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Two years of progress for the Cobblers under Keith Curle

30 September 2020

Two years ago today, Northampton Town were 20th in League 2 and had just lost 4-0 away at Mansfield Town.

The club appointed Keith Curle as manager, Colin West was his assistant and Goalkeeping Coach Dan Watson and Chief Scout Simon Tracey also arrived, and it is fair to say the club has made fantastic progress since that day.
A promotion via an emphatic 4-0 win at Wembley in the play offs, the club's best FA Cup run since 2004, a club record transfer fee sale from a player the club developed over 12 months, with first team appearances handed to ten different players from the club's Academy and the Education programme, making up well over 100 first team appearances, it has been a fantastic two years.
On September 30 2018, the Cobblers were fourth from bottom of the EFL. Curle and his staff steered the club away from relegation danger in his first season in charge, with the idea of a push for a play off place even a possibility during a good run during March, before an eventual 15th placed finish.
Curle reshaped the squad for the 2019/20 season. A number of high earners had left as he worked to build a squad to challenge for promotion, while players Curle and Simon Tracey had identified as having potential arrived.
The new blend worked. After a slow start, the Cobblers broke in to the top ten in October and the play off places in November and stayed in the frame. Although the season ended early because of COVID-19, the Cobblers were in the top seven and made the play offs and despite a 2-0 home defeat to Cheltenham Town in the first leg of the play off semi final, the Cobblers responded superbly to win 3-0 at Cheltenham in the second leg and then beat Exeter City 4-0 in the play off final at Wembley.
Promotion was secured, but it wasn't just in the league where the Cobblers enjoyed success. A thrilling 4-2 Emirates FA Cup win at Burton Albion in round 3 saw Keith Curle's side win their way through to play Derby County in round 4, meaning the club had enjoyed their best run in the competition for 16 years. A 0-0 draw at the PTS Academy Stadium, in a tie the Cobblers could have won, meant a replay back at Pride Park where the Rams ran out 4-2 winners.
Curle is also a big supporter of the club's player pathway, and has given first team opportunities to ten players from the club's Academy or Education programme, being the first manager to select a player from the latter for the first team. In total, these ten have made 113 appearances for the first team and eight of the ten are Northampton born. For context, less than 40 appearances were made in the same period before his arrival.
The Cobblers have a 41% win ratio under Curle, compared to 22% in the 97 games before his arrival, while his record for developing individual players is evidenced by the club achieving a record player sale when Charlie Goode moved to Brentford.
He and his staff have embedded themselves in the spirit of the club, with their reaction to help supporters during the recent COVID-19 lockdown a clear case in point. 
All in all, that's not a bad two years by anybody's standard.
Curle is fast approaching 100 games in charge of the club and on his second anniversary, we thank him, Colin West, Simon Tracey and Dan Watson for taking this club (to use Keith's own words) on an upward curve. Long may that continue!

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