Northampton Town F.C.
Northampton Town Football Club is a professional association football club based in the town of Northampton, England. The team plays in League Two, the third tier of English football. The club nickname is "The Cobblers", a reference to the town's historical shoe-making industry. They play their home games at the 7,798 capacity all-seater Sixfields Stadium, having moved from the County Ground in 1994, where they had played since their inception. They were formed in 1897, after meetings between the town's schoolteachers and local solicitor A.J. Darnell. The club traditionally play in claret and white and have a long-standing rivalry with nearby club Peterborough United. Although Milton Keynes Dons are geographically closer, their lack of history means that younger Northampton fans are more invested in this match compared to the older generation.
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|Full name||Northampton Town Football Club|
|Founded||6 March 1897|
|2020–21||League One, 22nd of 24 (relegated)|
The club competed in the Midland League for two seasons, before joining the Southern League in 1901. They were crowned Southern League champions in 1908–09, allowing them to contest the 1909 FA Charity Shield. Admitted into the Football League in 1920, they spent the next 38 years in the Third Division South as they were unable to better second-place finishes in 1927–28 and 1949–50. During this time Tommy Fowler and Jack English set club records for appearances and goals respectively, Fowler playing 552 first-team matches and English scoring 143 competitive goals. Becoming founder members of the Fourth Division, manager Dave Bowen saw the club promoted at the end of the 1960–61 season, before they went on to win the Third Division title in 1962–63 and then promotion out of the Second Division in 1964–65. Relegated out of the First Division at the end of the 1965–66 season, this remains their only top-flight campaign, and two further relegations in the next three seasons saw them back in the fourth tier.
Promoted out of the Fourth Division in 1975–76, they were immediately relegated, before winning the Fourth Division title in 1986–87. Relegated again after their third season in the third tier, they were promoted again after winning the 1997 play-off final. Relegated in 1998–99, they won immediate promotion after securing an automatic promotion place the following season. However were once more relegated after three seasons of struggle in the third tier, before securing promotion out of League Two in 2005–06 after two unsuccessful play-off campaigns. Relegated at the end of their third season in League One, they won the League Two title in 2015–16, but only lasted two seasons in League One before again being relegated. In 2020, they gained promotion to League One, but were relegated to League Two once again after a single season in the third tier.
Formation and early history
The club was founded on 6 March 1897 by a group of local school teachers who, together with a local solicitor A.J "Pat" Darnell at The Princess Royal Inn, Wellingborough Road, formed the town's first professional football club. Initially, their chosen name was Northampton Football Club, but after objections from the town's rugby club, the club was called Northampton Town Football Club. They joined the Northants League and spent two seasons there, winning the championship the second season. They then spent two seasons in the Midland League, before joining the Southern League in 1901–02. Led by player-manager Herbert Chapman the club were champions of the Southern League in 1908–09 and played against Newcastle United in the Charity Shield match, losing 2–0 at The Oval.
In 1919–20, the first season after the war, Town conceded a club record 103 goals. Nonetheless, the club was allowed to join the Football League for the following season, in Division Three (South). 1922–23 saw the club become a public company and 8,000 shares were released at £1. The season produced a record crowd of 18,123 against Plymouth on Boxing day and gate receipts for the first time exceeded £1,000. 1923–24 started with the club raising £5,000 to build a stand with a players' tunnel underneath and also improved terracing in the Hotel End. The following season saw the formation of the supporters' club. In 1925 the club's first foreign transfer took place as William Shaw was signed from Barcelona. 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. However, disaster occurred at the County Ground during December 1929, when a fire destroyed three stands, with damage valued at around £5,000. Only one stand 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. By August 1930, the stands were rebuilt.
In 1932–33, the club 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 and even scored four in a 4–0 win over the Netherlands national football team while the club was on tour. In 1933–34, the F.A. 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. The Cobblers lost to Preston North End 4–0 at Deepdale, setting a new ground record of 40,180. In the three seasons prior to the breakout of World War II, the Cobblers finished seventh, ninth and 17th respectively in Division Three (South). In the final match prior to the war, they travelled to Dean Court and lost 10–0, the club's 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.
