12:32 28 June 2012
By Gareth Willsher
From 1897 to the present day
Northampton Town Football Club, nicknamed the Cobblers were founded on 6th March 1897, when a group of local school teachers got together with the well known local solicitor, AJ "Pat" Darnell in the Princess Royal Inn, Wellingborough Road, Northampton to form the Town's first professional football club. Problems were encountered before a ball was kicked, when the Rugby club objected to the club name; Northampton Football Club. Arbitration was sought at the Football Association and the club were to be called Northampton Town Football Club.
Northampton Town Football Club joined the Northants League (U.C.L.), and spent just two seasons there during which time they recouped their first transfer fee, £50 from Derby County for Frank (Wall) Howard, who was club's first professional player, and later became a gateman at the County Ground! The Cobblers won the Championship in only their second season. This was followed by a further two seasons in the Midland League, before joining the Southern League in the 1901-02 which saw the clubs heaviest defeat was recorded, 11-0 to Southampton, on a brighter note the F.A. Cup Proper was reached for the first time, a game which was lost 2-0 to League side Sheffield United in front of a lock-out crowd of 15,000, the gate receipts totalling £399.
National headlines were made in October 1902, when a 1-0 win was recorded over Portsmouth at Fratton Park, this was Portsmouth first ever defeat at Fratton Park, after an incredible 66 matches. The going was tough to start off with in the Southern League and the Cobblers twice finished bottom, mainly due to players being snapped up by league clubs, who were able to pay better wages.
During the 1904-05 season, Northampton used their first substitute in a friendly game against Port Vale. Len Benbow was injured, and permission was granted for him to be replaced by Herbert Chapman, who became the first ever Manager at the club, although on a Player/Manager basis. His appointment was certainly a wise one, with the contact had built up he was able to persuade many ex-professionals to join the club and was responsible for the club paying their first transfer fee, £400 to Stoke City for Welsh International Edwin Lloyd Davies who still has the record number of International caps won (12) and was the oldest player to play for the club (42). The transformation was incredible, within two years Northampton were champions of the Southern League (1908-09) and met Newcastle United in the Charity Shield, losing 2-0 at the Oval.
1909-10 saw the Cobblers achieve their two biggest wins in the Southern League, 11-1 against Southend United and 10-0 against Croydon Common, they went onto to finish 4th that season and followed that up by finishing Runners-up to Swindon Town in 1910-11.
October 1911 saw the Cobblers sign their first black player, Walter Tull from Tottenham Hotspur who incidentally was the leagues first black outfield player. During his first season he played as a forward and scored 9 goals from just 12 games, including 4 in a 5-0 win over Bristol Rovers. He went on to play 110 games for the club, mainly as a wing half, before he died in the second battle of the Somme in the first World War where he was Britain's first black army officer. On July 11th 1999, over eighty years after his death, an 8 foot high marble memorial was unveiled at Sixfields Stadium, the centrepiece for the Garden of Rest at Northampton Town Football Club.
By the start of the 1912-13 season Herbert Chapman had left Northampton for Leeds, he then went onto to Huddersfield Town, winning two league championships and setting them up for a third before joining Arsenal, where he again won two league championships before he died in 1934.
After the war and the resumption of Southern League football in 1919-20, the Cobblers conceded 103 goals which is the only season to date that the club have conceded over 100 goals, however re-election was avoided by three points and were ready to start life as a Football League club, joining Division Three (South). On Christmas day 1920 The Cobblers won 5-2 at Gillingham, the next away league win was not achieved until September 6th 1922, a 3-0 win at Gillingham (again!) a run of 33 away matches without a win. 1922-3 saw the club become a public company and 8,000 shares at £1 were released, a then record crowd of 18,123 was recorded for the Plymouth match on Boxing day and gate receipts for the first time exceeded £1,000.
1923-24 started with the club rasing £5,000 to build a stand with players tunnel underneath and also improved terracing was installed in the Hotel End. In 1924-25 and incredible an unenviable record was set when 9 penalties were missed during the course of the season, which also saw the formation of the Supporter Club. The following 1925-26 season witnessed the clubs first foreign transfer, ex-Scarborough player William Shaw was signed from Spanish side Barcelona, having scored 31 goals from 38 games the previous season.
