Northampton Town Football Club were founded on 6th March 1897. The men responsible were a group of local school teachers from the Northampton & District Elementary Schools’ Association, who got together with the well known local solicitor, AJ “Pat” Darnell in the Princess Royal Inn, Wellingborough Road, Northampton to form the town’s first professional football club. Problems were encountered before a ball was kicked, when the local rugby club objected to the club name of Northampton Football Club. Arbitration was sought at the Football Association and the club were to be called Northampton Town Football Club.
The club joined the Northants League and spent just two seasons there during which time they recouped their first transfer fee, £50 from Derby County for Frank Howard, who was the club’s first professional player, and later became a gateman at the County Ground This ground was shared with the Northamptonshire County Cricket Club, Originally farmland it was converted into a cricket field in the 1880’s.
As a football venue it was a shambles, with only three sides. The majority of home supporters stood in the “Hotel End”, a covered terrace behind one of the goals. To the left was a small stand with a terrace at the front, which ran the length of the pitch. Opposite was what was known as the “cricket side”, basically a series of wooden planks laid on the ground, around 3-4 people in depth. It ran the length of the pitch. Behind the other goal was the “Spion Kop” which ran from the goal to the “Meccano Stand side”. This was home to the away fans during the latter years at the ground, although part of the stand had been condemned. The County Ground was a far cry from the council-owned Sixfields Stadium that Northampton Town moved to in 1994.
The town’s shoe manufacturing industry gave rise to the nickname The Cobblers. Northampton was the world capital of shoemaking and its must have been a great sight seeing everyone in the town walking around in diamond-encrusted golf shoes, fashionable shiny boots or blue suede shoes. Or maybe claret, for those are the club’s colours.
When The Cobblers ran out for their first-ever match they sported an attractive blue and chocolate halved jersey, smartly completed by black trousers. Two years later they adopted the county colours of claret and white, used in almost every imaginable pattern through the next decades. During their one-year spell in the top flight in the same year England won the World Cup, the claret shirt with white sleeves became the most famous strip worn by the club.
Cobblers fans of course have mixed views about another kit, one of the most stylish to be worn by the team – the very neat all white kit with two claret hoops. Stylish it undoubtedly was, but the abiding image of that ensemble is of Man United’s George Best waltzing through a mesmerised Northampton defence as he scored his sixth goal in an 8-2 FA Cup victory in 1970.
Northampton Town’s beautiful emblem is a modified version of the town’s arms, with the castle in the shield serving as the centrepiece, representing one of the ancient town gates. The castle was built by Simon de Senlis about 1100 and was on several occasions the scene of Councils and Parliaments, including the Assize of Northampton in 1176, which provided inter alia for the destruction of castles which had been held against the King during the rebellion three years before, and for the future custody of castles.
Northampton Castle was held for John against the barons, and for Parliament against Charles 1. The shoe in the shield alludes to aforementioned town’s industry. The rose, the emblem of harmony, has long been the emblem of Northamptonshire having appeared on a seal used by the magistrates in Quarter Sessions as far back as 1665. The rose recalls the county’s association with the houses of York and Lancaster, whose rivalry culminated in the Wars of the Roses, and whose ultimate union was symbolized by the Tudor Rose.
The supporting lion was adopted from those on the shield of the King to indicate that Northampton was a royal borough. The mythical griffin creature was added to the club’s own taste because this heraldic icon devise is symbolic of vigilance and strength.
This tasteful and delicate badge wasn’t The Cobblers’ first emblem. The version used until the mid 1980’s was a lion set an a sash reading ‘Cobblers’ and holding a laurel containing shoemaking utensils. The 1986/7 and 1997/8 campaigns showed just NTFC in diagonal script on the kit. In 1988 it was usurped for another design that can be described as a bowling ball, kicked forward by what vaguely reminds us of a shoe, at a speed of 100 miles an hour, completed by, surprise, surprise, NTFC. Gladly, one year later the club quickly adopted the traditional emblem. It may not possess the defining characteristic of the twenty-first century. But it sure encompasses Northampton Town’s history. It should stay forever.