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We caught up with our former captain to review his playing career

4 May 2020

Now at the club as our Academy manager, former captain and first-team manager Ian Sampson talks us through how his initial chance to join the Cobblers came about...

Sampson first joined the Cobblers in 1994 from Sunderland on a loan deal, which was later made permanent after an impressive temporary spell. We take a look back to where it all started for Ian before his professional career began...

"My first recollection of football was sitting watching the European Cup final between Leeds and Bayern Munich with my Dad," he said.

"That was back in the mid 70's, but I didn't start playing football until a few years later when I was 9-10 years-old at school. I really started getting into it then and took more notice of the 1978 World Cup, where I was a Scotland fan believe it or not!

"My Dad is from Dundee, so as you can imagine I had the Scotland kits for the following three World Cups. I don't think I realised I was English until I was about fifteen! I started playing in the local Sunday League from the age of eleven, and played up until sixteen when I was given a chance in non-league football.

"I was initially playing for Goole Town on Saturdays, and a local team in Hull called Northwood FC on the Sunday. The manager at Northwood happened to be the Chief Scout for Sunderland at the time, so I impressed him and had some good performances for Goole so that was enough to earn me a trial at Sunderland.

"It was probably the longest trial in the history of football but I worked hard to impress and earn a contract. Initially, I played a few games for their reserve team before coming back on a Saturday to play for Goole, where I broke my ribs. That extended the trial period further into the start of the next season, and I ended up signing professionally that November."

Sampson made over 20 appearances for the Black Cats over a four-year spell in the North East, before an appealing opportunity to play regular football presented itself with the Cobblers...

"It was a great experience at Sunderland, I played with some fantastic players and in some big games considering the amount of appearances I actually made. I played in a Tyne-Wear derby and against Middlesbrough, which are two big games for the club. I was also fortunate enough to be in the travelling squad for the F.A Cup final at Wembley in 1992, but because there was only two substitutes in those days I just missed out on making the bench.

"I enjoyed my time there, but ultimately I wanted to play first-team football and Northampton offered me that opportunity. I wanted to play every Saturday for a team where it meant something.

"I remember coming down for the first time on the train, my wife dropped me off at Newcastle station where I then had to change at Birmingham and get a train into Northampton. It felt like the longest journey in the world! I was a little bit naive at the time in terms of locations and I didn't really know much about Northampton or where it was, and I remember the physio at the time, Denis Casey, was there waiting to pick me up from the station.

"But I was just desperate to come and play football and I had a great loan spell to begin with."

A two-month loan followed for Sampson at the County Ground, and despite not winning a game in that period of time, the defender was keen to extend his stay further.

"We didn't win a game during my loan spell, which didn't go down too well! I was keen to stay for a third month but Sunderland called me back to be in the matchday squad and sit on the bench for some games coming up which I was a bit annoyed about because I wanted to stay at Northampton."

After returning to Sunderland, the Cobblers moved again for Sampson in the summer of 1994, this time securing his services on a permanent deal which would see the defender remain at Sixfields for the next decade...

"I had a year left on my contract at Sunderland but I couldn't see any real future there, and after a couple of discussions with the manager we agreed the best thing would be to move on. It meant dropping down a couple of divisions but it was a no-brainer for me to come back. I think we'd just signed Ray Warburburton at the same time too, and we went on to forge a decent partnership together."

Stay tuned to for part two with Ian Sampson over the coming days as he looks back on his playing career.

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