1927/28 saw a record Division Three (South) victory, 10-0 against Walsall) which helped ensure that 102 league goals were scored that season finishing 2nd, behind Millwall. On Boxing day, there the club entertained Luton Town at the County Ground, and at half time were trailing 5-1, however the second half proved to be more successful for the home side who put five past their visitors to win the match 6-5. Spare a thought for Luton's Jimmy Reid, who despite scoring 4 goals still finished on the losing side. A new ground record was set for the F.A. Cup Third round replay with Sunderland, 21,148 turned up to see the Cobblers lose 3-0
Disaster occurred at the County Ground during December 1929, when a fire destroyed stands A, B and C, of which the damage was estimated at £5,000, only stand D was saved although this was charred. The source of the fire was thought to be in the away dressing room, the Cobblers had earlier entertained AFC Bournemouth reserves. The stand had been re-built by February 1930.
1932-33 created history when brothers Fred and Albert Dawes both scored in an 8-0 win over Newport County. The latter finished the season scoring 32 league goals, 5 FA Cup goals, and even scored all 4 in a 4-0 win over the Dutch National side whilst the club was on tour. In 1933-34 the free scoring Albert Dawes was sold to Crystal Palace for a then club record fee of £1,650, and the FA Cup Fifth round was reached for the first time courtesy of a Fourth round win away to Huddersfield Town who at the time were top of Division One, not bad for a mid table Division Three (South) side. The Cobblers finally bowed out to Preston North End 4-0 at Deepdale, setting a new ground record of 40,180.
New manager, Ex-England International Syd Puddefoot joined prior to the end of the 1934-35 season and helped the club win nine out of their remaining twelve fixtures. The following 1935-36 season, the club broke their record transfer fee when they bought James Bartram from Falkirk for £1,000. However, this was later offset by another record transfer fee received again from Crystal Palace, this time £3,000 for Fred Dawes, the brother of Albert who was transferred two seasons earlier.
In the three seasons prior to the breakout of World War II, the Cobblers finished 7th, 9th and 17th respectively in Division Three (South), in 1938 signed John Parris from Luton Town who was the first ever black player to play for Wales. In the final match prior to the War, the Cobblers travelled to Deans Court and lost 10-0, the clubs record League defeat. During the war the Cobblers had the record for the first transfer fee received during the hostilities when Bobby King was sold to Wolverhampton Wanderers for a substantial four-figure fee.
After the War, the club finished 13th in Division Three (South) with Archie Garrett scoring 26 league goals before joining Birmingham City for a then club record of £10,000 during the early part if the following 1947-48 season. A player who would go onto become the clubs all time leading scorer joined the club, his name was Jack English, the son of Jack English, former manager between 1931-35, as did a certain Mr Dave Bowen, who would go onto have a very long association with the Cobblers and also become the Manager of Wales.
In 1948-49, the club thankfully avoided re-election on goal difference, but the following 1949-50 season, the clubs fortunes had changed dramatically for the better and runners-up spot was achieved behind Notts County. The Cobblers also reached the 5th round of the FA Cup, creating new attendance records, firstly at the County Ground, when 23,209 were present in the Third round tie with Southampton and secondly 38,063 turned up at the Baseball Ground in Derby, where the home side ran out 4-2 winners. Cup success continued the following season when the Cobblers reached the 4th round, this time losing 3-2 away to Arsenal in front of a mammoth crowd of 72,408, the highest crowd that any Cobblers team has played in front of.
1952-53 Northampton Town Football Club finished 3rd in Division Three (South), just two points behind the winners, Bristol Rovers. The Cobblers scored 109 goals in the process.
1957-58 was The Cobblers last season in Division Three South, which also saw an amazing FA Cup third round 3-1 win at home to Arsenal, and then losing by the same scoreline to Liverpool at Anfield. The Cobblers finished the season 13th, just one place below the cut off point and were elected to Division Four.
However, the clubs stay in the Fourth Division only lasted for three seasons, the £7,000 re-arrival of Dave Bowen from Arsenal, in 1959 as Player Manager was to be the start of a truly remarkable decade. The Cobblers finished 3rd in Division Four in 1960-61 and were promoted to Division Three, incidentally, this was the season that club first had floodlights installed and also saw the first league encounters with local rivals Peterborough United.
