Norman Barker was named as the winner of the Award, which was introduced in association with Northampton Borough Council, as recognition of his decades of coaching and support provided to young rugby players in the Northampton area.
A former teacher at both Northampton School for Boys and Sponne School in Towcester, Barker played a pivotal role in the development of England internationals Steve Thompson and Courtney Lawes, as well as many international age group players.
He was also important in maintaining Northamptonshire schools rugby in the early-1980s, and dedicated time to several junior clubs in the area.
But it is his attitude as much as his work ethic that earned him the award, which was decided by a panel from Northampton Saints and Northampton Borough Council after the club had received nominations from the town’s rugby community.
The award was presented by the leader of Northampton Borough Council, Councillor Mary Markham, who said that Barker was a worthy recipient.
“Northampton is a town which lives and breathes its rugby,” she commented. “We have a thriving sport at schools and junior clubs, but this is only possible because of the hard work and dedication of people like Norman Barker, who has given countless hours of time over several decades to support young players and their development.
“You could see by how people spoke about him on the film, and by the reception he received, just how much warm feeling there is for Norman, and he is a worthy recipient of this award.”
“His positivity is infectious,” says Paul Bryant, rugby coach at Northampton School for Boys. “He draws you in to want to be the best that you can be. He’s an absolute fanatic in terms of wanting to be the best and do the best for all those around him and as such, everyone that knows him adores him for all that he does through rugby.”
Former student Paul Diggin, who went on to play for England Under-21 and nearly 150 times for the Saints before joining the club’s Academy staff, says that he was delighted to hear the news.
“Norman is an absolute legend in my eyes, one of the greatest guys I’ve ever met,” he said. “It’s only right that someone recognises the work that he’s done not only as a teacher but also all of the work that he’s done with extra-curricular activities.”
“At the school he’s been an ever-present,” added Mark Lee, school development director at Northampton School for Boys. “He’s out there four times a week and still is, he’d be out there six times a week if he could be. He’s helped all of our players that have come through including Steve Thompson, Paul Diggin and Courtney Lawes.
“He’s been a great servant to rugby at the school but even bigger than that, he’s been a great servant to rugby in the town and rugby in general.”