BOTH Gary Waddock and Chris Wilder have gone out of their way to deflect attention away from the technical area and on to the pitch at Sixfields tomorrow afternoon.
The build-up to the final game of the season began the minute Wilder swapped high-flying Oxford United to join rock bottom Northampton Town in January.
For weeks the clash had all the hallmarks of a ready-made epic, with the result having a bearing at both ends of the Sky Bet League Two table.
It remains a season-defining afternoon for the Cobblers, who go into the game knowing they need a point to make certain of a great escape from relegation.
Unfortunately, United’s slump during the run-in means the stakes are not as high for the visitors, who barring a mathematical catastrophe will finish eighth whatever happens.
But a first reunion with Wilder nonetheless ensures the game will carry extra spice for the 1,360 fans making the short trip up the A43.
The sudden manner of the Yorkshireman’s exit meant he had little opportunity to go into details about the reasons behind it.
Wilder was careful not to get drawn into a debate this week and almost managed to go through his entire pre-match press duties without even saying the word ‘Oxford’.
With Northampton’s Football League status still not certain, the focus was all on finishing the job, rather than discussing his old one.
“Whoever we were playing, whether we were playing Scunthorpe, Chesterfield or Rochdale, in this particular moment we would fancy our chances to get the job done,” Wilder said.
“That isn’t being arrogant, it’s just me seeing the way the team are playing, the attitude in the team at the moment, the support of the crowd and the feelgood factor we have got going through this club at the moment.
“We will take that into Saturday.”
Wilder also insisted the preparation would be as normal, even though Northampton were facing a side he knew inside out.
“Obviously I know the players because I brought them in,” he said.
“We’ll look at them like we do with every club.
“Of course I know a little bit more about them than other teams, but we always talk about strengths and weaknesses for any opposition, whether they are Oxford, Dagenham or anybody.
“We’ll try to work out the best way to get a result.
“The preparation will obviously be the same, but just with a touch more knowledge.”
- Oxford United head coach Gary Waddock
For his part, Waddock was equally focused on getting a performance from his side.
After six defeats in his seven games in charge, the U’s head coach is acutely aware of the need to head into the summer with a crumb of comfort.
He said: “Unfortunately it’s not going to be what we were all looking for, but we have to make sure we put on a performance for our fans.
“Secondly, Northampton are fighting for their lives to stay in the league.
“Thirdly, the ex-manager is there and he would like to get a win, I’m sure.
“Players would like to play well against their ex-manager, so there’s a lot on the game.
“But for me it’s about a performance and winning a football match.
“I won’t use Chris at all.
“Chris has a job to do for Northampton, I’ve got a job to do for Oxford.
“Chris won’t come into it as far as I’m concerned.”