Jim Mallinder has paid tribute to the ‘massive influence’ late chairman Leon Barwell has had on this season’s successes at Franklin’s Gardens.
And the Saints director of rugby wants his team to bring home Premiership glory for the Barwell family on Saturday.
Leon Barwell lost his long battle with cancer just a couple of weeks after last May’s Premiership final to Leicester, but still managed to attend the match at Twickenham.
He played a huge role in turning Saints’ fortunes around, organising a fans’ forum in February last year that galvanised the club and got them back on the right track.
Saturday will see a second successive appearance in a Premiership showpiece since that supporters gathering at the Gardens, and Mallinder admits it was a big turning point.
“Leon Barwell’s had a massive influence on this club,” said the Saints boss. “A year or so ago when we seemed to be stalling a little bit, he was the one who came and pushed us on.
“He said ‘we’ve got to keep growing as a team and we can’t let other clubs beat us, we’ve got to go with them’.
“Leon was a massive influence in bringing players to the club. He was very, very keen on doing it and we talk about Leon a lot, in terms of our team and our motivation.”
Leon Barwell took over as chairman in September, 2011, stepping into the role previously occupied by his father, Keith, whose initial million-pound investment in 1995 ensured that Saints made the transition to professional rugby union successfully.
Keith and Ella Bevan, Leon’s sister, remain on the board of directors at the Gardens and Mallinder is eager to repay the family’s support by seeing off Saracens and claiming Northampton’s first Premiership title.
“The Barwells have been a massive force behind this club,” he said.
“Keith and Ella were in the club on Wednesday morning and they passed on their good wishes.
“They’ve been a massive influence on this club and we’d like to win it for them.”