Boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink admits he has been taken aback by the ‘enormous expectations’ at the Cobblers - but he is happy that is the case.
The Dutchman is only three months into his reign at Sixfields, but has already experienced the full gamut of emotions the job entails.
There was the initial high of wins in his first two matches in charge, then a dip in form, that reached its nadir when the Cobblers were thrashed 6-0 at home by Bristol Rovers.
Impressively, that was turned around and was followed an encouraging six-match unbeaten run that saw the team climb out of the Sky Bet League One relegation zone, and had the club’s supporters dreaming of better things to come.
But how quickly things have changed again!
Three defeats and a draw in Town’s past four games, with no goals scored in more than 400 minutes of play, has seen the more glass half-empty sections of the club’s followers find their voice again.
The expectation is good, and I want to be at a club that has ambition, and I want to be with fans that have ambition... I am happy that we have a club and fans like that, but to improve we need the fans with us, they are the most important ingredient at the clubCobblers boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
That mood of frustration among sections of the support culminated in the team being booed off by a minority at the end of last Saturday’s Sky Bet League One clash with Bury, with the team having to settle for a 0-0 draw against the rock-bottom Shakers.
It was a reaction that stunned Hasselbaink, who was quick to register his surprise and disappointment at the negative response in the post-match interviews - especially as he felt the team played well.
In this week’s chat with the media ahead of Saturday’s Checkatrade Trophy trip to Portsmouth, Hasselbaink reiterated that feelin.
But he was also quick to make it clear he understands why supporters do get frustrated and want to show it, before outlining how important he feels a postive fanbase is going to be as the club tries to progress.
“I was very happy with the performance, not with the result, but with the performance on Saturday,” said Hasselbaink.
“I look at performances, and I want us to perform. If we do that week in, week out, then we will win more matches than we lose.
“That is what I am looking at, and what the fans need to understand.
“I understand the fans, that it is frustrating that we are not scoring as much as we would like to score, I understand that so don’t get me wrong.
“It is an entertaining game, and we want to score, but also we don’t want to be too open and let too many goals in.
“I thought our football was very good on Saturday, and in that aspect I haven’t changed my mind.
“I am with the fans, but we have to understand that this is the second year we are in league one, and league one is changing.
“It is very, very competitive, the margins are very small, all the teams are very, very good, and we need to establish ourselves first as a proper league one team.
“We have to find a proper way to play, getting an identity, and if you go through our team there is some league one experience there, but not that much.
“We are learning, we are improving, and we need to keep on improving and keep on working, and it is a process for us, and also the club.
“We want the club to grow, we want to grow with the fans, and we want everybody to be on that journey.
“That journey is at times going to be a bumpy ride, but hopefully we can progress it and it is going to be a magnificent journey.
“When you are building a wall or a house, you start with the foundations and that is what we are trying to do, and hopefully we can get it right.”
Hasselbaink was then asked what he had found most difficult to deal with in his short time at the club.
“The expectations are enormous,” he answered, wide-eyed.
“And that is good and I don’t mind that, but it has to be realistic.
“We want to get there, and my expectations are high also, but it cannot go from one day to another.
“We start crawling first, then walking, then running and then sprinting.
“The expectation is good, and I want to be at a club that has ambition, and I want to be with fans that have ambition.
“I am not the kind of person that will say we are 10th, or we are 15th, and that is okay for us, never.
“The day that I do that then I am going to stop.
“I am happy that we have a club and fans like that, but to improve we need the fans with us, they are the most important ingredient at the club.
“When the fans are with us then they get so much more out of the players, they are our 12th man, and that is what we want.”
Hasselbaink has of course managed at league one level before, although not for a lengthy spell.
He was in charge at Burton Albion for the start of the 2015/16 season, winning 13 of 20 league matches played, leaving the Brewers on course for a second successive promotion before he left to take over at Queens Park Rangers.
So, has league one changed much in the past two years?
Hasselbaink believes it has - and that it has got even stronger.
“League one is getting better,” said the Cobblers boss. “You have more teams now that are keeping the ball on the deck, or trying to.
“It is less about the second balls, and you have more managers who are tactically screwed on, and you have better players.
“The money is getting bigger, the budgets are getting bigger in league one, so you are getting better players in there.
“Players are happy to drop a league, because they are still earning the same kind of money, so we need to try to be competitive as well, and see how we can keep our best players.”