1961-62 saw Laurie Brown transferred to Arsenal for £35,000 and the Cobblers finish 8th in Division Three with Cliff Holton scoring a club record of 36 league goals. Tommy Fowler played the last of his record breaking 552 games for the club in the 2-2 home draw with Lincoln City.
In 1962-63 The Cobblers were crowned champions of the Third Division scoring 109 goals. Five players reached double figures, the top scorer was Alec Ashworth with 25 league goals in just 30 matches, he was then transferred to Preston North End in the close season for an estimated £20,000. Frank Large joined the club in the March from QPR, beginning the first of three spells with club in which he scored 96 goals in just over 250 appearances.
1963-64, the Cobblers signed Bobby Hunt from Colchester United for £25,000 and finished 11th in Division Two. The following season saw Northampton Town Football Club finished Division two runners-up in 1964-65 by just one point from Champions, Newcastle United, Cobblers goalkeeper, Bryan Harvey saved seven penalties during the season, including two in one match against Southampton, which were taken by Terry Paine, England's penalty taker at the time.
1965-66 is the only season that the Cobblers have ever spent in the top flight of English football. A County Ground record of 24,523 supporters witnessed the penultimate home Division One fixture with Fulham which was lost 4-2 and relegation followed shortly to Division Two, which prompted Manchester City Manager Joe Mercer to state "The miracle of 1966 was not England winning the World Cup, but Northampton reaching Division One". Barry Lines made history by becoming first player to play and score in all four divisions for the same club. A new transfer record was set, when the club paid £27,000 to take Joe Broadfoot from Ipswich Town. Incidently, the Cobblers only double that season was against Aston Villa, and therefore as our paths have never crossed since then in the league, they are the only club that we have a 100% record against, Played 2, Won 2!
1966-67 was another season to end in relegation, this time to Division Three. It was hard to fathom out why the club was relegated, perhaps the twelve cartlidge operations played a large part. In 1967-68 the club just managed to avoid relegation to the Fourth Division, finishing 18th. By 1968-69 the cycle was complete and the Cobblers finished 21st, despite having an outside chance of promotion with 10 games to go, and were relegated to the basement division. Rising from top to bottom and back down again, just as quickly, all in the space of a decade.
In 1969-70 the Cobblers played a staggering nine matches in the F.A. Cup, which culminated in a Fifth Round 8-2 home thrashinng by Manchester United. The genius George Best scored a double hat-trick, coming off the back of a six week suspension!
For the first time since becoming a League side the club had to apply for re-election in 1971-72, thankfully they finished the most favoured club with 49 votes, closely followed by Crewe Alexandra and Stockport County with 46 votes. However, re-election had to be applied for again the following season when this time 43 votes were gained. A strange occurrence of the season saw the biggest gate of the season recorded for a match which did not involve the Cobblers, 11,451 turned up to Birmingham's Trevor Francis score the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win over Luton Town in the League Cup second round second replay!
1974-75, a star of the future is sold, after 200 games in the claret colours of the Cobblers, Liverpool buy Phil Neal for a then club record of £65,000, whilst playing in the same side of another future England International, a certain John Gregory.
1975-76, the Cobblers finished 2nd in Division Four without losing a home game, and were promoted to Division Three behind Champions Lincoln City, who were also undefeated at home. Every regular player scored during the season, including the goalkeeper, Alan Starling, who netted from a penalty in the penultimate home game against Hartlepool United. On the downside Gary Mabee was forced to retire from football through injury at just 20 years old, he had scored 13 goals the previous season.
1976-77 brought relegation back to Division Four, the season started with ex-Manchester United Assistant Manager, Pat Crerand in charge, however his resignation was accepted following a 2-0 defeat at Brighton just into the new year. No new manager was appointed, instead a Committee was formed consisting of the Chairman, the coach and three senior players.
Both the incoming and outgoing transfer records were broken during the 1979-80 season, prior to the start of the season George Reilly was sold to Cambridge United for a then record of £165,000, he had been the clubs top scorer for the previous two seasons whilst winger Mark Heeley was bought from Arsenal for £33,000. New floodlights were installed in time for the 1980-81 season, but they failed during the first match against Southend United and the game had to be abandoned. There was also little success on the pitch, the club finished 10th, and the following season matters worsened when the club finished 22nd and again had to apply for re-election, which was successful.
