Stands: Franklin’s Gardens is a superb self-contained stadium now after recent expansion. Much like Leicester’s Welford Road, Gloucester’s Kingsholm and Bath’s The Rec, the Saints stronghold is a real rugby ground not diluted by football’s necessities. Corporate hospitality boxes behind one goal adds to the character of the place – if not the capacity.
Setting: Just on the outskirts of town. Easily accessible. No problems.
Food & Drink: Plenty of standard rugby ground fayre. Some nice bars with a good atmosphere.
Getting there: Not a problem. Plenty of parking for those in cars on vast nearby car park. Walkable from town and train station.
Archetypal local: One of the few towns in the country where the football club play second fiddle to the rugby club, Northampton is in the heart of the rugby-mad East Midlands and the locals know their stuff. To a man, they hold a bitter rivalry with local rivals Leicester but, to a man, they probably hold a lot more venom towards a Saracens side they have taken a huge dislike to over recent years. Well dressed. Middle class.
Atmosphere: Electric on good days. Stands are big enough to be imposing but not too big so to affect the atmosphere. Design of stands keeps noise very firmly inside the ground. Very loud home crowd proud of their almost unbeatable record in recent years.
Local expectations: Very high - and with good reason too. Jim Mallinder and Dorian West have built a first XV that should be challenging for trophies and are doing just that. They came up just short in the Heineken Cup in 2010/11 – a season that exposed their need for greater strength in depth in their squad. And last year, they had Harlequins on toast in the semi-final but somehow managed to lose the game and a place in the final. Capable of beating any side on their day and mixing it with the Premiership’s big boys, a domestic title is something fans would dearly love to see and, in some quarters, are starting to expect.
Banter: Saints fans know their rugby so prepare to get into a battle if you want to take them on.
Chants: “Coooome onnnnn youuuuuu Saiiiiiints!”
BUY NORTHAMPTON SAINTS TICKETS for home games at the club site.