Rise and fall
Northampton were promoted three times in the five years 1960 to 1965. Starting the 1960–61 season in the Fourth Division, they reached the First Division in 1965–66, their only season ever in the top division of English football. They were then relegated back to the Fourth Division over the next five years, playing in the bottom tier again in 1969–70. During their top-flight season they earned a double against Aston Villa and victories at home over clubs including Leeds, Newcastle, West Ham, and Blackburn, the latter being the only team Northampton would finish above in the table.
Since their relegation from the Second Division in 1966-67, Northampton have played every season in either the third or fourth tier of English football.
1970s and 80s
In 1970, they lost 8–2 to Manchester United in the FA Cup fifth round. Six of the goals conceded were scored by George Best, who received the match ball (signed by Northampton players) as a reward for his performance. For the first time since becoming a league side the club had to apply for re-election in 1971, they finished the most favoured club with 49 votes. In the 1974–75 season, future England International Phil Neal was sold, after 200 games in all competitions for the Cobblers, Liverpool bought Neal for a then club record of £65,000, whilst playing in the same side of another future England International, John Gregory. Finally during the 1975–76 season, the club finished 2nd in Division Four and were promoted behind champions Lincoln City. They did this without losing a home game and having 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. In 1976–77, the club were relegated back to Division Four, the season started with ex-Manchester United assistant manager, Pat Crerand in charge, however he resigned in the new year. No new manager was appointed, instead a committee was formed consisting of the chairman, the coach and three senior players. Prior to the start of the 1979–80 season, George Reilly was sold to Cambridge United for a then record of £165,000, he had been the club's top scorer for the previous two seasons.
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. The club struggled in the bottom half of the Fourth Division for the first half of the decade, however 16-year-old Aidy Mann became the club's youngest player. In 1984–85, the lowest ever league attendance was recorded at the County Ground where only 942 people turn up to watch the Cobblers lose 2–0 at home to Chester City; this was also the only ever league attendance under 1,000. In the same year, The club managed what seemed like a major coup when they appointed Tony Barton, who had won the European Cup with Aston Villa two years previously, as manager. Barton's only season in charge proved severely disappointing however, as the club were never outside the bottom two, and health problems forced Barton's resignation near the end of that season. Success was achieved under Barton's replacement, Graham Carr, who brought in several players from the non-league in addition to a number of quality league players to finish eighth in his first season in charge. The 1986–87 season saw Northampton win the Fourth Division championship, 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 adjusted to life in Division Three quickly and just missed out on a play-off place despite finishing sixth. Important players such as Trevor Morley and Eddie McGoldrick were sold and the team fell back down to Division Four in the 1989–90 season.
The 1990s began badly, with the club relegated to the Fourth Division at the end of the 1989–90 season. The following season began well as the club looked on course to return to the Third Division at the first attempt. They were top of the table in February, but fell away and finished mid-table. Things then got even worse and the club went into administration in April 1992, with debts of around £1.6 million. Ten players were sacked and youth players were drafted in to make up the numbers; results did not improve. These 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. This was the first such instance of a supporters' trust taking over a football club.
The club needed to win the final game of the 1992–93 season to avoid being relegated to the Conference. Over 2,500 made the trip to Shrewsbury Town and saw the Cobblers win 3–2, despite being 2–0 down at half-time. The 1993–94 season got worse for the Cobblers as they finished bottom of the Football League for the only time in the club's history. Relegation was only escaped due to the Conference champions, Kidderminster Harriers, not meeting the necessary ground criteria. The club eventually began its move to Sixfields.
