'It just felt right' - Thrilled Marc Leonard reveals why he turned down other clubs to return to Cobblers
Having arrived from Brighton & Hove Albion as a relatively unknown quantity 12 months ago, the 21-year-old enjoyed a superb campaign with Northampton and was one of the outstanding central midfielders in League Two.
Dogged and tenacious out of possession and technically gifted on the ball, Leonard played 48 games in all competitions and started each of the final 17 league fixtures to play a pivotal role in helping Town clinch promotion.
Inevitably, his performances did not go unnoticed and a host of clubs were linked with him earlier in the summer – including a couple in the Championship – but he enjoyed his time at Sixfields so much that he was eager to return for another season.
"I'm really pleased to be back and I'm glad it got done in time for the game today,” said Leonard after Town’s 3-1 win over MK Dons in Saturday’s final pre-season friendly. “I'm really excited for the season ahead.
"I just think it came down to the ambition of the club and the management staff and the players that I worked under and played with previously. It was such an enjoyable season last year.
"It was also the pull of the manager and how badly he wanted me and how much he wants to help me develop here. We had a really good conversation and I spoke to all of the staff and after talking to other clubs and other managers, I got a feeling about coming back here. It just felt right.
"Obviously the club got promoted and we'll be playing at a higher level and that was important as well. It's a step up and for me that's perfect.”
Whilst some Premier League clubs dictate where their young players go out on loan, Brighton were happy to let Leonard decide his destination.
"I had quite a big say in where I went,” explained the Scot, who’s also signed a new two-year deal at the Seagulls. “I spoke to Brighton and a lot of it was based on what I thought. They obviously guide me but both parties felt this move would be beneficial so here I am and I'm really looking forward to getting going because I enjoyed it so much last season.
"A few of the lads have been badgering me all summer about coming back so it's nice to see everyone again. We kept in touch and that's made it very easy just to fit back in, and the reception I got from the supporters (against MK Dons) means so much to me.
"I loved it here last season and I gave it everything and I'm pleased that they appreciate it. It was a long season and those moments – winning promotion – will live with me forever.”
Leonard played an hour against MK Dons and picked up from where he left off with a classy performance in the middle of the park.
"It was a good workout,” he added. “I thought the team was really good especially in the first 30 minutes and we gelled together quickly and we dominated the game.
"MK Dons are a good side and they came back into it but I think we've got a good foundation for going into the first game of the season next weekend.”