Richards insists Cobblers can do more than just make up the numbers
Skipper Marc Richards says this season is going to be one of consolidation for the Cobblers - but he has promised the supporters that he and his team won't just '˜be making up the numbers' in Sky Bet League One.
Richards is now entering the final season of the three-year deal he signed when rejoining the club from Chesterfield in the summer of 2014,and it is fair to say his two years at the club so far have been a success.
His first season saw the team challenge for the play-offs before falling away late in the campaign, and then his second season was one that dreams were made of, with the Cobblers winning league two by 13 points.
And Richards is determined that his third season as captain of the good ship Cobblers will be another of progression, he’s just not going to make any promises how dramatic that progression will be.
“Moving up a level we have to assess the situation a little bit more than we did last year,” said Richards, who made it clear when I interviewed him this time last summer that only promotion would do.
“The year I signed was about getting the club back on track, because of the way the team ended up the season before by just scraping through and not getting relegated.
“It has been steady progress since then, and this is another stepping stone now.
“We have to consolidate, and making sure we stay in the league has to be a priority, but at the same time we don’t just want to be making up the numbers.
“I wouldn’t want to be at the club if people said to me ‘the club just wants to be an average team in league one’. Would you want to be a part of that?
“I want to be part of a team that is pushing for things, and I am sure every one of those lads in the changing room will be thinking exactly the same.”
Any Cobblers player or supporter looking for inspiration of what can be achieved need look no further than Burton Albion.
In 2015 they won league two, and 12 months later were promoted to the Championship, and although Richards isn’t going to start saying the Cobblers are going to do the same, he isn’t dismissing the chance altogether either.
“There have been many teams in the past that have shown it can be done,” said the Town skipper.
“Burton were maybe one of the smallest clubs in that division last season, and look what they did? it was unbelievable.
“I think that was just down to hard work and being well organised, not to mention the fact they had some quality players as well, just like we have in our dressing room.
“There is no reason why we can’t do something like that.”
And he added: “Everybody is proud of what we achieved last season, but we have got it out of our system now.
“We have had a good summer, we went away together and enjoyed a few days in a different environment which I thought was good, but that has gone now.
“The lads are fully focused on league one, and that is a league two trophy we won.
“Ultimately we want to be winning a league one trophy, but we know that is going to be a big ask.”
Richards is one of a clutch of Cobblers players that have played at league one level before, and he is warning his team-mates that haven’t that it can be an unforgiving environment.
“The top teams in league one, will more than likely be ex-Championship teams, so you are going to be playing against Championship-class players,” he said.
“There are going to be a lot of players in the dressing room who haven’t played that level, but they deserve to be there and deserve to go out and perform.
“I think teams will set up more defensive, they will be hard to break down, so it is going to be a case of being patient on the ball.
“Maybe last season we were a little bit more direct, getting the ball forward and playing in the right areas, but I think a key thing for us this season is going to be patience, in defence and attack.
“Also, whereas mistakes were made last season and you might not have got punished, at this level you are going to get strikers like Billy Sharp who has played at a very good level, and he will punish you.
“We are going to have to be on the ball.”