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Mark Darbon: Read the Chief Executive's programme notes

Northampton Saints chief executive Mark Darbon is relishing the prospect of a fresh challenge in Europe over the next two weeks, with a first-ever trip to Timisoara on the horizon after hosting Dragons.

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

Hello and welcome back to Franklin’s Gardens for today’s return to European action, with Saints taking on Dragons in the Challenge Cup.

After a challenging couple of weeks in the Premiership, we now turn our attention to Europe and it’s exciting to shift our focus to a different competition. Our prospects for progressing out of our Pool in the Challenge Cup are really bright, and this afternoon’s clash – the third time we have come up against our Welsh opponents since August – is really important as a victory would not only put us in a strong position, but also keeps our destiny in our own hands. Having beaten Dragons twice on away soil already this season, I know Chris Boyd, our coaches and the rest of the playing squad have been putting in the hard yards this week to deliver another win.

"The beauty of this competition is the variety of the opposition the Club will come up against."

Mark Darbon, Chief Executive

The beauty of this competition is the variety of the opposition the Club will come up against. We look forward to a trip to Romania next weekend to face a side we have never played before in Timisoara Saracens. Given the Club’s 138-year history, it’s not often we are blessed with ‘firsts’, but this first skirmish against Timisoara offers a unique opportunity for all Saints supporters. There’s no telling when we might return to Romania to play, and places are still available for the trip via the Club’s official Supporter Travel supplier Thomas Cook Sport – I, for one, am really looking forward to seeing what Timisoara holds in store.

I wanted to extend my thanks to our Elite Partner, Travis Perkins, for all their support in delivering our annual toy collection initiative here at Franklin’s Gardens last weekend. A spectacular number of toys were donated last Saturday afternoon for children of all ages to enjoy this Christmas, and 12 of our players delivered some of those to Northampton General Hospital on Wednesday. It’s fantastic to see the Club making such an impact within the community at this time of year, and our festive work continues with the Foundation this week announcing they would be donating care packages to the Northampton Hope Centre, as well as setting up a food bank for the Exeter match here at Franklin’s Gardens – more details on how you can get involved will be released on our website next week.

We were also delighted to this week secure another signature from one of our up-and-coming players in James Grayson. It’s fantastic to see the future of the Club looking so bright with James being the fifth player to sign on for the long-term in recent weeks. He is clearly an extremely talented young man who has shown a maturity beyond his years in leading the side when called upon at fly-half so far this season. Northampton Saints is in his blood too, and I know many supporters are very fond of him already, so we are really excited he shares our vision moving forwards.

"It’s fantastic to see the future of the Club looking so bright with James the fifth player to sign on for the long-term in recent weeks."

Mark Darbon, Chief Executive

Many of you will have seen that last week we shifted the times of some of our fixtures in the new year – both to minimise traffic congestion around the ground on matchdays, and also to allow supporters to enjoy England’s games during the Six Nations without worrying about any clashes with Saints matches. Ensuring our supporters have the best possible experience when visiting Franklin’s Gardens is of the utmost importance to us, so thanks have to go to our opposition in Sale, Bristol and Bath for allowing us to change the times, as well as the Cobblers’ management for their ongoing co-operation.

Finally, I am really excited to say that the summer schedule for Franklin’s Gardens is coming together very nicely, and before Christmas we will be revealing some of our plans to host major events during the off-season. Part of our vision for a sustainable future is about making Franklin’s Gardens a world-class multi-purpose venue that can be used 365 days of the year, and we are set to make some big strides in that area in 2019.

Enjoy this afternoon’s game and make sure you turn up the volume to get behind the side as you always do.

Come on you Saints!

Mark Darbon
Chief Executive