Matthew Crichton: Northampton were relegated back to League Two following a 3-0 defeat against Blackpool last Saturday - was this something you saw coming, or did you have belief the club could stay up?
Tom Reed: Unfortunately, it was something most Cobblers fans saw coming. Firstly, Keith Curle’s abysmal football and then a general lack of goals have cost us. It’s been a record-breaking season of games without Town registering a goal so that speaks for itself.
MC: The Cobblers possess a torrid away record, winning just three of their 22 matches this season on the road, what are the main factors behind that?
TR: We are a fairly industrious side with a bit of quality here and there but liable to crumble at the worst times. Opponents will know that if they push Cobblers till the last-minute opportunities will arise.
Again, the lack of goals means the team can’t travel away with much confidence.
MC: In mid-February, the club made the decision to sack Keith Curle and replace him with Jon Brady - in hindsight has that proved to be a correct decision?
TR: 100% the correct decision as Curle had lost the plot and was producing some of the worst football in recent times on a churned-up pitch. It was quite some going to move from promotion winners to getting the boot, but Curle managed it.
Brady is a good club man, but lacks managerial experience at this level.
A move upstairs to a technical director role might suit him.
MC: Northampton lost the likes of Charlie Goode, Vadaine Oliver, David Cornell and Jordan Turnbull in the summer - did the club simply fail to bring in suitable replacements?
TR: Yes, Covid-19 had an impact for a club losing money and aware of trying to balance the books, but the recruitment has been awful. The loan of Luca Racic from Brentford as a replacement for Goode was a disaster, as was the loan signing of Joe Nuttall from Blackpool who arrived injured and barely featured before being returned.
Another loanee, the goalkeeper Jonathan Mitchell from Derby has proved error-prone to put it politely. Frank Spencer would be an improvement on some of the Cobblers players against the Mackems.
MC: Ryan Watson is Northampton’s top scorer this season with nine goals - is he the main player Sunderland will have to be wary of?
TR: Yes definitely, he is a good technical, box-to-box midfielder who is probably our best finisher, despite being a centre-mid. He can score goals from nothing but does blow hot and cold, and I wouldn’t blame him if he was already on the beach.
MC: Sunderland currently have two Northampton players on trial with our under-23s - what can you tell us about Tom Scott and Ethan Johnston?
TR: Not a lot, which is contentious in itself. The homegrown “player pathway” is a hot potato among fans, with young Cam McWilliams already having left for Cardiff and the highly-rated Caleb Chukwuemeka having barely featured and yet to sign a pro-deal.
Scott and Johnston may well be very promising players and few could blame them for going to the Stadium Of Light should you rate them.
MC: Looking further into next season, do you think the club are in a comfortable position financially and on the pitch to compete for promotion back to League One?
TR: Not particularly if you look at the last accounts; a few are genuinely concerned about back-to-back relegations, but I’d expect the board to appoint a safe pair of hands to try and steady the ship. Derek Adams from Morecambe has been rumoured.
MC: Who are the eleven players who you expect Jon Brady to select and what style of play can Lee Johnson’s men expect to encounter?
TR: You would hope that some of the younger players are given a chance, but it is likely Brady will opt for the most unchanged 11 as much as possible.
4-3-3 - Mitchell (GK), Kioso, Horsfall, Jones, Harriman, Watson, McWilliams, Morris, Hoskins, Rose, Miller.
I’ll probably be a few out with that team, but forgive me as my mind’s already on the Summer and watching Northants Cricket, who have a few players that can actually get on the scoresheet.
MC: The two sides drew 0-0 back in January, what is your honest prediction of the score this time around?
TR: 2-0 Sunderland. Sorry for coming across as pessimistic, Northampton fans, but I have to be realistic.