Northampton Saints chief executive Mark Darbon is looking forward to the return of the Gallagher Premiership and reflects on the importance of the Club's annual Remembrance Ceremony.
Read Mark's welcome and more in today's official matchday programme, on sale for £3.50...
Hello and welcome to what is set to be a special fixture this afternoon – not only do we have an exciting midlands Derby match against Wasps to look forward to, but the Club will be paying its respects to the thousands of armed forces troops who have given their lives for our country.
Northampton Saints and the armed forces share a history that is inextricably linked. Every year the Club takes great pride in joining the rest of the nation in doing all it can to support the Royal British Legion during our annual Remembrance Ceremony. As usual, we will be holding a minute’s silence and laying wreaths on the stadium’s War Memorial – a tradition I am honoured to be participating in today.
The Ode of Remembrance will also be read out with all proceeds from the game’s bucket shake going towards the Royal British Legion. Many soldiers have graced the turf at Franklin’s Gardens over the years – John Steele, Tim Rodber and Chris Budgen to name a few – while Edgar Mobbs’ story is arguably Northampton’s greatest folklore. Our War Memorial states that the 22 Saints who gave their lives in conflict also ‘played the game’, and while we remember them always at Franklin’s Gardens, today’s ceremony reminds us of the ultimate sacrifice they paid.
"Every year the Club takes great pride in joining the rest of the nation in doing all it can to support the Royal British Legion."Mark Darbon
After three rounds of the Premiership Rugby Cup it’s really exciting to find ourselves back in Gallagher Premiership action this afternoon. We’re in a strong position in the Cup having won two of three matches, and it was really pleasing to see our young players performing at such a high level – yet another indication that the future is bright here at Franklin’s Gardens. It was no surprise to see James Grayson selected as the competition’s Breakthrough Player for the first round, but a host of others also took their opportunities with both hands and continue in the first team this afternoon.
We cannot deny that our luck with injuries has not been good in recent weeks, but Chris Boyd and his coaching team have complete faith in the squad they have assembled. Injuries present opportunities within our group, and Chris spoke in the press this week about the importance of trusting our young players to come of age in the Premiership, rather than simply bringing in injury cover over their heads. Seeing the likes of Ollie Sleightholme, George Furbank, Alex Moon, Fraser Dingwall and James Fish in the matchday 23 today shows the faith that Chris has in them – and I am sure they will grab the bull by the horns.
Speaking of young players, we were delighted earlier this month to secure the signature of tighthead prop Ehren Painter. After dazzling for both Saints and England Under-20s when given his chance last year, Ehren has gone from strength to strength this season and is fully deserving of his first senior contract with the Club. Credit has to go to Simon Sinclair, Mark Hopley and all the Academy staff for the impressive calibre of players that continue to be developed here at Franklin’s Gardens.
"Seeing so many young players in the matchday 23 today shows the faith that Chris has in them – and I am sure they will grab the bull by the horns.Mark Darbon
I appreciated meeting so many of you at our annual Season Ticket Holder forum a few weeks ago, and was delighted to see so many people had also tuned in to watch online via our live stream. I enjoyed the debate and listened to all of the feedback we received during the evening – hopefully you will continue to see plenty of improvements around Franklin’s Gardens in the coming months. One of the topics that was hotly debated was ticketing, and on that note our Half Season Ticket went on sale last week. With some big matches on the horizon in the new year – including Leicester Tigers, Bath, and Gloucester – and prices starting from just £20 a game, we hope that this would be the perfect Christmas present for any Saints supporter young or old.
I know Alex Waller, Dylan Hartley and the rest of the playing squad have been extremely grateful for the passionate support they have once again received when playing on home soil so far this season. We have some crucial clashes coming up in the build-up to Christmas in both the Premiership and Challenge Cup competitions, starting with what is sure to be a fascinating tussle against a strong Wasps side.
So, warm up those vocal chords today and play your part in creating a special atmosphere here at Franklin’s Gardens once again.
Enjoy the game, and come on you Saints!
Tickets are still available for Northampton Saints’ Gallagher Premiership fixture with Wasps on 17 November. Buy now from £36 adults and £16 juniors by CLICKING HERE.
Saints will host their annual Remembrance service and wreath laying ahead of the match, and England v Japan will be shown in the Rodber Bar after the full-time whistle.