When Scott Pollock scored his first senior goal for the Cobblers at Carlisle United in October 2019, he seemed primed to follow Shaun McWilliams' path and make the journey all the way from academy youngster to first-team regular.
The 20-year-old, who famously made his name with Hashtag United, created history by becoming the first player from Northampton's football & education programme to play for the senior side when debuting for the Cobblers as a 17-year-old at Cambridge in 2018.
He made a further four appearances that season and then another 18 the following campaign before the pandemic struck. At that point, the sky was the limit for the technically-gifted teenager.
But a groin injury sustained in the summer of 2020 put the brakes on things. The injury at first did not seem too serious but a misdiagnosis followed by eight hours of surgery and then several setbacks in his recovery meant he missed the whole of the 2020/2021 campaign.
In total, Pollock did not play any football for 16 months before finally returning for Town's opening friendly earlier this summer, but even then, his luck had not completely turned. He caught COVID in July and had to miss a large chunk of pre-season.
"It's been a complete nightmare," said Pollock. "For the first three months they didn't even find I had a tear in it so I was essentially doing three months rehab for nothing.
"I then got a second opinion and went to see a specialist and found out it was a tear. He compared the two and he said he wasn't sure how they missed it! So that was a bit of hard luck.
"I then had the surgery straightaway and I was told it would be eight to 10 weeks but it turned out to be about 16 weeks! It was just setback after setback.
"But I always like to stay positive so I didn't let it impact me too much and I kept myself mentally ready and I came back for pre-season in good shape.
"I was unlucky with the COVID situation but I'm coming back now and I'm feeling good and I just want to play football again. Hopefully that's the one big one in my career out of the way!"
During such difficult times you need good people around you, and thankfully in Pollock's situation, that was the case.
"My family really supported me, especially my mum, giving me lifts down at 5am for surgery and stuff like that," he explained. "I have a good group around me and they keep me motivated and were always by my side, staying down in London while I had eight hours of surgery.
"Staff at the club also helped with Nacho and Pablo. There was a lot of hard work from them and they were probably stressing more than me about what was wrong and why stuff wasn't working.
"In my mind I was a bit annoyed, thinking why this isn't working and why it's not getting better, but I know they were doing everything they could so full respect to them.
"Ash has now come in as the fitness coach and he's pushed me at the end of last season to get back and get match sharp so I'm very grateful to my family and the staff here."
The surgery was not guaranteed to be a success either, as Pollock adds: "Obviously there's always risks involved because the surgeon basically tore part of it and put it back together, but there was a chance that it wouldn't come back as strong.
"I still had to build that up and I'm still building it up now so there's lots of hard work to do, but I can build on Tuesday's game and will do extra work in training if I need to.
"I'm also still recovering from COVID which was about a month ago so with that plus the injury I'm still trying to get my match fitness back to where I know it can be, but I felt sharp and it was good to get through 90 minutes."
Almost two years on from netting at Carlisle, Pollock was back on the scoresheet when he headed home an equaliser against Forest Green Rovers in the EFL Trophy on Tuesday.
"I'm really pleased," he continued. "That's what I like to do - get in the box and score, although surprisingly this one was a header for a change! I actually saw a picture on Twitter after the game and I didn't realise I was that far back! But I don't get many headers so I'm glad that one went in.
"That Carlisle goal feels like absolutely ages ago. It's been really tough so I'm glad to take the opportunity when it comes. It's difficult for Jon to give out many opportunities because we have such a strong, competitive squad this season so I'm pleased to take my chance."
And if his header wasn't enough, Pollock tucked away the decisive penalty as Cobblers claimed the extra bonus point.
He added: "Jon knows I was on pens with the youth team under him so I think he knows I have the confidence to take one.
"I said to him I want to take one and he knew from our youth team days that he can trust me."