Date: 19th November 2009 at 11:02pm
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We caught up with Vital Northampton ahead of Saturday’s game to discuss the upcoming game, Chris McCready, Ben Marshall and the Cobblers’ promotion hopes this season.

1) You’ve followed us from League One to the lower end of League Two,
what’s the feeling in Northampton at the moment?

Relegation was a huge disappointment as we were in a comfortable mid-table position at Christmas time last year. Gray made some bad signings, failed to keep hold of our best players and replaced them with more poor signings, which saw us plummet to near the bottom of League Two. Things picked up when Gray left and Sampson took charge, but I think the general feeling is that the team is simply not good enough. We have a couple of decent players, but the majority are just not up to standards and we fully deserve to be where we are in the table. Hopefully Samspon will wring the changes in January, and more importantly in the summer so that we can rebuild the squad and challenge next season.

2) Ian Sampson seemed to have improved things last month after his
appointment but your form has faltered the last couple of weeks. Was
it nothing more than a honeymoon period or has Sampson really got what it takes?

think the most important thing Sammo has done since taking charge is not the results, but the attitude, confidence and fight the team is now showing. Under Gray we would roll over and give up when we went a goal behind, but Sampson has managed to instil new belief into the squad, and we have shown plenty of fight when behind over the past month. The results recently have not been great, but looking in the long run, we are into the FA Cup 2nd Round, we have only lost once in our past seven league games, and we had progressed the furthest in the JPT than we had in the past 5 years. Time will tell whether or not Sammo has what it takes, but his opening six weeks have been largely very successful and long may it continue!

3) You signed Chris McCready in the summer after he was released from
us. Has he impressed much?

He made a solid start to his Northampton career and was part of the team that only conceded one goal in our opening four matches. I have no idea what changed, but he suddenly became useless! He picked up a red card at Notts County in September and has found it hard to get back into the team since. I`m not sure if it was a confidence thing (we`d conceded a hell of a lot of goals in September/October) and he hasn`t really recovered from it while the rest of our back four has. Hopefully chris will shake it off soon and get himself back in the starting XI as he is a quality defender at this level when he`s on his game.

4) Another ex-Alex [academy] player you’ve had this season is Ben
Marshall. We never actually saw him play in the red of Crewe; have we
missed out on a good’un?

I read somewhere that Stoke only paid around £100k for Marshall which is an absolute bargain! His skill and confidence on the ball immediately made him a fan`s favourite; he was single handedly keeping us in games at times! When Sampson took charge, Marshall never really got a look in which surprised me. He`d get off the bench most of the time for the final 20 minutes but that was it. When Ben left I was a bit gutted that the club didn`t do enough to keep him on as he was head and shoulders above the rest of our squad, and only at 18 too! He`ll become a star in the Premier League one day, mark my words!

5) Is promotion still a realistic aim for the Cobblers or, after a
poor start, is it now about consolidating?

There`s no denying our former manager Stuart Gray has left us in a right mess! I think the playoffs are probably just of reach this season now, but a good run of form and you never know! The Chairman has given Sampson his backing, and when he starts to clear out the current squad and bring in the players he wants, I`d like to think we could mount some sort of promotion challenge next season.

6) Who’s been impressive for you this season? And who’s been not so impressive?

Our young goalkeeper Chris Dunn has been constantly slated by Cobblers fans in the past, so I`m delighted he has put in some excellent performances in the past few months. Luke Guttridge is probably our most naturally gifted footballer; he reads the game very well, is a good passer and isn`t afraid to shoot. It`s just a shame Sampson uses him more as a right winger rather than his natural central midfield role.

I don`t like to slate Northampton players, but two have stood out this year as being some of the worst I`ve ever seen! Paul Rodgers (who was on arsenal`s books!) and our captain Craig Hinton have been, by and large, unbelievably poor this season. They have shown glimmers of looking like professional footballers, but the majority of the time I struggle to see how they can be pros.

7) What’s your knowledge like on Crewe? Any certain players you’re not
looking forward to playing?

I`ll be honest, Calvin Zola has never struck me as one of those strikers who will cause a defence too many problems, and was very surprised to see Crewe fork out £200k for him. But to be fair to the lad, he`s repaid the club by scoring a shed load of goals and being the league`s top goal scorer! Given our fragile defence, I can see him causing us all kinds of problems on Saturday.

8) How’s your squad shaping up for the game in terms of injuries and
suspensions? Will they be missed?

Peter Gilbert will be suspended, which is a shame as he looked very solid on his debut last week and we don`t really have another decent left-back! We`re only without three other first team players who will all be missed definitely; they are Dean Beckwith, Liam Davis and Courtney Herbert. Abdul Osman is also injured, but he`s useless so won`t be missed!

9) What’s your prediction for Saturday’s game?

A score draw. I doubt we will be able to handle Zola`s size and brute strength, but I also think we have goals in us from all over the team. I`d like to think we have enough to grab a win, but the defence just worries me too much!

Thanks to Steve Bannister from Vital Northampton for the answers.