MARC RICHARDS Q&A: Town's title-winning skipper on his Sixfields return with Cambridge, being reunited with Colin Calderwood, coaching the Cobblers kids and more...
There aren't many Cobblers skippers who can lay claim to have lifted silverware in the club's long history... indeed, you can count them on the fingers of one hand.
There was Ray Warburton who had the pleasure of lifting the play-off trophy at a sun-soaked Wembley in 1997, and on top of that there have been three title wins.
Theo Foley led Town to the division three championship in 1963, Trevor Morley skippered Graham Carr's rampaging division four winners in 1987, and Marc Richards was the man at the helm when Chris Wilder's class of 2016 romped to title glory.
It is certainly a select group, and ensures that the return of Richards with Cambridge United this weekend is going to be a special occasion for the player.
'Rico' enjoyed two spells with the Cobblers, from 2003-2005 and then 2014-2018, scoring 63 goals in the process.
In all, Richards made 145 starts and 65 substitute appearances for the club, helping the team to two play-off semi-finals as well as that memorable title triumph.
The striker is set to step out on the Sixfields turf for the first time since he was allowed to leave the club in January, 2018, with then manager Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink deeming him surplus to requirements.
After a spell at Swindon Town, Richards is now leading the line at Cambridge United, who are Saturday's visitors to the PTS Academy Stadium.
Ahead of the big game, Chron sports editor Jeremy Casey caught up with Richards for a chat, and get the player's thoughts on, among other things, his Sixfields return, the reception he is hoping to get from the Town supporters, being reunited with former Cobblers boss Colin Calderwood at the Abbey Stadium, and how he is getting on in his coaching role in the Cobblers Academy.
Oh, and whether or not he will celebrate if he scores against his former club this weekend...
How did the move to Cambridge come about in the summer?
"It was a little bit random to be fair, because I had spoken to Colin Calderwood really early in the summer, and then things went a little bit cold for a while.
"Then, coming towards the end of pre-season, he called me on the Monday and invited me to go down there, for me to have a look at the club, and for the club to have a look at myself, almost to go and prove my fitness as well.
"I took him up on the offer, which I was grateful for, and thankfully I managed to get something sorted for the start of the season."
It all seems to be going well for you?
"Yeah, first and foremost I am playing football which is great, because I ended last season not playing too many games after Christmas (at Swindon), which was really frustrating and I found it really hard to deal with.
"Going from a starter to a bit-part player, it's never something that players enjoy, and anyone who is in the game will know that you want to go and earn your money at the weekend.
"That is where our meat and drink is, going into a matchday scenario, and I just felt like towards the end of my time at Swindon I was not wanted, and it was time for me to move on."
You are 37 now Marc, so are you still feeling good? Still plenty of energy and life in the legs?
"Yes, I feel really good considering my age. I have managed to look after myself over the past few years, which I think has helped me to have a prolonged career.
"It is something you have to take a serious thought process to, certainly when you get over 30 you can't just eat and drink whatever you want.
"I have tried to make sure that I eat and drink properly, and lead my life as best I can, because as you say I am no spring chicken any more, and every moment I get on the pitch now I greatly appreciate.
"I have had injury worries in the past, and touch wood I don't pick up any more, but it is part and parcel of football.
"If I can steer clear of the injury side of things, then there is no reason why I can't carry on playing for two or three more seasons yet."
You played under Colin Calderwood in your first spell at the Cobblers, so is it good to be back working with him again at Cambridge United?
"I really like Colin as a person, and as a manager. I have previous history with him, having two successful seasons at Northampton where we made the play-offs.
"I knew what his teams were about, and I was excited to join the squad when he invited me down for a couple of days.
"The lads at Cambridge have really made me feel welcome, and they have gone from a team that was struggling to avoid relegation last season, to a team that is possibly looking at the play-offs and above.
"So that just shows you the type of person and manager that Colin is, he likes his team to attack and create chances, but also he likes to keep clean sheets as he was a centre-half."
Before we go on to Saturday's game, you are in the strange position of having a foot in both camps, as away from being a player you are a coach at the Cobblers academy. How is that going?
"I work with the age-groups between the under-13s, 14s, 15s and 16s, so it's Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights, and then match day on a Sunday.
"So that tends to take up a lot of my spare time at the moment, and the rest days have certainly gone out of the window!
"But it is part of my learning curve as a coach, and it is something I am looking to do when I retire from playing, although hopefully that is not any time soon.
"I am thankful to the club for giving me the opportunity to work with such good coaches as we have in the academy, the likes of Gary Mills, Mark Collier, Shaun Carey and Jon Brady.
"They have been coaching for a number of years, I have been involved for a couple of seasons, and it is a completely different ball game.
"But it is a part of learning, it's a great experience, and I really enjoy it."
Saturday is set to be the first time you will have been back to play at the PTS since you left the club as a player, are you looking forward to it?
"It is the fixture that I looked for when the fixtures came out, 'when is the Cobblers game, and where's it at?'
"It is definitely one I kept my eye out for and I am really looking forward to it, and if I can get place in the starting team, and then obviously try and score a goal at the same time, it would be brilliant.
"I am looking forward to going back because I left quite abruptly, and I didn't really get a chance to say thanks to the people that had shown me a lot of support over my two spells at the club.
"It will be nice to see a lot of faces that I know and recognise as well, so I am looking forward to it."
Are you hoping to get a good reception from the Cobblers fans?
"You know what, I never had any grumbles with the fans, even in the dark days when I maybe went a few games without scoring a goal.
"It was never a problem for them, because they could see the work ethic that I put into games, as well as scoring goals.
"But if you are not scoring goals, you have to be seen to be working hard, and I always tried to do my best for the club, and there was never a game or a training session where that changed.
"Sometimes you go through spells in your career where you start doubting yourself, and they certainly kept the faith in me."
Also, you are one of a rare breed of Cobblers skipper who actually got to lift a trophy...
"ye, that is the highlight of my career, without a doubt.
"I was so proud of what we achieved that season, under the circumstances of how the season went, and to now look back at that, it is a very fond memory that I have in my footballing career."
On to Saturday, and it's serious business for both teams with three points up for grabs. The Cobblers and Cambridge met recently in the leasing.com Trophy, so you have seen each other up close, but what do you make of the season so far for Northampton?
"Northampton's season has been very stop-start, like ours has been.
"You pick up a really good win, and then the problem seems to be backing that win up with another good win.
"It is very much like us at the moment, as we seem to be doing very well against the teams above us, but then really letting ourselves down against teams that are in and around us, or below us.
"For us and Northampton it's about finding that consistency, to give ourselves the best opportunity to really go and stake a claim for a promotion push.
"I think it will be a good game on Saturday. It's a bit of a local derby, we will bring a lot of fans to Northampton, and I am hoping the atmosphere will be a good one, I'm sure it will be, and I'm hoping it will be a good match."
So, finally, I have to ask. The fashion for players now who score against former clubs is not to celebrate, but if you did score a goal on Saturday, would you celebrate it?
"(Laughing...) You'll have the wait until Saturday!"