This Saturday we return to action in the Zurich Premiership for the first time since 30th December 2001, in what is a crucial game at the Stoop against Northampton Saints, kick-off 3.00pm.
After the excitement of last weekend's win over the Leicester Tigers in the Powergen Cup quarterfinal, and with the semi-final to be played at the Stoop on 9th March against London Irish, we all need to be 'brought down to earth' and concentrate on the bread and butter of the league.
Northampton, since the arrival on New Zealand Coach Wayne Smith, have put together some fine results and also some excellent performances. Last weekend they went to Vicarage Road and defeated Saracens in another close encounter. They are now playing with a pace and intensity that was perhaps missing from their game when we met at Franklins Gardens back in November. They have a powerful squad, full of international players and it will be another massive challenge for our squad if we are to earn the four points from this game.
Like us, Northampton will be determined to come away on Saturday with those four points and in doing so move themselves into the top eight of the table and possible qualification for the end of season play-offs. This has to be our goal in the Premiership now - a top eight finish (the higher the better) and the opportunity to take part in the play-offs for the first time.
On the injury front, things have not improved greatly over the last week. Although a few of the players picked-up knocks last weekend against Leicester, everyone who played should be fit for Saturday. Also returning from the injured list will be Dan Luger who has been in full training this week. However, it looks unlikely that Keith Wood will have recovered from the calf injury he suffered against Sale in December. The team for Saturday's game will not be announced until an hour before kick-off to give all the players every possible opportunity to be ready for the game.
Going back to last Saturday, the atmosphere at the Stoop was electric and, as many of you know from talking to the players in the bar afterwards, played a huge part in our victory. Though we all know that the game against Northampton Saints is of more importance than the cup quarterfinal last weekend!
Away from Saturday, Tony Russ our Academy Director will come into the post at the beginning of February and this is an exciting development for Quins. In conjunction with Colin Osborne, our U21 Coach, he will be responsible for developing the young talent in our Academy system into 1st Team players, such as Chris Bell and Nick Duncombe who we have all seen this year. There will always be a need to bring into the club quality international players, but the more talented youngsters we can develop ourselves the more successful we will become in the long run.
I am also delighted to confirm that David Slemen has now signed an extension to his contract with NEC Harlequins, keeping him at the Stoop until at least June 2003.
We are now all focused on Saturday afternoon, on putting in a performance and gaining a result that will move us up the Premiership table.
Look forward to seeing you at the Stoop on Saturday.
During week commencing 22nd April Harlequins will launch an innovative, new Membership Scheme which will replace the existing Season Ticket Holder Programme. Further details of the scheme will be announced in due course.