end and I’m hoping I can do enough to start.”