Crooks happy '˜to do a job' on the left-wing as he plays down knee concerns
Matt Crooks says he's willing to do a job for the team, even if it means playing out on the left-wing.
Crooks arrived at Sixfields with the reputation of a deep-lying midfield player but, having initially played there under Justin Edinburgh, he’s since been moved further forward.
With John-Joe O’Toole out injured, new manager Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink earmarked the number 10 role for the 23-year-old former Rangers man and that decision paid dividends when Crooks scored three goals in his first three games in that position.
But after six weeks out with a knee injury, in recent weeks Crooks has been forced to play in an even more unnatural position, this time out on the left wing.
The imbalanced, lopsided nature of Town’s squad has left them distinctly short of natural wide men and with arguably their only out-and-out winger Daniel Powell currently injured, Hasselbaink’s been left with no option but to put square pegs in round holes.
As well as Crooks, Dean Bowditch, Billy Waters and even Alex Revell have also been used on the wing this season, and Shaun McWilliams was the latest to play there in Saturday’s goalless draw with Bury.
“It’s a bit odd,” admitted Crooks. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 6ft 5in winger before! But I’m just trying to do a job for the team.
“Obviously it’s not my preferred position but I’m learning, I’m still young and learning different positions is a plus.
“The gaffer and Dean (Austin), the assistant, are helping me playing in that position. It’s not where I’m used to playing but it’s needs must at the moment.”
There was some concern over Crooks’ fitness after Saturday’s game with Hasselbaink revealing the midfielder had played through the pain barrier against Bury having experienced discomfort in his knee in training.
Crooks suffered a knee injury for Scunthorpe at the end of last season and also missed a large chunk of the current term with a similar problem, but he played down any fresh fears.
“It’s all right and I’ll be fine,” he said. “I just want to play, if it hurts a little bit then so be it – I just want to play football and I’ll be fine!”
Next on the horizon for the Cobblers is Saturday’s Checkatrade Trophy tie at Fratton Park.
Town take on Portsmouth in the first knock-out round and Crooks is hopeful they can build on last weekend’s improved display against Bury with another positive showing, only this time with a better outcome.
He added: “It’s a chance to get to Wembley. Once you get passed the first stage, you might as well go for it. And if we take it to penalties, we’re going to win!
“It was a better performance (on Saturday). We’ve not lost, which is good, and we’ve kept a clean sheet as well, and I think it was important not to lose.
“We’ve got to make sure that, if we can’t win, we at least get a point and that gives us something to build on and hopefully the momentum picks up again.”