It’s 7 March 2020 and we’re trudging away from Sixfields with our heads bowed, lamenting Sam Hoskins’ early red card, a home defeat to Mansfield and one of the worst spectacles of ‘football’ we’ve seen in the stadium’s twenty-five-year history. The Cobblers ended the day in seventh place in League Two and our biggest worry at the time was that our club might drop out of the playoffs. Little did we know.
Covid-19 came and tore the world apart, left families on their knees and, tragically caused hundreds of thousands of people to lose their lives. Suddenly, everything – football very much included – was put into perspective. At times it’s felt ridiculous to even think about when or if the season might start again. You start to get twinges of selfishness whenever you lament the fact that you can’t go and watch your team anymore.
I’ve learnt through all of this, though, that it’s actually OK to miss things. It’s as OK to miss football as it is for the next person to miss being able to meet a friend for coffee or hug a loved one. On the same scale, it’s completely OK to not miss football at all, to put it right on the back burner. It’s OK to feel anything at any time.
It’s why the podcast has been a weekly breath of fresh air over the last three months. We’ve been able to meet weekly, chatting to some of our heroes from the 2016 championship winning side, hearing stories that made us cry with laughter. We’ve been able to support one another on our WhatsApp group if one or two of us has been having a low day.
So what do things look like now we’re somewhere near the next page?
The Cobblers are suddenly in the playoffs and we’ve got a chance of actually winning promotion to League One…something that seemed nigh on impossible at some points this season.
But whatever the results over the next week or so, the club should not be defined by it. Whether we start next season in League One or League Two, I’m hoping that this whole experience brings us back to the levels of closeness we’ve not had to the club since that 2016 road trip to insanity under Wilder and Knill.
Because let’s be real about this – the club has been magnificent in this time.
Not a day goes by where we haven’t seen a new message to a lonely fan, a story about a member of staff going the extra mile, a phone call from Keith Curle brightening up a day or fans coming together online to reminisce about days gone by. The players have forgone their playoff bonuses, contributed to fans’ costs of having their faces in the crowd and taken part in zoom sessions with teams at all levels within the club.
What the pandemic and the lockdown has done is brought us all closer together in community with our club. And isn’t that what a football club should be, first and foremost?
We all have our stories of how we fell in love with the Cobblers. I can guarantee most don’t involve a rich owner or watching a game on TV, seeing us playing glorious, winning football. It likely involves an individual player, a moment of brilliance, an embrace with a loved one while celebrating a goal, a stale hot dog that for some reason makes you want to return. It’s the fact that everyone sat or stood around you wants the same thing and will be back the next week no matter what.
This is where our minds need to be next time we get to make that journey down the bank into Sixfields.
It all sound idealistic, I know, and I’ll likely be the first to moan when the first long ball drifts out of play on Thursday night. But the pride I have at being a Northampton Town fan, feeling like a part of the club once again, should override it pretty quickly.
To the everyone at the club – from Kelvin Thomas to Keith Curle to anyone I’ve emailed or had phone calls with over the last couple of months – thank you. To anyone reading this – thank you. To anyone who has listened to one of our podcasts – thank you. You’re all part of it.
You’re all part of something bigger than just football. You’re part of our club and whether it’s to Salford or to Sunderland come the 2020/21 season, we’ll hopefully now do it as a club that’s as united as it’s been for many a year.
Do come and join the podcast team on Thursday from 6:45pm on zoom for a free preview hosted by the pod team. Check out our social media on the night for links to join us – it should be a cracking way to see some familiar faces and to spread optimism before a ball is kicked.
Come on Cobblers!