Long says Saints are facing a transition period

Andy Long. Photo by Linda Dawson.
Andy Long. Photo by Linda Dawson.

ANDY LONG believes Saints are currently in a ‘transition’ period – after seeing some of their star men leave this summer.

Chris Ashton, James Downey and Roger Wilson have all left Franklin’s Gardens, with others such as Jon Clarke and Greig Tonks also departing.

Saints have attempted to plug the gaps by snapping up Luther Burrell, Cameron Shepherd, Ken Pisi, Gerrit-Jan van Velze and Sam Dickinson.

But Long, who was set to leave Northampton to join Gloucester this summer before being forced to retire due to a degenerative neck injury, believes the new men have got a big job on their hands.

“I think Saints are in a bit of a transition because quite a few players have left, the likes of James Downey, Roger Wilson, Jon Clarke,” said the 34-year-old. “Those sort of players have been at the club for years and they are big boots to fill.

“Those players are good players and I think the players who come in, the likes of Luther Burrell and the South Africa A player (Jan van Velze), have got a lot of work to do. But the club’s in a good state, it’s just a case of rebuilding.

“I don’t know what position they’re going to be in next year, but if they keep everyone fit they’ve got a good chance of finishing in the play-off places.

“That’s where they need to be and without the World Cup as a distraction they’ll be all the better for that. The club’s in a good place and it’s just about rebuilding.”

Saints messageboards have been buzzing with rumours and speculation of who the club are going to sign, with fans fearing their side might be caught a little short in a couple of positions next season.

But despite their concerns, the supporters retain immense faith in director of rugby Jim Mallinder, who has restored the club among the European elite since taking over in 2007.

And Long, who made 38 appearances for Saints, has full confidence in Mallinder’s ability to rebuild the squad at the Gardens.

“Jim has brought the club up from National League One and he kept some of those players together for four or five years,” he said. “Now they’ve left, it’s another rebuild.

“The players who at that point (in 2007) weren’t international players are now international players – the likes of Courtney (Lawes), the likes of Dylan (Hartley) and (Ben) Foden. They just need to make sure they’ve got players who can fill in when those boys are away.

“There’s a model that they use at the club and a style of play that they use, which the players that come in will adapt to.”