Northampton Town boss Jon Brady has made the move from the Ashes tour network to the Tier Two promotion push

The Cobblers were put through by a landslide win by Bristol Rovers with seven goals, but Brady had 7,250 minutes to go before the play-off semifinals against Mansfield and warned: “We don’t have a moment to lose.”

Orient vs Northampton Town – Sky Bet League Two LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 23: Northampton Town manager Jon Brady pays tribute to the traveling Northampton fans at the end of the Sky Bet League Two match between Leyton Orient and Northampton Town at the Breyer Group Stadium on April 23, 2016 in England April , 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

Fair dinkum Cobbler Jon Brady was once recruited as an extra at net training when England’s cricketers were playing an Ashes Tour match in his hometown.

In truth, Mike Gatting’s bat and ball guest attachés had made a strong impression. The venerable writer Martin Johnson had famously concluded: “There are only three things wrong with this England team: they can’t bat, they can’t bowl and they can’t catch.”

And when 11-year-old Brady, who was playing football with his buddies at a neighboring pitch, peeked over the fence to judge for himself, our brave cricketers lived the hype in grand style. Knocked out for 82 and beaten by eight wickets against New South Wales, they had gotten back on type after winning the first Test the previous week.

“I was kicking with my mates on the pitch next door when England manager Micky Stewart was giving technical advice to a tall guy with lots of blond curls,” said the Northampton Town manager. “I think it was (fast bowler) Graham Dilley. We just stayed and watched a bit, fetched the ball, fetched a little and carried it.”

King of the Brady Group: Northampton boss Jon Brady

For a schoolboy from Newcastle, a surf resort and the largest coal port on the Pacific, getting a close-up look at the Poms was cool. Little did Brady know that 35 years later he would be on the verge of becoming the first Australian manager to climb into the top four divisions of English football.

Privilege was cruelly snatched from the Cobblers last weekend as they started the day five goals clear of Bristol Rovers for the remaining automatic promotion spot from Tier Two. A three-goal lead at Barrow and eventually a 3-1 win at Holker Street should have sealed the deal. But Rovers’ 7-0 win over desperately young side relegated Scunthorpe put the gas in the roof when it came to goals scored.

It was hard for Brady, now 47, to process the heartbreaking disappointment and swallow the prospect of a play-off semi-final against Mansfield instead of a party. “We reached out to the players first thing on Monday morning and I asked them to take anything and everything off their chests – how they were feeling, any ailments – which they did,” he said. “Then I said to them, ‘There are 7,250 minutes before kick-off in Mansfield – let’s not waste a minute.’

Tutorial: The late Graham Dilley

“This group has weathered so many setbacks over the course of the season, from a ‘goal’ not crossing the line against Forest Green Rovers to a 21 day break due to Covid, but they have never lost their spirit and their fight . her effort. We won promotion through the play-offs at Wembley two years ago when the only fans allowed were cardboard cutouts behind the goal.

“This time our motivation is to go back and celebrate in front of real people. What happened last weekend was horrible, but it’s over – and we’re at our best with our backs to the wall. We have a second chance to rise and we can’t waste a minute dwelling on the past.”

Brady has never hung around waiting for fate to set the agenda. He arrived in England aged 16 and persuaded his parents to let him fly 10,500 miles around the world to join Brentford, the first of his 14 clubs as a journeyman winger. He was chosen by a representative Australian side to counter Tottenham and Denmark in the warm-up and caught the attention of the Bees scouts.

“My parents wanted me to finish the last year, which would be called high school, here,” Brady said. “But Brentford said it’s now or never – sign now or you’ll miss the opportunity. It was pretty intimidating to take a plane here alone, but my parents were brave enough to let me follow my dreams.

Tipped on the post: Northampton’s promotion rivals Bristol Rovers celebrate

“Now on the few occasions I return to Australia I get blown to bits because of my accent. What happens over the next few days doesn’t affect me personally – it’s about getting Northampton back in League One. I am fully interested in this club, the player group, the people who work behind the scenes and the fans.

“We have full respect for Mansfield and are expecting two close games but it would be nice to go back to Wembley and see those cardboard cutouts come to life.”

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