Grayson hails Saints' team spirit
PA Sport
April 18, 2007

Northampton head coach Paul Grayson is confident his team are united as Saints enter one of the most crucial weeks in their history.

Contrasting fortunes in the Heineken Cup and Guinness Premiership mean Saints will meet London Irish in a crucial relegation encounter just six days after facing Wasps in a European semi-final.

Their wretched Premiership form - they sit bottom of the table with one game left - has been blamed on a rift between the club's homegrown and overseas contingents.

England World Cup winner Steve Thompson, the former Saints skipper who was recently forced to retire because of a neck injury, launched a withering attack on the club's recruitment policy last weekend.

The influx of South Africans under former director of rugby Alan Solomons has been replaced by a heavy Kiwi influence and Thompson was scathing over theirimpact at Franklin's Gardens.

``The bottom line is that we did away with our academy a few seasons back and started signing a number of so-called big-name foreign stars,'' he said.

``As soon as you sign players who think they're bigger than the club, you've got problems.

``We've got players who were built up to be much bigger than they ever were. They never really bought into the club ethos. If you don't do that, then the club's got a major headache.

``Players like myself and Ben Cohen are Northampton lads. We know what it means to the town and the fans.''

But while Grayson acknowledged there have problems at Franklin's Gardens this season, he claimed the wounds have been healed.

``It's difficult because you're scrutinised more when things aren't going right,'' he said.

``We've had more interest in the club this year than ever before, but from a negative point of view.

``There was a bit of argy bargy in training which if you're at the right end of the league is seen as healthy competition.

``Leicester have built a lot of success out of belting the crap out of each other. If the team isn't functioning then people jump on stuff like that.

``Things haven't been perfect by any stretch but we've addressed some issues we've had and are pointing in the right direction. It's healed itself.''

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