Saintly send-off for Leon Barwell

IN ATTENDANCE - Saints skipper Dylan Hartley, James Craig, Alex Waller and Ethan Waller at Leon Barwell's funeral

IN ATTENDANCE - Saints skipper Dylan Hartley, James Craig, Alex Waller and Ethan Waller at Leon Barwell's funeral

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It was to be the saintly send-off Leon Barwell deserved.

More than 900 people packed into All Saints Church to pay their respects to the former Saints chairman on Thursday morning.

Famous faces from across the sporting world, including the current Northampton squad, were in attendance.

Saracens were represented by ex-Saint Chris Ashton and his current club’s chief executive, Edward Griffiths, while Cobblers chairman David Cardoza also took a pew.

But this wasn’t about them, and they knew it.

This was about Leon and his family, who did the man they loved proud.

Leon’s young sons Henry and Ben paid tribute to their father. In doing so, they showed their father’s class and ability to warm hearts has been passed down.

Leon’s father Keith also spoke well about the life of his son, giving those who did not know him during his younger years a real insight.

There was a moving reading from sister Ella and further tributes from Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder and Leon’s friend Graham Starmer.

Each said something different about the man they had taken close to their hearts during the time they had known him.

There were some laughs, and as Mallinder pointed out - Leon would have appreciated that. He would have laughed, too.

Keith Barwell read out some of the messages sent to him by supporters, who had grown fond of their club’s chairman.

Good relationships between the men in charge of professional sports clubs and the fans can often be strained. Not at Saints.

Leon’s work will have been noticed by anyone who had taken a seat at Franklin’s Gardens during the time he spent there.

He had done so much for the club, and the club got the chance to show its appreciation on Thursday.

A chorus of ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ echoed around All Saints Church at the conclusion of the ceremony.

It was a fitting goodbye to Leon, and how glad we all were that we had the chance to be in his number.