Admittedly it’s a little way down the priority list at the moment, but we are left to wonder occasionally: what are players, managers and football clubs actually doing at the moment?
Northampton manager Keith Curle joined us on the Totally Football League Show this week, so we thought it would be a good time to ask exactly that. The answer, it seems, is forward planning.
“This is a time that we’ve been setting workloads for the recruitment staff,” said Curle. “I’m basically getting as much intelligence as I can do on some of our targets, would-be recruits, speaking to scouts, and basically trying to create portfolios for players that we think may be of interest as and when the football season restarts.
“This is an opportunity to spend more time at it. With every recruitment process, unfortunately they don’t all pay off, but sometimes that can be down to not having enough time, not getting enough intelligence on players.
“I think we’ve been very good with our recruitment policy because it’s not only about the ability [of the players]. We’ve tried to bring in the right characters into the football club with the right hunger and desire and ambition. I think that’s been probably the most pleasing part, the change in the characteristics and the dynamics of the changing room in a short period of time.
“When I came into the football club at I changed the recruitment department, trimmed down the scouting network. I’ve got a very good relationship with the head of recruitment, and I think it’s important that he’s somebody that I trust and got a good understanding of of what I’m looking for in the players we recruit.
“We set up a strategy whereby every scout from the football club, every coach that goes to games, we’ve got a grading system in place that is self evident and very individual to ourselves.
“It’s just a case of going through some of the highlights of players, or players that have been highlighted, and get as much information on those or the players [as possible], or the staff watching players and whatnot. We get feedback, gather it, then what I do is collate it all with the head of recruitment Simon Tracey.”
What of the players? Like most clubs, the Cobblers’ squad are not training together at the moment, but with football theoretically starting again at the beginning of May (even if that feels extremely optimistic at the moment), fitness levels must be maintained.
“We’ve divided the playing squad and the football staff into four groups,” says Curle. “So myself Colin West, Ronnie Jepson, and Dan Watson, the four football coaches, we keep in contact every two or three days with the players just for a general chitchat. Find out what they’ve been doing, what they’ve been up to. Find out what’s they’ve been doing physically, and also making sure mentally they’re still in a good place.
“I think the important thing is keeping them ticking over, but making sure that they are abiding by the guidelines that have been set by the government. If anyone’s struggling with certain aspects of it, then we’ve got the strength conditioning coach as well, who is also in daily contact.
“What I’ve been trying to do is to get the players to be accountable for what they do. So rather than sending plans out, we’re getting the players to inform him of what they’ve been doing and then him giving them guidance. So some of the players have been doing too much and other players obviously need to do a little bit more specific work.”
Who knows when the season will begin again, but what is the aim for Curle and Northampton – currently seventh, in the League Two playoff places – when it does?
“We need to maintain an upward curve. I think it’s quite evident when I first came in the football club, we weren’t in a place where we needed to be or wanted to be, or certainly where we should have been.
“I think we’ve shown good housekeeping, we’ve addressed the finances of the football club. The club is still going to lose money, but that’s money that is is accounted for by the chairman and the owners. We’ve reduced the wage budget and we’re operating in the top half of the table. At the minute we’re in the playoffs and our ambitions and aspirations for the football club is to continue that upward curve.”
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