Chronicle & Echo football writer Jefferson Lake will clip his pen into his jacket pocket for the final time this Saturday after 10 years of covering the Cobblers.
The match against Luton Town at Sixfields will be the last one that Jefferson reports on for the Chron, as he prepares to head off for pastures new.
Players, managers, directors, chairmen, staff, even badges and club colours, come and go, but the fans are always thereJefferson Lake
It has been a decade packed full of incident on and off the pitch since Jefferson started the job in January, 2005, with a promotion, a league one relegation, a Wembley play-off final appearance and a few too many league two relegation scares thrown in.
Jefferson has cast his eye over and reported on around 600 games for the paper during his stint as the ‘Cobblers writer’, and here he reveals five things that he has learned while covering Northampton Town FC.
1 - You can never win with the player ratings: The only thing the players will always criticise you for are the marks out of 10 you give them for every game. And it is also the most consistent thing supporters will disagree with you on. Go too high and you’re seen as being too close to the players, go too low and you’re too harsh (and also likely to upset anyone on the playing staff with a fragile ego).
2 - Loan players almost always say the same things: As a general rule, every loan signing is at Sixfields to ‘play some games, build some fitness and see how it goes’ and most of them ‘know a couple of the lads’ in the dressing room already. The exception to this rule came very early during my tenure, when I asked Daniel Jones if he’d be keen on making his move from Wolves to Northampton permanent, to which he replied ‘yes’. A day after running the story I was contacted by a family member who assured me he had no such intentions. A lesson was duly learned.
3 - Twitter changed everything: I opened my Twitter account in February 2009, but it only really kicked into life the following summer. In those days I didn’t even have data allowance on my mobile phone so would text the line-ups of the Cobblers sides at various pre-season friendlies to a generic number, where they would be posted to my account. Fast-forward six years and Twitter is the first port of call for football reporting - any incident in any game is logged on Twitter first and noted in the match report second. It is now an essential tool for journalists, whether it be to gauge public opinion on a subject or to directly source interviews with players. It is the single biggest game changer in the industry in the past 10 years.
4 - A decade on, we’re pretty much back where we started: I was a single man when I started covering the Cobblers and today I’m married with two children, but the football club remains in the fourth tier of English football, right back where it was in January 2005. However, there has finally been some progress on the redevelopment front (albeit progress hampered by delays) and the club does have a manager who is a progressive and has a plan for the structure he wants to implement off the field.
5 - The most important part of the club is the supporters: When you cover a football team you are essentially a man without a country. During the pre-season training camp in Scotland last summer I was asked by Chris Wilder, as the group began to split into two, ‘are you with the players or with the staff?’ The correct answer is of course that you’re with neither. And when I went on the train to Dagenham last season with the ‘Gavin It Large’ supporters movement, I didn’t feel like a fan either. From this unique vantage point of being completely objective I have learned that the fans are everything to a football club. Players, managers, directors, chairmen, staff, even badges and club colours, come and go, but the fans are always there. They are its only constant and always will be. They should never be taken for granted.