Alec Swann – Don’t be surprised by the Cobblers’ troubles

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
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Those who follow football in the county will have noticed that Northampton Town aren’t having the best time of it.

A meagre eight points have been collected from 10 outings in League Two, with just two victories, and the forays into both the Capital One Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy ended at the first hurdle.

In any shape or form, and even for those who don the rose-tinted glasses and see little wrong at the club they support, this represents a desperately poor start to the campaign and when you factor in what happened last season, it only paints an even bleaker picture.

But I fail to see why anybody is surprised.

Let’s apply some context here.

The Cobblers ply their trade in the fourth tier of English professional football with three higher levels being, it would stand to reason, of a higher standard.

That means there are 68 clubs in higher leagues operating in the same industry and don’t forget the 23 in their division.

Football as a profession is one that operates, almost permanently in a state of flux, especially with regard to those who do the playing.

The mobility of labour, of players changing clubs, is a constant theme at all levels with players staying put at any one club for any length of time an exception rather than the norm.

This, in turn, makes the concept of building a team a tricky one to quantify because the personnel change so frequently.

Managerial switches are a factor that can’t be discounted either as this leads to even more of the aforementioned alterations and so on and so on.

So back to the Cobblers.

They exist at a level where any young players who are brought through, ie, Michael Jacobs, and flourish will inevitably want to move on to a higher standard to futher their careers which is only natural and fully understandable.

This also applies to any player who excels as 75 per cent of the domestic game can offer employment at an enhanced standard as most professionals will want to better themselves given the opportunity.

And with a budget that can only stretch so far, they are forced to deal with a limited squad and loan signings to fill the breach, two more factors that count against developing any sort of continuity.

There is also the footballing mentality where players will move clubs for a few quid extra – one that exists right from the top down to the local non-league game – and this too pours cold water on any notion of stability.

Add all of this together while factoring in the position the Cobblers currently occupy and their poor fortunes make more sense.

To think they will be at the top of the league and challenging for promotion just because they did a few months ago is a touch fanciful and even more so as the trends mentioned are exaggerated the lower you go down the pyramid.

Come next season, there is every chance that the Cobblers, assuming they don’t drop out of the league, could be higher up the table again if the cards they are dealt fall favourably.

Just don’t take it as a given.