Jon Brady reflects on Cobblers' season - what pleased him, what humbled him and what he learned

‘Some of the away days we had and the noise that came from the fans will stick in my head for a long time.’

By James Heneghan
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 12:20 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th May 2022, 12:38 pm
Jon Brady
Jon Brady

Regardless of how it all ended, there can be no question that Jon Brady’s first full season as an EFL manager was a resounding success.

Twelve months ago, and just days after relegation back to Sky Bet League Two had been confirmed, Brady was made Cobblers’ permanent manager and had the unenviable task of rebuilding the club from top to bottom.

He assembled a new coaching staff, effectively pieced together a whole new squad and drove significant changes behind the scenes, specifically to the way in which the club went about their recruitment.

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Very few, if any, had them down as genuine challengers for automatic promotion, but they stayed the course from the first game until the very last, denied only in the dying embers of the season and in the most unfortunate of circumstances.

Brady and his team could hardly have done any more, and not only has he succeeded on the pitch, he has given the club a new identity off it and forged a strong connection between players, staff and supporters.

Catching up with Brady earlier this week, he reflected on what was an impressive debut campaign in an EFL dugout.

"The biggest thing that pleased me was the way we brought together a group of players who really gelled and some of those individuals had their best seasons of their careers,” he said.

"We talked to the players about that after the last game and they felt the same way so it was really pleasing to grow those individuals and to connect those individuals together as a team and then to connect that team and the staff to the fans.

"We all felt together as one and that was the most amazing feeling. Some of the away days we had and the noise that came from the fans will stick in my head for a long time.

"Their enthusiasm and their willingness to drive us just felt fantastic.”

There was a special moment after the play-off second leg against Mansfield at Sixfields. Despite the pain of defeat, a large number of Cobblers fans stayed behind to chant Brady’s name and clap their team off.

"I asked the fans before the Mansfield game to really get behind us and roar us on and give us everything they had and I felt very disappointed that we didn't deliver for them,” Brady admitted.

"I felt our performance was everything the players could give but we didn't get the result that I believed we could get, whether that was down to just a bit of luck or a few decisions, but no matter how hard we tried, nothing went our way on the night.

"The effort the fans put in, I was hugely humbled by it and I was humbled by what happened after the game – I was just disappointed we couldn't give them the result that their support deserved."

Cobblers’ excellent campaign would have ended in a well-deserved promotion if not for freak events that unfolded 250 miles away in Bristol on the final day.

Nonetheless, they still exceeded all pre-season expectations and impressively so given Brady had never previously managed outside of non-league.

His only prior experience of first-team management was with Brackley Town, where he enjoyed great success, before moving into coaching the youth teams at Northampton.

So, were there any surprises?

"I had been in the youth team role for four years at this club and I watched quite a few other managers from afar so I was aware that League Two could be quite brutal,” Brady added.

"It didn't disappoint on that front! It's the physicality of the league and the relentlessness of the league from top to bottom and we spoke a lot about the fine margins.

"There was no difference between quite a few teams but it's just the consistency and you have to be on your game week in, week out to try and get results.

"You need your best players fit as well and we were hit by a lot of big injuries throughout the season, which I felt were quite tough on us. We lost some key players at key times but we still found ways to win.

"We lost Kion (Etete) halfway through the season, which was unfortunate, but we were grateful to have him and to develop him, and then had we not lost him, we might not have found Louis Appéré and that was a big bonus for as well. We have Louis on board with us now and we are delighted that he's ours.

"So all of those things considered, it's just how tough and how unrelenting the league is. It didn't give me any surprises but it definitely delivered to me what I thought it would be like.”

And did he ever question his own ability? "There might be a couple of things that I'm a bit more hardened to and more aware of but there's nothing in particular that will change my attitude massively.

"I know a few people might have doubted by ability from the start but I never once did and that's where I was confident in what we could do and what I could do and that's why there have been no real shocks."