Northants Knights gear up for their first season in the SFC 2 North league
Written by Robbie Dascombe-Rouse on January 25, 2022
The story of the Northants Knights, is a fascinating one, establishing themselves in 2016 and credited as the only American Football team in Northamptonshire as of yet. The last time the county had a representative for the sport was 25 years ago, with the Northamptonshire Stormbringers, who were last active in 1997.
In September of 2016, Jack O’Bierne, now chairman of the Knights, orchestrated the genesis of the club, with a senior team, attempting to revive an identity for the sport in the Northamptonshire area. They reside at the Old Grammarian’s Memorial Sport Field in Wellingborough and began developing a squad capable of competing and in 2017, played their first match ever in a victorious 6-0 scrimmage over Hereford Stampede. Matt Godfrey was appointed as Head Coach of the team, who had an experienced background in the sport as a player; representing Northants Stormbringers, Birmingham Bulls, and Great Britain. This appointment, built on the confidence that the newly acquainted team obtained. Over time, they were considered capable of competing in the sport and expanding further.
Gradual growth continued year by year, as a Youth team was also created in 2018, allowing the younger generation interested in the sport, to try out with the Knights. The Youth team, aimed its target audience to young adults aged between 16 to 19, who could sequentially integrate into the senior squad, once their time with the secondary squad had concluded.
Over time, the Junior squad was a roaring success, and in 2019 were granted to play in the BAFA D2 Midlands league where they still reside 3 years on, due to battle teams such as Leicester Falcons, Lincolnshire Bombers, and Black Country Vipers in a thrilling title defence after winning the league last year with the U19s.
Gaffer Godfrey stepped down from his position as head coach of the senior team in November 2020 after directing the Knights to Division 2, paving the way for Wayne Gumbs to take over and orchestrate the team to further success. The success of the Knights inevitably caused the popularity of the sport to grow in Northamptonshire, resulting in a Junior team also being established in December 2020, aiming for players under 16 to join in and represent the club on a youth level. The former coach of the squad, Godfrey, remained at the Knights after stepping down, to help develop the new junior team, as he did previously with the senior team back in 2016.
Unfortunately, the Coronavirus Pandemic also had a damaging outcome for the club, with a recurring stop, start to their training and matches but in June 2021, they were able to fully return and heroically finish as runners up in the BAFA National League Central East competition.
Meanwhile, in the BAFA U16 Midlands B Division, the youth team reached second place and further still, the Junior team last season went 6-0 to win the BAFA U19 Midlands Division 2 undefeated, creating a real identity about the Knights, and more importantly a strong core within their senior, youth, and junior sides.
Chairman of Northants Knights, Jack O’Bierne, spoke exclusively to NLive Radio saying:
“We want to build on the success of 2021 and continue grow this year. Despite the pandemic we grew as a club and picked up team of the year awards from 2 of the media outlets across the UK American Football scene, and our academy team won the midlands championship in their first league season.”
The ongoing success in 2022 has still remained with the recent announcement from the British American Football Association (BAFA) who allocated the senior team a slot in the SFC 2 North league, outlining the teams hard work and dedication to succeed in the growing sport, had paid off. In the new season, they will face off against Berkshire Renegades, Hereford Stampede, Swindon Storm and Worcestershire Black Knights in a round of competitive fixtures promising to test the Knights, but ultimately prove they deserve to be facing some of Britain’s greatest American Football sides.
For preparation, the senior team return to training February 6th. For their first outing in this division, the Knights do not underestimate the challenge ahead of them, taking preparations seriously.
“We have plans to play in Germany this pre season against an established European team, before embarking on the SFC2 North division.”
On top of that, the Youth side will continue their journey in North Division B with a host of opponents up and down the country varying from Birmingham Bulls, Leicester Falcons, Rugby Rhinos, and many more.
The Northants Knights’ academy team from ages 13-19, began training on January 23rd and encourage players of any age over 13 to join, and promise a great standard of coaching; to prepare for the season which begins in April. Chairman O’Bierne added to this, and said: “We’ve got a really good core as we enter pre season, Coach Gumbs has recruited well in all areas and on his coaching staff but as always, new players are welcome to come and get involved in the sport.”
Belvedere Lane, will host the Knights first game of the season, away to Hereford Stampede on the 10th April, with the season due to wrap up on the 24th July against Swindon Storm at the Old Grammarian’s Memorial Sport Field.
To find out more about the Knights or if you are interested in the prospect of playing with them, head to their website at: www.knightsfootball.co.uk