The Sixfields era
The club moved to new ground, Sixfields Stadium, in October 1994. The change of ground did not change the club's fortunes and they finished 17th, with Ian Atkins taking over as manager from John Barnwell halfway through the 1994–95 season. After two more seasons, in the club's centenary season 1996–97, Atkins lead the Cobblers to Wembley for the first time in 100 years, where they beat Swansea City 1–0 in the play-off final, John Frain scored the winning goal from a twice-taken free kick deep into injury time. The following season Northampton made the Division Two play-off final, but lost 1–0 to Grimsby Town in front of a then record 62,998 crowd, with the greater than 40,000 Northampton fans also then a record for the most supporters taken to Wembley by one team. Northampton were not able to progress from the previous year's success because of long-term injuries to 16 of their players during the 1998–99 season. The team was relegated to Division Three, despite being unbeaten in the last nine games of the season. However, there were some promising results such as a 2–1 aggregate win over West Ham United in the League Cup. The 1999–2000 season saw the club bounce back to Division Two, finishing in the third automatic promotion spot. Ian Atkins left the club in October following a poor start to the season; his assistant, Kevin Wilson and coach Kevan Broadhurst took joint charge for the rest of the month. Wilson, the former Chelsea player, was appointed manager at the start of November, going on to win two manager of the month awards.
The following season started promisingly, with players such as Marco Gabbiadini and Jamie Forrester pushing the Cobblers towards a play-off place before the club eventually finished in 18th place due to a large number of injuries in the second half of the season. Kevin Wilson was sacked in November 2001, to make way for his assistant Kevan Broadhurst, who steered the Cobblers from relegation to a remarkable survival with a game to spare after losing only one home game from mid-January. The next season was the worst since the early 1990s, both financially and on the pitch. Early on they were forced into a 'Save our Season' campaign to keep afloat until the end of the year. It 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 huge debts. They were taken over by a consortium run by Andrew Ellis, who sacked Broadhurst in January 2003, when Northampton were struggling at the foot of the division. He was briefly replaced by former England player Terry Fenwick who was sacked after a winless spell of seven games. This was, at the time, the eighth-shortest managerial reign in English football history. Martin Wilkinson, the new manager lasted little longer, being dismissed in October 2003 in favour of former Scotland and Tottenham Hotspur defender Colin Calderwood. Calderwood led Northampton to the play-offs in his first season, where they were knocked out in the semi-finals by Mansfield Town after a penalty shoot-out. In the 2004–05 season, Northampton finished seventh, again in the play-offs, where they were defeated by Southend United. Following this, the manager made substantial changes to the squad, bringing in experienced players such as Ian Taylor and Eoin Jess, and they enjoyed a successful 2005–06 league season. On 29 April, the Cobblers clinched promotion to Football League One, with a 1–0 win at home to Chester City. On 30 May 2006, Northampton announced that Calderwood was leaving to join Nottingham Forest as their new manager, and he was replaced by John Gorman on 5 June. On 20 December, Gorman resigned due to "personal issues" with the side 18th in the table, with Ian Sampson and Jim Barron briefly taking care of first team affairs. He was replaced by former Southampton boss Stuart Gray on 2 January 2007. The Cobblers were relegated from league one on the final day of the 2008–09 season, after suffering a 3–0 defeat away at Leeds United and other results went against them.
Northampton caused an upset in the third round of the 2010–11 Football League Cup, knocking out Liverpool at Anfield. The game was drawn 2–2 after extra time, and the Cobblers beat the team 69 places above them 4–2 on penalties, the winning penalty being scored by Abdul Osman at the 'Kop End'. Ian Sampson was sacked as manager on 2 March 2011 after a poor run of form saw the Cobblers fail to win in eight games and sit in a disappointing 16th position in League 2. Sampson's last game in charge was a 2–3 defeat against Burton Albion, the manner of this defeat ultimately costing him his job. Sampson's sacking brought to an end a 17-year association with Northampton, and his commitment to the club has guaranteed his status as a legend in fans' hearts.
David Cardoza moved quickly and Gary Johnson was unveiled as the new manager on 4 March 2011. However, things didn't go well under Gary Johnson: the club slid further down the table in League 2 and only just avoided relegation at the end of the 2010–11 season. The beginning of the 2011–12 season saw no improvement for the Cobblers and Gary Johnson left the club on 14 November 2011 by mutual consent. In November 2011, Northampton appointed ex-Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd as their new manager. After drafting in players such as Ben Harding, Luke Guttridge and Clarke Carlisle, Boothroyd managed to keep Northampton in the league and in the summer set about transforming the club into a club with promotion ambitions. On 18 May 2013, Northampton reached the League 2 play-off final, losing 3–0 to Bradford City at Wembley Stadium.
