It was a surreal night at Sixfields last Tuesday, and not because we were beaten in the league for the first time this season. It was that we were playing Coventry City, not Northampton Town, although with most of the branding around the ground in Cobblers claret it felt like we were playing Northampton until the opposition came out in sky blue.
The atmosphere was strange too. Only two of the stands are opened so it is like watching a reserves game at times, and means there are a few hold-ups in play as it takes a while to retrieve the ball from the empty stands. It was the third time this season we’ve played Coventry having already beaten them in the Capital One Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy. This time, however, the Sky Blues were deserved 3-1 winners.
It was a little strange seeing the lads so despondent after a game as they traipsed past me in the tunnel. The mood lightened on the way home and by the time we made it back to Leyton it was more like normal. It’s all hands on deck when the coach gets back as the players and staff all muck in to help Ada, the kit man. It was left for me to take the medical team’s crutches as the lads won’t touch them, fearing bad luck.
The gaffer often says: “We don’t have any energy sappers in this club,” and, walking in on Thursday, you’d never have noticed we’d suffered a defeat. The players had the Wednesday off as normal and a couple of them used the day to work on their coaching badges. There’s a concern amongst some of the players as to what their long-term future holds, especially as coaching isn’t a career option that appeals to everyone. They’ve seen several former team-mates and friends left without a club, having been made out of contract in the summer, such as Jon-Paul McGovern, the former Carlisle United midfielder, who has since opened a tea shop in his native Scotland.
The players’ union, the PFA, seems committed to tackling this issue. Lee Butcher, our former goalkeeper, was in on Thursday and filled me in on how they’ve helped him out recently. Butch was our young player of the year in 2012, but knee injury left him sidelined for over a year and his contract was not renewed.
Butch is a popular figure and still pops in to train occasionally with us while he pursues a part-time career with Welling in the Conference. He hopes to make it back into the professional game, but in the meantime he’s enrolled on a PFA course that provides training for a career in the railway industry should things not work out for him.
It was good to see the lads bounce back at the weekend, beating Rotherham at home to extend our lead at the top of the table. That meant we were the highest-placed team in the FA Cup draw on Sunday – with TV featuring our number alongside clubs like Wolves. Our No 21 was drawn at home to non-league Southport. Before that we have the small matter of a top-three clash at Peterborough United on Saturday.