As the men in Black, Green and Gold prepare to take to the Franklin's Gardens turf for the second week running, Northampton Saints chairman John White is looking forward to an important Gallagher Premiership clash this afternoon.
Good afternoon and another socially-distanced ‘hello’ to you from Franklin’s Gardens. It feels like I have only just caught my breath from last weekend’s rollercoaster match, but we are back on home soil again today for the second week running.
“Last weekend shone a light on the work that all our Academy staff put in week in, week out.”John White, Chairman
Last Saturday’s victory over Sale Sharks is where I would like to start, as not only was it an excellent performance to beat one of our top-four rivals and record our first triumph at the Gardens in 2021, but a small piece of history was made by Chris Boyd and his team. In selecting an entirely English-qualified XV to start the game, we joined a very exclusive club. Only ten times in the history of the Premiership has any team accomplished such a unique feat, and we became the first team in over a decade to win a match doing so.
Not only were all XV of our starters English-qualified, but 12 of those players came through the Saints Academy system, with another four on the bench, which is testament to the quality of talent that continues to roll off the production line here at Franklin’s Gardens. Last weekend shone a light on the work that Mark Hopley, Will Parkin, Jake Sharp, James Craig, Alex O’Dowd, Tim Grimsey, Toby Griffiths and all our Academy staff put in week in, week out – and after a year in which nurturing our young, homegrown players has been harder than ever, I wanted to extend my congratulations and thanks to them.
Speaking of the Academy, it was a real pleasure to see our young fullback, Tommy Freeman, sign a contract extension this week. Despite only being 20 years old, Tommy has really caught the eye in 2021 so far with a string of performances which suggest he certainly has a mature head on young shoulders. I look forward to seeing him grow and improve in Black, Green and Gold in the coming years under the guidance of our coaches and our superb stable of back-three players.
“It’s always wonderful to see a Saints legend in Pat Lam back at Franklin’s Gardens, but make no mistake, we will be doing our utmost to deny him a victory on our home patch today.”John White, Chairman
You might have seen that last week we announced that the Club will be hosting another virtual supporter forum on Tuesday 13 April at 6pm. Mark Darbon, Chris Boyd and myself will be on hand to answer all your questions about how the Club has navigated the Covid-19 pandemic and what we have planned for the months ahead. Please note that this event will be free to attend, but capacity is limited to 500 places – so if you would like a place, please do register your interest on the Club’s website as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.
Back to today though, and after facing the third and fourth-placed sides in the Premiership in recent weeks, this afternoon we welcome the club at the very top of the ladder currently – Bristol Bears. It’s always wonderful to see a Saints legend in Pat Lam back at Franklin’s Gardens, but make no mistake, we will be doing our utmost to deny him a victory on our home patch today.
Saints and Bristol both play some of the most attractive rugby in the league, so I’ve no doubt that we will be treated to a rip-roaring, end-to-end game. Northampton have shown in recent weeks that we are capable of winning tight, physical matches as well as wide-open contests – victories over Exeter and Sale (two of the most confrontational sides in the division) show that when we have the bit between our teeth, we have become as difficult to beat as anyone. In another remarkably unpredictable race for the play-off places, where at least ten teams currently remain in top-four contention, this ability for Saints to win both ways could prove to be crucial.
I hope you enjoy this afternoon’s match, and make sure you throw all your support behind the team for what is sure to be a thrilling afternoon of rugby.
Come on you Saints!