After a poor start to the 2013–14 League Two season, Northampton found themselves at the foot of the table, and as of 21 December, they had only won four games. Boothroyd was subsequently sacked. From the start of the 2013–14 season, Northampton shared their Sixfields Stadium with Coventry City with the West Midlands club going through a protracted dispute with the owners of their previous home, the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. On 27 January 2014, David Cardoza appointed former Oxford United manager Chris Wilder as the new manager of the club on a three and half-year deal.
In October 2015 HM Revenue and Customs issued the club with a winding-up petition over unpaid taxes. (See Sixfields Stadium) In February 2016, Northampton Town broke their club record of eight successive wins by beating Wycombe Wanderers 1–0, extending the winning run to nine. The 2015–16 season was successful and resulted in promotion to League One on 9 April. A draw at Exeter combined with Oxford United's defeat at home to Luton Town meant that they clinched the League 2 championship a week later on 16 April.
The Cobblers went on to play their first season in the third tier of English football since 2009. In the 2016–17 season, after a 5–0 defeat to Bristol Rovers, Rob Page was sacked and replaced with Justin Edinburgh. Northampton finished 16th, meaning that they would continue to play third tier football. They made it to the Third Round of the EFL Cup, where they lost to Manchester United. On 26 June 2017 a 60% stake in Northampton Town was purchased by Chinese company 5uSport. The company indicated that they would invest in both the playing budget and stadium development. Although the investment was technically a takeover, Kelvin Thomas remained chairman and the two parties have acted in partnership since.
On 4 September 2017, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was appointed as manager on a three-year deal, replacing Justin Edinburgh who had been sacked after four losses from the start of the season. His first game was against Doncaster Rovers five days later, a home tie which ended in a 1–0 victory for Northampton Town. He was sacked on 2 April 2018 after Northampton Town went 9 games without a win and was replaced by Keith Curle. He had his contract extended in July 2020 for a further two years.
On 29 June 2020, the club were promoted to EFL League One after beating Exeter City 4–0 in the playoff final, despite a delay in the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom. This was Northampton's fourth EFL play-off final and it ended in victory, 23 seasons after their only other Wembley win for promotion. They made it to Wembley after a second leg comeback against Cheltenham Town, after the first leg at Sixfields Stadium they had trailed 2-0 and faced an uphill battle to progress to the play off final. However, in the second leg, Cobblers perform the turnaround by winning 3–0 away from home.
Club crest and colours
Shirt sponsors and manufacturers
Northampton's has been manufactured by Hummel since 2020. Previous manufacturers have included Bukta (1975–82), Adidas (1982–83), Umbro (1983–86), Spall (1986–88), MG (1988–89), Scoreline (1989–91), Beaver Sports (1991–92), Ribero (1992–93), Swift (1993–94), Lotto (1995–97), Pro Star (1997-2000), Sport House (2000–03), Xara (2003–05), Salming (2005–06), Vandanel (2006–09), Errea (2009-16), Nike (2016-20) and Hummel (2020-).
The club's shirts are sponsored by the University of Northampton, since 2013, and PTS Academy, since 2016. Previous sponsors have included Chronicle & Echo (1985–86 and 1994–95), TNT (1986–88), Costain Homes (1988–91), Van Aid (1991–92), Carpet Supacentre (1992–94), Lotto (1995-97), EBS Mobile Phones (1997–98), Nationwide (1998-2003), Jackson Grundy (2007-13), Red Hot Buffet (2011–12), Gala Casinos (2012-13), and Opus Energy (2015–18)
Northampton moved to the county ground in 1897, sharing it with Northamptonshire County Cricket Club from 1905. The main stand was situated alongside Abington Avenue and was a covered stand with seating to the rear and terracing to the front. The stand survived until 1985, but following the Bradford City stadium fire, it was deemed unsafe and demolished, leaving only the terracing. This was then replaced by a small temporary stand nicknamed the ' Meccano Stand ' by fans. The other two stands were at the ends with the Spion Kop, which only reached the goalposts, usually used for away supporters and the Hotel End for the home supporters. In 1965–66, the only time that Northampton Town were in the top flight of English football, the county ground saw its highest attendance 24,523 against Fulham on 23 April 1966. The ground also saw Northampton's lowest ever attendance in the Football League, a crowd of 942 for the 1984–85 match against Chester City. The last game to be played at the ground was a 1–0 defeat by Mansfield Town on Tuesday, 12 October 1994.
