Before the second leg of Northampton’s playoff semi-final, in which they had to come from 2-0 down away at Cheltenham, manager Keith Curle played Arsenal’s victory over Liverpool to win the 1988/89 league title to his squad, in order to inspire their comeback.
It duly worked, so for the final Curle needed another team with a comeback story in order to fire his players up to face Exeter at Wembley.
There was only one choice in the end: them.
And it worked a treat, the Cobblers sashaying to a 4-0 victory, controlling the game pretty much from the off to secure a slightly unlikely promotion.
“The game that inspired us,” captain Charlie Goode told the Totally Football League Show, “we actually watched back the Cheltenham game. We watched little pieces of that, cut down. Just looking at the way we went about it that night – that inspired us, and we showed what we’re all about.
“I’d say we probably saved our best two performances of the season for the most important time. That Cheltenham game probably was a turning point because a lot of people wrote us off, but as a group of players we really did believe. After that game, winning that 3-0, I think a lot of people probably fancied us going into that final.
“Obviously, when you win a game like we did against Cheltenham, you just want to get straight back out there and continue and do it again, really. So I think in normal circumstances, it might have been a bit of a longer wait for the final. But this one paid off for us and we managed to get the job done on Monday.”
Northampton won’t win many prizes for a silky style of play, but Good thinks their reputation is slightly unfair.
“It’s not the prettiest football we play. We can get it down and play when we want to. We can be direct, but we like to feel we can mix up with when we can. We probably bullied Cheltenham and Exeter in those last two games and we gave a sort of false impression of ourself in that first leg, because that wasn’t us. We were a bit one dimensional and a bit too direct at times.”
Set-pieces are obviously a big part of Northampton’s approach, not least Goode’s long throws but he says their importance has perhaps been over-emphasised.
“We don’t practice it as much as you think. The day before a game is normally set pieces, shape – that’s the sort of thing we go over. But we go into detail, we have many different routines for each set piece and everyone knows their individual movements. The way we play, a very direct style, it’s a very important part of our game. And I’d say if we do one of a set piece wrong we definitely get told about it.”
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