Chief executive Robson adamant this can be Saints’ season

FULL OF BELIEF - Saints chief executive Allan Robson
FULL OF BELIEF - Saints chief executive Allan Robson

Allan Robson’s belief that Saints will win a major trophy during the forthcoming season has never been stronger.

The chief executive feels the Franklin’s Gardens squad is better than it’s ever been and he now truly feels this will be the year they end their long wait for coveted silverware.

Saints, who recently announced they had recorded a profit for the 13th financial year in succession, have been big players in the transfer market this year.

The likes of George North, Alex Corbisiero and Kahn Fotuali’i have arrived to bolster a squad which reached the Aviva Premiership final last season.

And Robson is struggling to control his excitement ahead of a campaign that promises so much.

“In January I’ll have been here 14 years,” he said.

“I arrived and we won the Heineken Cup immediately and I thought ‘wow, what a club I’ve walked into here’ and we also challenged in the league that year and the Tetley Bitter Cup.

“They were special those days, but we haven’t really 
lived up to them since, much as we’ve been in finals now for the past five years, but I actually believe.

“We musn’t over-egg this one and think if we come in second it has been a disaster, but I actually believe we’ve got a fair chance at stuff.

“I know other clubs are looking at us with trepidation this season because they can see the developments we’ve made and the improvements we’ve reached.”

And Robson sees real reason for Saints fans to share his expectation.

He said: “For the first time, Saints supporters can look on and say with reality that we will be challenging up there in any of the three competitions, if not all of the competitions.

“We’ve got a squad that’s been developed over six years and it’s stronger than it’s ever been.

“We’ve often had a good 15, a 23 that’s as good as many, but now we’ve got that depth.

“That’s the most important thing because we will have international call-ups, we will have injuries, we may even have suspensions and then we need the whole squad to pitch it.

“It’s a debilitating game, a very tiring game and some directors of rugby believe in that rotation system as well so it’s a strong squad, not a strong team that will win championships.”

Jim Mallinder, now in his seventh season as Saints director of rugby, has already admitted this is the strongest squad he has had at his disposal since he moved to Northampton.

But Robson denies Mallinder is under any extra pressure because of the players he has brought in.

“I’m not sure it’s about pressure,” said Robson.

“There’s always pressure if you’re a manager or a coach, there’s always pressure on you because you’re tested every Saturday during the season.

“It’s how you handle pressure and Jim doesn’t look at it in a negative fashion, he looks at it as adrenaline that keeps you on the edge, that keeps you moving another inch foward to seek improved performances.

“You see it as not pressure in a negative sense that worries 
you and puts you off, but pressure in a positive sense that you react to and it pushes you on and on.”

But one big void at Franklin’s Gardens this season comes in the director’s box.

Former chairman Leon Barwell passed away in June after 18 months at the helm and Robson was full of emotion after the recent game against Edinburgh, the first at the Gardens since Barwell’s death.

“You never get over it really,” he said. “Leon was the chairman but he was also a friend to everyone here.

“Some people have grown up with Leon around this club and he’s been sadly missed.

“It leaves a shadow.

“We don’t have to live with every day because we have to get on with other things, but it keeps coming back.

“At the Edinburgh game when we took our seats in the directors’ box, there was Leon’s seat without Leon in it and that will last an awful long time because he’s left a big hole here.”

Now it’s time for Saints to make Barwell proud by claiming the silverware that he and the rest of the club’s heirarchy have laid the foundations for.