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The January transfer window is a crucial time for Northampton Town, as arguably survival in League One depends on transfer activity.
Despite a whole host of new arrivals in the summer, there has been clear shortcomings of the playing squad, ones which Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink needs to address quickly. It is becoming more and more apparent that without any new arrivals, Northampton may well fail to stay up. So, what transfer activity is needed?
Although it’s probably needed, a whole new starting XI is unrealistic. Despite the awful results this season, I genuinely believe there is a decent spine that needs to remain in place, with players like John-Joe O’Toole, Matt Crooks, Ash Taylor, Chris Long and youngster Shaun McWilliams doing just about enough to warrant a place in the squad. I also believe Lewis McGugan has proved himself worthy of a new contract offer, should Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink agree. Furthermore, Matt Ingram has had a decent season in goal so far, so this is a position which doesn’t need strengthening.
Another player who I hope stays is club legend David Buchanan, however speculation over his future has arisen after he was shockingly left out of the starting XI during the New Year’s Day defeat to Wigan. If he does leave, George Smith is a more than adequate replacement at left back, however Buchanan’s leadership and attitude would be sorely missed and will signal the demise of the club.
The main areas which need strengthening is the attacking options, and I believe two strikers and two natural wingers are needed. Chris Long has been used as the lone centre forward under Hasselbaink and has done well, however has clearly struggled through lack of support, and he isn’t a 20 goal a season type of striker. The other striker options available are Marc Richards, who is another club legend, but his best days are clearly past him, and Billy Waters, who has been out of favour under Hasselbaink.
With Alex Revell set to leave the club, new strikers a must for the Cobblers this window. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has stated he wants experience and know-how, and proven players at this level. One name who has been mentioned is Sheffield United striker James Hanson, who plays as a target man, and although he may not contribute much pace, his aerial presence and work-rate would complement Long massively. This type of signing may benefit the Cobblers as it would allow a change in system, however I believe another striker would also be needed, one who can almost guarantee goals. Whether this is a loan deal, or the club look towards League Two or even the non-league to sign a natural poacher, a goal scorer is a must. Of course, that is easier said than done.
Width is also desperately needed, as Northampton have failed to replace Ricky Holmes and Nicky Adams. So far, Daniel Powell and Sam Hoskins have been used as the main sources of width, with Matt Crooks and Sam Foley used as makeshift wingers and full backs Raheem Hanley and George Smith have been pushed forwards on occasions. This just sums up the lack options in this area.
One name who has been rumoured is former Nottingham Forest loanee Hildeberto Periera, set to sign on loan until the end of the season. This would be a strange signing, as it goes against Hasselbaink’s preference of experience, yet he possesses the raw ability to lift the crowd and work a bit of magic.
Another more experienced winger in the mould of Ricky Holmes is also needed, to balance out the side and provide more options and more proven quality.
One signing which will be made is the addition of Jack Bridge, and unknown 22-year-old central midfielder from Southend. Whether he will be signed with the intention of playing out wide, or as more of a squad player, or if someone will leave, such as Matt Grimes going back to Swansea or McGugan moving on remains to be seen. This looks on paper a strange signing, as central midfield is an area which Northampton are well equipped.
The final area I think which needs strengthening is another central defender. With Ryan McGivern out of contract and set to leave, Leon Barnett injury prone, Regan Poole often playing in midfield and Aaron Pierre struggling to make the step up to League One, a consistent partner for Ash Taylor is needed. There is an unnamed 6-foot 5 Dutch centre half rumoured, and this type of old-fashioned centre-half could be just what we need.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink has previously stated that players will leave, and with Revell already rumoured to be joining Bury, a few more will follow. The players I think will be allowed to leave will be Yasser Kasim, Dean Bowditch, Raheem Hanley, Ryan McGivern and potentially Billy Waters, as all have struggled for game time this season. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Leon Lobjoit moved on, and the ongoing saga with more experienced first teamers John-Joe O’Toole and David Buchanan will inevitably start again.
These are only my thoughts; however, it is glaringly obvious that if Northampton do not strengthen, particularly by not adding goals, the curtain will fall. Since Chris Wilder’s departure, near enough every signing which has been made in the three transfer windows following have struggled to make a real impact, and this trend needs to stop in this window or else it could lead to dire consequences.
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