Foden reveals emotional Saints departure and reflects on first season in New York

Ben Foden has revealed the emotional moments before his final game at Saints, and admitted he is grateful his move to New York came when it did.

By Tom Vickers
Monday, 29th July 2019, 8:00 am
Ben Foden scored on his final Saints appearance (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Ben Foden scored on his final Saints appearance (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Foden played at Franklin's Gardens for the last time in May, 2018, captaining the black, green and gold in a clash with Worcester Warriors.

It was an eventful day as the former England full-back was sin-binned in the second minute before bouncing back to score in a 32-24 Gallagher Premiership victory for his side.

And Foden, who recently finished his first season with Rugby United New York in Major League Rugby, told a Rugby Pass documentary about his last Saints appearance.

"I'd made my decision that I was going to come to New York and it was going to be my last game at Northampton," said the 34-year-old, who played 250 games for Saints after joining the club from Sale Sharks in the summer of 2008.

"I was captain and I thought 'I'm going to deliver a real emotional speech to the lads before we run out' and it was sort of a nothing game, just sort of playing a last game for guys who were leaving.

"I gave myself about two minutes to speak before we had to run out, we were in the huddle and you can say all sorts of things to get the boys fired up, normally I'm quite good at that sort of thing, delivering a message to wind the boys up and get some emotion out of them because I think games are won and lost on emotion.

"But as soon as I opened my mouth to try to speak, I just got all chokey and the boys could see that. It was probably quite effective really because the boys could see how much it meant to me.

"I'd been at the club for 10 years and I was looking around the changing room at guys who had been with me from start to finish and thinking of the memories of other guys I had shared the field with and it got to me at that moment.

"I got teary and choked up and I had to let someone take over for 30 seconds and then we all sat in silence for a minute before we ran out."

Rugby United New York eventually missed out on glory in MLR as they lost 24-22 to San Diego Legion in the semi-finals on June 9.

Samu Manoa's Seattle Seawolves were crowned champions as they beat the San Diego side in the showpiece.

But Foden's experience in New York has been nothing but positive, and he believes the move across the Atlantic came at the ideal time for him.

"It excited me to get to New York - I always wanted to live in America when I was a kid," he said.

"The opportunity came, I liked what the people at the club were trying to do and I wanted that new challenge.

"The New York idea popped up from Alex Corbisiero, an old-team-mate of mine who works for NBC out here, and he was telling me about this new league, the MLR.

"He asked if I would be keen to meet with James Kennedy and James English, the guys who are putting things together in New York.

"I was at the point where there weren't many options left for me and this was the only one that excited me.

"I was getting divorced and at that time in my life it was good to go somewhere no one knows me and to escape reality a little bit. It was about rebuilding.

"I was able to piece things back together because the last 12 months of my life have probably been the most difficult in terms of realising my time at Northampton was done, my marriage coming unstuck and getting divorced, still having two young children to love and hopefully bring up in a safe environment, coming to New York, a new place, new adventure, a new challenge and making that all fit in.

"My personal life played a massive part in me coming to New York because I felt it was somewhere I could escape and sink my attention into.

"If you're sat on your own and left to your own thoughts and devices, you can get yourself into a dark place.

"You hear about a lot of sports stars who finish their careers - mental awareness is a big thing running through the Premiership at the moment - and for me it was about focusing my attention and energy into something new.

"New York gave me that opportunity and I'm very thankful it came when it did."