The club moved to Sixfields Stadium in 1994. It is a modern all-seater stadium with a capacity of 7,653 and award-winning disabled facilities. The stadium plan is simple with the west stand seating 4,000, opposite the smaller 1,000-capacity east stand known as the Alwyn Hargrave stand after the Ex-Borough Councillor who helped the stadium become reality. At either end are identical stands that are the same height as the east stand, the south stand usually for away supporters. (Against Chester City on 29 April 2006, the stand was split and supporters segregated to allow the maximum number of home supporters to witness the club's promotion to League One.) The north Stand is known as the Sheinman Opticians Stand, due to a naming rights partnership with local Opticians, Sheinman Opticians.
- Training ground
Since July 2016, Northampton have trained at Moulton College in Moulton, Northampton. Before this, they trained at the former athletics track, located at the back of the East Stand at the PTS Academy Stadium.
Supporters and rivalries
The club's biggest traditional rivals are Peterborough United, a rivalry which has endured since the 1960s. Other significant rivalries include Oxford United, Milton Keynes Dons, Coventry City, Cambridge United and Rushden & Diamonds.
Honours and achievements
Football League Second Division (2nd tier)
- Runners-up: 1964–65
- Champions: 1962–63,
- Runners-up: 1927–28, 1949–50
- Champions: 1986–87, 2015–16
- Runners-up: 1975–76, 2005–06
- 3rd place promotion: 1960–61, 1999–2000[A]
- Play-off winners: 1996–97, 2019–20
- Runners-up: 1909
Northampton Town hold the record for the shortest time taken to be promoted from the bottom tier to the top tier and relegated back down to the bottom again, in the space of nine years.
Tommy Fowler holds the record for Northampton Town appearances, having played 552 first-team matches between 1946 and 1961. Centre half and former captain Ian Sampson comes second, with 449 games. The record for a goalkeeper is held by Peter Gleasure, with 412 appearances.
Jack English is the club's top goalscorer with 143 goals in competitive matches between 1947 and 1959, having surpassed Teddy Bowen's total of 120. Bowen's record had stood since September 1931, when he overtook the total of 110 goals set by striker William Lockett in 1930.
The highest attendance at the County Ground of 24,523 was on 23 April 1966 in an important relegation battle in the First Division against Fulham. It is unlikely that this record will be broken unless redevelopment takes place at Sixfields. The record attendance at Sixfields is 7,798, for an EFL Cup match against Manchester United on 21 September 2016.
Note: Flags indicate national team as defined under FIFA eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-FIFA nationality.
PFA Team of the Year
The following have been included in the PFA Team of the Year whilst playing for Northampton Town:
- 1975 Paul Stratford (Fourth Division)
- 1981 Steve Phillips (Fourth Division)
- 1987 Keith McPherson (Fourth Division)
- 1987 Richard Hill (Fourth Division)
- 1987 Trevor Morley (Fourth Division)
- 2000 Ian Hendon (Division Three)
- 2006 Ian Taylor (League Two)
- 2006 Josh Low (League Two)
- 2016 Adam Smith (League Two)
- 2016 John-Joe O'Toole (League Two)
- 2016 Ricky Holmes (League Two)
- Manager: Jon Brady
- Assistant Managers: Marc Richards & Ian Sampson
- Goalkeeping coach: Dan Watson
- Fitness coach: Ashlee Adebayo
- U18 Coaches: Jon Brady, Graham Biggs
- Kit manager: Adam Moreton
- Head of Centre of Excellence: Ian Sampson
Board of directors and ownership
- Executive chairman: Kelvin Thomas
- President: Bob Church
- Director: David Bower
- Non-executive director: Mike Wailing
Below is a list of all permanent managers of Northampton Town since its foundation in 1897.
- Club History Northampton Town FC
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