1982-83 brought a little improvement, 15th position was achieved, with Bristol City being the unlucky opponents when the club put 7 goals past them on a Sunday afternoon. The reward for beating Wimbledon and Gillingham in the FA Cup was a lucrative home tie with Aston Villa, which a full house of just under 15,000 witnessed a superb volleyed goal by Mark Walters, who later went on to play for England, to give Aston Villa a 1-0 victory.
The club seemed anchored to bottom section of the Fourth Division, finishing 18th in 1983-84, where 16 year old Aidy Mann became the clubs youngest player and 23rd in 1984-85, which included the lowest ever league attendance at the County Ground. A mere 942 diehard supporters turn up to watch the Cobblers lose 2-0 at home to Chester City, the only ever league attendance under 1,000. The club appointed Graham Carr an ex-player to manage the club for the final seven games of the 1984-85 season which produced six wins and a draw.
Graham Carr was relishing his first Football League management position and prior to the start of the 1985-86 season he bought in several players from the non-league in addition to a number of quality league players which was the tonic that the club needed and 8th position was gained. The club won a cash prize for being the first in the Country to score 50 league goals, which was achieved before Christmas. The County Ground lost the main stand, which had been condemned following the fire at Bradford City, a small stand was erected which was nicknamed the "Meccano Stand" due to the amount of scaffolding that surrounded it.
The Cobblers picked up where they had left off the previous season and the 1986-87 Fourth Division Championship was emphatically won, gaining a club record total of 99 points and scoring 103 goals, 29 of them to Richard Hill, who was transferred in the Summer to Watford for a club record fee of £265,000. The club adjust to life in Division Three quickly and just miss out on a play-off place despite finishing 6th. The then record signing Tony Adcock was signed from Manchester City as part of an exchange deal for Trevor Morley, Tony Adcock's part of the fee is £85,000.
The 1988-89 season saw the Cobblers struggle, mainly as a direct result of selling the best players in the previous season and letting Eddie McGoldrick join Crystal Palace for £200,000. The following season the club were relegated to Division Four, but did manage a FA Cup upset by beating Coventry City in the third round, 1-0 with then record gate receipts of £47,292. The club looked on course to return to the Third Division at the first attempt, they were top of the table in February, but with only 3 wins coming in the final 18 games, the club finished a disappointing 10th.
Things worsened for the club financially, and went into administration in April 1992, with debts of around £1,600,000, ten of the clubs players were sacked and youth players were drafted in to make up the numbers, needless to say the results did not improve. These unhappy events sparked the formation of the Northampton Town Supporters Trust, which has a share holding in the club and a representative on the Board of Directors.
History was made at the County Ground in the match with Hereford United, they finished the match with only seven players, four had been sent off, despite this obvious disadvantage the match ended 1-1. It was a sign of things to come and the club needed to win the final game of the season to avoid being relegated to the Conference. Over 2,500 made the trip to Shrewsbury Town and were distraught at half-time with home club leading 2-0. What happened after the interval was nothing short of a miracle, the game finished 3-2 in favour of the Cobblers, the winner being a fortuitous goal which came off of the incoming Pat Gavin and rolled into the net following an attempted clearance from the goalkeeper.
Despite the warning bells from the previous season, the Cobblers finished bottom of the Football League in 1993-94, the only time in the club's history that the have finished bottom of any division since joining the Football League. Relegation was only escaped due the Conference Champions, Kidderminster Harriers not meeting the necessary ground criteria.
Tuesday 12th October 1994 was the last ever match at the County Ground, a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Mansfield Town. This was the start of a new era, Northampton Town Football Club moved to Sixfields Stadium and a capacity crowd on Saturday 15th October 1994 witnessed the first match at the new Stadium, a 1-1 draw with Barnet. The first player to score at the new stadium was Martin Aldridge. The change of ground did not change the clubs fortunes, and by Christmas the club were in danger of finishing bottom again.
In a desperate attempt to climb away from the foot of the table the Manager John Barnwell was replaced by Ian Atkins, he set about his task quickly and had guided the club to 17th by the end of the season.
