'Players excited by return of fans' says Saints boss Kristian Woolf
Head coach Kristian Woolf is hoping that playing in empty stadiums for the last 14 months due to the pandemic will not have an adverse affect on Saints' form as 4,000 rugby-starved supporters are welcomed back from Monday..
The defending champions entertain Salford Red Devils and when asked if he thought his players would need time to readjust after having no fans roaring them on for such a long period, Woolf said: ''I'm not sure about that but I don't think so.''
He added: ''All the players are excited about the next match and the return of the fans will add a new positive dimension to the game.
''They are a big part of the club and the sport itself and we have really missed their presence.
''At the same time, I can only sing the players' praises over the way they have gone about their business during the pandemic without the roar of a crowd and the excitement it brings.''
The Aussie acknowledged that a longer than usual break between fixtures had worked in their favour and given Morgan Knowles more time to recover from a thumb injury and Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook shake off the affects of concussion he suffered in the Challenge Cup tie against the Huddersfield Giants last week.
Both are expected to make the starting 17 against a Salford outfit, now coached by former Saints' no.2 Richard Marshall, who will be seeking their first away win against the title holders since January 1980.
But the Mancunians cannot be disregarded, having reached the Grand Final in 2019 and the Challenge Cup Final in 2020 and Saints will have to treat them with the respect they deserve.
Chairman Eamonn McManus has also paid tribute to everyone with a link to the club - many of whom have made personal sacrifices - and also thanked the fans for showing patience during the recent ballot process for tickets, as well as their commitment to the club and understanding over the past 14 months .
In a statement, he said:' 'All members of staff have been incredible during this period and in particular I would like to pay tribute to head coach Kristian Woolf his coaches and squad for the professional manner they have gone about their work in difficult times and hope it will continue.''
Mr McManus added: ''It has been a collective effort and also shown how important the club is. We still have a lot to look forward to in what will be a congested fixture list which will test us fully and it's like starting a new season.''