Jefferson Lake’s Cobblers v Torquay preview: Focus on the tangible, not the emotional

One of football’s great strengths is its ability to evoke passion from even the most mild-mannered of people who have an interest in it.
Aidy BoothroydAidy Boothroyd
Aidy Boothroyd

Normally quite reserved people will find themselves convulsed into balls of rage or fits of ecstasy, depending on the actions of 11 professional sportsmen they do not know but whose club colours they are wearing.

But while this is all very interesting from an anthropological point of view, it does often cloud the issue when assessments are being made of teams, managers and players.

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Take the first three weeks of the Cobblers’ season for example - it certainly cannot be said that things have gone as anyone who is employed by the club would have hoped.

While a home loss to a team as talented at Milton Keynes Dons in a cup competition is fairly acceptable, away defeats at York and Southend - two steady sides but ones unlikely to trouble the top seven - are less palatable.

It is difficult to make a judgement on how the team played in either game because they were short-handed in both; although such mistakes are avoidable, the players involved are ultimately accountable when the blame game is played.

Still, the emotional response is one of despair, sackcloth and ashes, and ‘here we go again’, all reactions that the paying punters are fully entitled to.

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But break it down. If the Cobblers beat Torquay (which they really should), they will have played four games, and won two and lost two of them. That would give them a return of six points.

Last season, the first four games yielded five points - a win over Rotherham, draws with Rochdale and Southend and a loss at Plymouth - and so, in tangible terms, in ways that can actually be measured and are not purely based on emotion, the team will have progressed.

These are the criteria by which the team will ultimately be judged - by the supporters, the chairman and the manager himself, Aidy Boothroyd. If the team improves on what it did last season, it will have been a good year.

Measures of that improvement can only be made by comparing cold, hard facts and not by the emotional and often irrational reactions to individual results, some of which have bordered on the bizarrely extreme.

Of course, things will be completely different if the Cobblers don’t beat Torquay on Saturday. But that’s another discussion for another time.