In his first full season in charge improvement was made and 11th position was achieved, with only 44 goals conceded from 46 games. Jason White was acquired for £35,000 from Scarborough and finished the season as top scorer with 16 goals. The League Cup 1st round, 2nd leg at home to West Bromwich Albion produced record gate receipts of £52,373. Promotion parties for both Preston and Gillingham were put on hold as the Cobblers won at Deepdale and held Gillingham to a draw, in addition to beating Wigan at Springfield Park in the final match of the season to deny them a play-off place.
1996-97 saw the Cobblers appear at Wembley for the first time in 100 years, beating Swansea City 1-0 in the play-off final in front of 46,804 (32,000 Northampton supporters!) with John Frain scoring the winning goal from a free kick deep into injury time, which added to the clubs centenary celebrations. Again, only 44 goals were conceded from 46 games which resulted in Town finishing 4th. Record gate receipts of £59,464 were recorded for the Play-off semi-final with Cardiff. Neil Grayson top scored with 12 goals which included the fastest ever hatrick from a Cobblers player, in just five minutes against Hartlepool United.
1997-98 again saw a Wembley appearance, this time in the Division Two play-off final which was lost 1-0 to third placed Grimsby Town in front of a then record 62,998 crowd, over 40,000 Northampton supporters, which is a record, the most supporters taken to Wembley by one team). Just 37 goals were conceded from 46 league games, the lowest total since joining the Football League. David Seal was bought from Bristol City for a club record £90,000 in at the start of the season and finished top scorer with 14 league and cup goals, in addition he was also the leading goalscorer for the reserves with 12 goals from 10 games which helped win the Reserve League. The clubs average attendance of 6,392 was the highest since the 1975/76 season.
1998-99 was a season littered with injury problems, no fewer than 16 players suffered from long term injuries, which completely decimated the squad from start to finish. On the final day of the season the "Cobblers" were unfortunately relegated to Division Three, despite being undefeated in the last 9 games of the season. On the positive side a memorable 2-1 aggregate win was recorded over West Ham United in the Worthington Cup before bowing out to eventual winners Tottenham Hotspur 3-1, after taking the lead. The match produced then record receipts of £102,979, a figure that was overtaken by the January 2004 FA Cup 4th round tie with Manchester United. The club was awarded the enterprise award from the Avon Insurance Combination Reserve League, for efforts in promoting reserve team football locally and nationally. The clubs transfer record was broken for the second successive season, £90,000 was paid to Hartlepool United for Steven Howard, with up to another £45,000 due on appearances and goals.
1999-2000 season saw the club bounce back to Division Two, finishing third and holding the third automatic spot for promotion, a run of 6 consecutive wins in the final 6 matches made outright promotion possible. Ian Atkins parted company with the club in October following an indifferent start to the season, his assistant, Kevin Wilson and coach, Kevan Broadhurst , took joint charge for the remainder of the month. Kevin Wilson was appointed manager at the start of November and recorded four wins and a draw in his first month in charge, earning him the Division Three manager of the month award, he followed that up in April with his second manager of the month award. Personal success was achieved by Ian Hendon, who was voted in the PFA team of the season for Division Three.
Promotion to the higher division allowed the club to make changes to the playing staff over the summer, something it hadn't done during the season. Carlo Corazzin, Sean Parrish and Simon Sturridge were allowed to leave on free transfers and Marco Gabbiadini (Bosman), Christian Hargreaves (Bosman) and Jamie Forrester (a then club record signing at £150,000 from FC Utrecht) were brought in as replacements. The Cobblers made a good start to life in Division Two and flirted with the play off's during the early part of the campaign before slipping away to finish a disappointing 18th. A series of injuries after Christmas depriving the club of a number of the senior players and stretching the already paper thin squad.
The club bought in Gerard Lavin, Daryl Burgress, Paul McGregor, Derek Asamoah and loan players Sam Parkin, Rob Wolleaston and Ian Evatt at the beginning of the campaign but a crippling injury crisis saw the Cobblers make a disappointing start to the new season. Kevin Wilson was relieved of his duties at the end of September 2001 following a 3-1 home defeat against Blackpool. Shortly afterwards Kevan Broadhurst was appointed as Caretaker Manger and following an upturn in the club's fortunes he was confirmed as full time manager in October 2001. His task was immediately made harder by news of a transfer embargo, one that would run for the course of the season, preventing him from strengthening what was already one of the smallest squad in the entire Football League. Mixed fortunes were experienced in the remainder of the year but things were to improve greatly in 2002. Despite finding themselves nine points adrift of safety in mid-January a remarkable run of promotion form, with only one defeat at Sixfields, saw the Cobblers secure their safety with a game to spare. Mission impossible had been accomplished and Northampton Town finished a remarkable five points above the relegation zone.
