The 80’s – despite Maggie it wasn’t all bad

After growing significantly through the 1970s the 1980s saw the club develop even further and become probably becoming the “top dogs in town” and leading club in the Alliance. The Club was still ambitious off the field continuing its search to have a ground of its own but mostly Dallington Park remained our main playing venue.

The Trinity Pavilion* continued to be run and staffed in the main by volunteer members and became a successful function venue, also running the infamous Sunday night discos for the local Jimmies End community. We also benefited from the increasing crowds for the Saints big home matches and once a year being an “overspill bar” for the big crowds attending the Mobbs Match (East Midlands v Barbarians) when the Baa-Baas teams had stars turning out.
* the clubhouse building is still in use in the “Village” area at the Saints, it’s been utilised for a variety of uses including their Study Centre.

Through the 1980s we had 4 top guys steering the ship as Chairman: Dave Hart, John Felce, Geoff Keates and Howard Cooke. Pete Collyer was Secretary until he ended his 13 year tenure in 1988, handing over to Ian Billson who combined this role with Fixture Secretary. The Club Captaincy was shared between 5 very influential players: Howard Cooke elected for 4 seasons, Steve Wood for 3, Jerry Sharpe 2 and Phil “Blakey” Watson for 1986/7.

Also, for the first time we gained the services of “an outsider” as Club Coach.  Terry Burwell, ex NGS, Saints and Leicester Tigers player launched his illustrious coaching career as the club had their Club’s most successful seasons in our history. We won the Northampton & District Rugby Alliance Cup for the first time in 1985, then retaining it the following season. This meant we qualified for the East Midlands Cup Semi Finals, see separate tab for more details on the Alliance & EM Cup runs.

As good a coach that Terry was, he did benefit from inheriting a very strong squad, which was then bolstered by graduates from the extremely successful Colts sides developed by the coaching team of Robert “Wes” Houghton and Maurice “Sammy” Sawford aka The Muppets!

Season 1987 saw the introduction of the RFU Leagues and due to our success, we were positioned in the 7th Tier* when the leagues only had 11 sides – the highest of all the town clubs – a position we retained until the very end.
* when the Leagues started the tiers were as per 1987 vs 2021:
L1 Courage League in 1987 = Premiership today, l2 Division 2 = Championship,
l3 Division 3 = National 1, L4 North & South Leagues,
L5 Regional Leagues x 4,

L6 Regionals Leagues x 6 (Midlands had East & South as today)
L7 “Local” Leagues – we were in East Midlands/Leicestershire 1

Have a look at the historical formation and results over the years have a look through

During the 80s we held 2 big celebration games: firstly for our 21st Birthday season in September 1981 then for our Silver Jubilee* in November 1986, culminating in a brilliant grand dinner event at the Guildhall. See separate tab for more info & pictures

Being ambitious we were still looking to have our own ground and as a result in the mid 80s we negotiated the lease of some tip land behind the Express Lifts factory. This required a huge amount of investment of time and money but eventually pitches were created and even floodlights were found. The old Clubhouse was brilliantly transformed by voluntary work into changing rooms, albeit a bit tight (however we were used to that at Dally Park!).

The first games on the pitch were played in 1986, we even held a tournament in 1987. However very wet and inclement weather that year, coupled with drainage issues meant when we won the 2nd Team Floodlit Final, sponsored by the Chronicle & Echo, it had to be played back on the old Dally Park pitch.

It was inevitable that further investment was required to maintain the pitches, more of will be talked about in to 1990’s section.

As with all areas of this Blog we welcome any memories that you may have from this, and other eras. Please send in via the How to Contact area of this Blog.

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