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The ace of Herts - now Hugh just wants Saracens fans back



Now that the years of underachievement have faded into history, Hugh Vyvyan hopes Saracens will become fashionable again some time soon. But he doesn't expect to be a trendsetter himself.

Alan Gaffney's side welcome Newcastle to Vicarage Road tomorrow on the crest of a wave as they mount a sustained assault on three fronts this season. Already through to the semi-finals of the EDF Energy Cup, they will be aiming to consolidate their Guinness Premiership ***le challenge, before pushing for a place in the last eight of the Heineken Cup next month. The omens are good.

Saracens have not lost at home since Gloucester snuck out of Watford with a 38-31 league win in September.

All that is needed now is due recognition â€" firstly from the rugby public in Hertfordshire and surrounding area. Attendances tend to fluctuate between 5,000 and 8,000 and Vyvyan, who joined the club from Newcastle in 2004, is mystified by the dwindling support.

"When I first came to the club we were getting 16,000 to 17,000 for the big games," he said. "It's strange, but the better we've done, the smaller the crowds have got. Hopefully we can reverse that trend this season."
That process will begin tomorrow. Saracens have sold 13,000 tickets for the visit of Jonny Wilkinson and Co, ensuring a bumper festive turn-out.
The next task will be to seize the attention of the England management. Brian Ashton's World Cup squad contained just a solitary Saracen, Andy Farrell.
But if the Men in Black carry on winning and playing attractive rugby in the process, the likes of flanker Dave Seymour, lock Tom Ryder, wing Richard Haughton and centre Adam Powell may become Men in White in the foreseeable future.
Vyvyan expects more success to bring more international recognition but doesn't expect to be among the contenders, as a 31-year-old lock with just one cap to his name.
"Historically, the England team is selected from the top four in the Premiership," he said. "Usually, Wasps and Leicester provide the bulk of the England squad because they have been the two most successful clubs for years.
"But we finished fourth last year and if we can stay in the top four, then hopefully our England-qualified players will get international chances. I'm not sure I could be one of them, though. I was there or thereabouts for a few years but I think if they have any sense they should be promoting younger players to take England forward, not someone in his thirties." The not-so-old dog has been learning some new tricks since the arrival of All Black lock Chris Jack at the start of this month. The input of one of the world's finest forwards, who is still in his prime, is one reason for Saracens' impressive exploits so far this season.
Gaffney has raised standards with a perfectionist's attention to detail and a desire to play 15-man rugby, which has released the talents of half backs Neil de Kock and England-qualified Kiwi stand-off Glen Jackson.
"These days, we are strong across the park and the style Alan wants us to use suits the players," said Vyvyan.
"Backs and forwards all get their hands on the ball regularly. It is enjoyable and effective."
Yet, despite this spirit of adventure, Vyvyan is not going to take on drop-goal duties again, as he did against Biarritz at home three years ago.
On that occasion, a 40-yard kick found its target, but the owner of the mighty left boot won't be trying to repeat the feat when the Basque club come to town next month.
"I have put that club back in the locker," he said. "If I tried that trick again I think the ball would probably spoon off my boot and go about five yards. Anyway, I don't want to steal Glen's thunder!"

They are fed up of just Prestwick being there shouting "COME ON SARRIES!!!", and as it is in the Theatre of Echo's it sounds like 5000 people are watching when its just poor ole Prestwick all on his lonesome...
When at Viadana, I did have the chance to have an in depth talk with fellow fez fans. There were a fair few actually, I'd put their number at 500 who attended the game which was excellent. There were certainly more Saracens fans than there were Worcester fans I think. However, out of that 500 who actually turned up, only about 100 were regular attendants of Saracens games and out of them I'd count 50 of them would be season ticket holders!

There was a good chat about why this is and it goes deeper than the (pants) stadium and Watford generally not being very welcome. For example, if you were a well heeled and well to do corporate director who would spend thousands idly on drinking one glass of 70 year old champagne before pouring the rest on top of a poor person's head then you will be waited on hand and foot by Saracens, whisked away to a lovely country house in rural Hertfordshire to enjoy delicious food, talks on rugby by members of the squad before being taken to the game by luxury car to watch from a leather seat in the updated upper rouse and then being whisked back to the Country House for more food, drink and rugby players.

However. If you are a regular guy or, like Webby, unemployed, then you can enjoy..er...a..erm..seat. Tah daaah! Maybe they will have a food van and one of the bars will be open. No club house, not even any entertainment beforehand. Nothing.

The problem is that Saracen's priorities are in the wrong place. When Saracens visited Biarritz, the french club virtually shut down the city center to put on a weekend of events, competitions and food/beer fests for the home and visiting fans to enjoy. Viadana laid on free wine and salami and the home fans did what they could. Superb and almost superhuman efforts by more or less every other club in the entire world.

Except Saracens.

Guess what our club is providing for visiting fans? A seat...and...er...a food van. Woo! Its so bad that the Various fez fan organisations are desperately trying to contact the Biarritz fans to let them know that us fans are going to have a go at making a hospitable welcome for them. So we're hiring Druids (a rugby pub in Watford) and having a hog roast, games, etc, etc, etc so while it might not be quite closing down Watford city center, its about 2,000 times better than anything Saracens have come up with.

Saracens and Nigel Wray (its mysterious benefactor) focus too much on cornering the corporate market. I don't think any other GP club save Leicester or Wasps has a better or more comprehensive package for corporate clients. However, when it comes to catering for the actual fan? They come bottom of the WORLD list. Some crappy club in O'Rothlan country in the States has a better welcome than Saracens!

And the reason for this goes back to how Saracens got into Watford. They signed a heavily unbalanced deal with Watford FC which lasts until 2012. Nothing can happen short of holding matches without the landlords say so. The Saracens village idea was knocked on the head after Watford FC complained. The deal has been a total disaster and the worst thing is that we're locked into it until 2012!

I do think that Saracens will be moving on or at the very least negotiating a deal which better befits their status. I could see Saracens gradually moving to somewhere else in Hertfordshire like Hertford proper and helping to develop an existing stadium for example.

To sum it up: the fans exist but they're sick to the teeth with how the Club has treated them but love the supporters organisations so much that they go abroad and away with them on a regular basis!

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