Over the summer Kevan Broadhurst managed to strengthen the squad with eight new faces. He managed to compliment experienced players like Lee Harper, Paul Rickers, Nathan Abbey, Paul Trollope and Jerry Gill with promising youngsters Darryn Stamp, Greg Lincoln and Paul Harsley. The season was little over a month old when the club was forced to launch a 'Save our Season' campaign in a bid to see out the remainder of the year. The SOS appeal was required after the collapse of ITV Digital and much publicised takeover attempts by John Fashanu and Giovanni Di Stefano had failed and left the club with a big deficit to make up in the budgets. Supporters rallied and managed to raise over £230,000 to keep the club afloat with a string of fundraising events, the total was still some way short of the target of half a million pounds which was required by the end of January. In December 2002 a consortium headed by Andrew Ellis took a majority shareholding in the club and Chairman Barry Stonhill stood down. On the pitch the side had made a reasonable start to the season but suffered from a lack of consistency. In November 2002 Kevan had been pipped to the Manager of the Month award by Wigan's Paul Jewell, a disastrous run of results followed which ultimately cost him his job in January 2003. He was replaced by former England, Spurs and QPR defender Terry Fenwick, who had previously managed Portsmouth. Terry's spell in charge of the side proved to be the eighth shortest managerial reign in English football history, after a winless spell of seven games he was relieved of his duties and replaced by Martin Wilkinson as Caretaker Manager for the remainder of the season. The change could not keep the Cobblers in Division 2, but Martin was appointed permanent Manager in April 2003.
Colin Calderwood replaced Martin in October 2003 and the Cobblers are looking to bounce back to League 1 (Division 2) as soon as possible. May 2004 saw the club suffer play off heartbreak with a penalty shoot out semi final defeat, and 12 months later similar heartbreak followed with a 1-0 play off semi final at Southend (again a penalty) but with Chairman David Cardoza at the helm, the club can look forward with excitement and optimism.
The claret and white juggernaut began to move in 2005/2006, with the club securing automatic promotion to League One. A 1-0 victory over Chester at Sixfields on April 29 2006 saw wild celebrations begin. A squad with a backbone of strength and experience in the shape of Sean Dyche, Ian Taylor, Eoin Jess and Scott McGleish had steered the Cobblers away from the clutches of League Two.
However, just as the celebrations died down, Calderwood decided to accept the position of Nottingham Forest's new manager, meaning John Gorman would lead Northampton Town in to League One. Gorman resigned for personal reasons in December 2006, with Stuart Gray his replacement.
In his first full season (2007/2008), Gray led the Cobblers to a top half finish in League One, a final placing only bettered twice in the previous 41 years. Sadly that success was not sustained the following season, with a last day defeat at Leeds condemning the club to relegation back to League 2. The 2009/10 season started with the team struggling to find consistency, and Gray left his post in early September 2009. His successor was club legend Ian Sampson, the club's second highest appearance maker of all time, who was appointed after a spell in caretaker charge. In September 2010 he oversaw one of the biggest results in the club's history, beating Liverpool at Anfield in the Carling Cup. Sampson left the club in March 2011 after 17 years service as player, coach and manager. He was replaced by the former Yeovil Town, Bristol City and Peterborough United boss Gary Johnson on a two and a half year contract. A win over Stevenage in the penultimate game of the season secured the club's Football League status. Johnson left the club by mutual consent in November 2011.
Aidy Boothroyd was named as Johnson's replacement, and he arrived with assistant Andy King, steering the club to safety in 2011/12. He enjoyed a fine first full season, leading the team to a Wembley play off final where they sadly lost to Bradford City in front of more than 47,000 fans. In July 2013 Coventry City Football Club agreed a 3 year deal to play their home games at Sixfields on a temporary basis.