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John White: Read the Chairman's programme notes

Northampton Saints chairman John White is preparing to pay tribute to a Club legend in kitman Kev Buckby at this afternoon's derby match.

Read John's welcome and more in tonight's official matchday programme, on sale for £3.50...

Hello and welcome back to Franklin’s Gardens! We’re excited to be hosting our East Midlands adversaries Leicester Tigers once again here for what is sure to be another blockbuster derby day.

Whenever we play Tigers, the match is always a special occasion. Our two clubs have a massive rivalry, arguably the greatest in English rugby – and with a victory for us securing a place in the semi-finals of the Premiership Rugby Cup, expect plenty of fire and brimstone once again.

"Any match we play against Leicester Tigers is a special occasion."

John White, Chairman

The last time we faced Tigers, we of course played at Twickenham in aid of Rob Horne. It feels like a good opportunity for me to say a huge ‘thank you’ again for your impassioned support on that day. It was an afternoon that will live long in the memory for many Saints supporters who got to bid a very fond farewell to Rob, despite Saints not coming out on the right side of the result. I’m delighted and not at all surprised to say that Rob is excelling back home Down Under in a new role as manager of the Australia 7s team. It’s great to see him working again in rugby; he has so much knowledge to pass on from playing across the world, and they are very lucky to have him.

This afternoon we’ll pay tribute to another incredible servant of the Club – our kitman, Kevin Buckby. For those of you that don’t know him, Kevin has been working at Franklin’s Gardens for 15 years now and today marks his 500th match in the Northampton Saints dressing room. It’s amazing to think his first game was all the way back in September 2004. He’s certainly someone who has seen a bit of everything in his time here, making sure countless players and coaches have been taken care of, and even driving kit across Europe when the team have needed it. During the half-time break today we’ll welcome Kevin onto the pitch to say a huge ‘thank you’ to him for his remarkable loyalty and dedication to the Club. He really is an unsung hero at Franklin’s Gardens, and it’s fascinating to hear him talk about his time here – read on within this programme for an in-depth interview.

"Kev Buckby really is an unsung hero here at Franklin’s Gardens."

John White, Chairman

I have known Kevin personally since he was a mischievous five-year-old boy in Desborough where I lived. He would regularly sneak off from his house whenever his parents were not watching him, to come and play for hours in the sand on the building site where I was working as an apprentice. Little did I imagine that I would be making a presentation to him at Franklin’s Gardens 50 years later!

International rugby will return to our screens next weekend with the return of the Six Nations. It should be a fascinating championship and we wish all of our representatives the very best. On that note, don’t forget we are hosting what could well be the Under-20s Six Nations championship decider at Franklin’s Gardens on Friday 15 March as England take on Scotland. The likes of Fraser Dingwall, Ollie Sleightholme, Samson Ma’asi and Alex Coles are all likely to be wearing the Red Rose so book your seats now from our ticket office and give our next generation of Saints stars your support.

Speaking of the next generation, today we have hosted our first ever girls-only matchday festival on our training pitches behind the ground. Following on from the success of the Redrow Summer 7s girls festival, over 150 junior girls players have taken part this morning and we are proud to be supporting the development of women’s rugby in the region. A huge welcome to Lydia Thompson – a giant of the women’s game – who also attended this morning’s festival to help inspire all the players in attendance. With two World Cup wins and a nomination for the 2017 World Rugby women’s player of the year award under her belt, we are lucky to have Lydia here and wish her a speedy recovery from injury. Don’t forget; we’re also hosting the Tyrells Premier XVs final later in the year, with tickets for that event also available to buy now.

"With knock-out rugby on the line I’m sure our players will deliver another performance to be proud of here on home soil."

John White, Chairman

Focusing on the game itself, it’s great to see several players working their way back from injuries and into the Black, Green and Gold jersey this afternoon. Our medical and S&C departments has been working overtime this season, and seeing the likes of Ken Pisi, Nafi Tuitavake and James Haskell back in the squad is testament to that effort – so a huge well done to Matt Lee, Tommy Bullough and their teams for continuing to bring players back from injury ahead of schedule.

Chris Boyd has selected a really exciting side this afternoon, one packed with youth and experience. With knock-out rugby on the line I’m sure our players will deliver another performance to be proud of here on home soil.

I hope you enjoy the game, and as ever don’t be shy to make yourselves heard! I’m sure no-one needs any encouragement with Tigers on the other side of the pitch this afternoon.

Come on you Saints!

John White
Chairman