Ricky Holmes is looking forward to his Sixfields return with Charlton Athletic, but has had a dig at his former club for getting ‘rid of all my mates’.
Holmes will be back at Sixfields for the first time on Saturday since being sold to the Addicks last summer and he is relishing the chance to go back to his old stomping ground, although he admits to being surprised at how few of his former Town team-mates are still at the club.
The 29-year-old was a big part of the Cobblers’ Sky Bet League Two title winning team of last season, and has great memories of his 18 months at the club, but he is still shaking his head at how the team built by Chris Wilder has been allowed to break up.
And he is pointing the finger firmly in Rob Page’s direction for that.
“This was one of the first fixtures I looked for, and obviously I have fond memories of last season, and the season before when I went there on loan and then signed a permanent deal,” said Holmes.
“I hardly ever lost a game there to be honest, and everything seemed to fall into place.
I think the new manager, Rob Page, went down a different route, wanted his own identity, and got rid of all my matesFormer Cobblers winger Ricky Holmes
“Winning promotion in professional football, not many people get to do that, and I look forward to going back.”
Asked about meeting up with some familiar faces, Holmes said: “To be honest, the squad surprisingly got completely torn apart by the management change.
“I think the new manager, Rob Page, went down a different route, wanted his own identity, and got rid of all my mates.
“We were a close group, and I think that got us success, definitely.
“We are still in a WhatsApp group together, we still speak every day, and they are a great bunch of lads, but it has all changed there and there’s not many lads left in the changing room.”
To be fair to Page, Nicky Adams left the Cobblers before the Welshman even got the job, and Holmes and Danny Rose were gone before he had found his way to his office. He wanted to keep them both.
Decisions on loan players John Marquis, James Collins and Luke Prosser were also made before Page replaced Wilder, while others such as Jason Taylor and Ryan Cresswell were deemed surplus to requirements.
The mid-season departures of Joel Byrom and Lawson D’Ath, neither of whom were given a real chance by Page, still grate with supporters, but despite what he says there will still be more than a sprinkling of Holmes’s old team-mates in the home squad when he walks out on the Sixfields turf.
Adam Smith, Zander Diamond, Dave Buchanan, John-Joe O’Toole, Marc Richards, Rod McDonald and Brendan Moloney were all regulars last season, and are still here, as is the injured Sam Hoskins.
The former Portsmouth man was asked what was so special about the Cobblers team of last season, and he said: “Team morale was unbelievable.
“It was a team of men, didn’t know when we were beaten. We went 1-0 down a few times and pulled it back, and obviously the manager was exceptional, because he is doing it again at Sheffield United.
“It just seemed to click, it seemed to work, and we fought for each other.”
Charlton arrive at Sixfields just two places and two points above the Cobblers, without a win in their past seven games, having lost four of their past five, and on the back of a 4-3 midweek defeat at Shrewsbury - where Holmes scored a superb hat-trick.
Holmes knows it is a huge game for both teams, and said he and his Addicks team-mates will be positive.
“We have to go into every game looking to win it, and I think you’ll see that from Tuesday night we are scoring goals away from home, but unfortunately we’re not getting results,” he said.
“As a unit, you can’t blame the back four or the goalkeeper, it is us as a unit, and they broke on us and we gave away sloppy goals.
“We are making mistakes and we are getting punished at the moment, we need to stop that.
“We will go to Northampton, we will look to win , and the way I look at it is it’s a six-pointer.”