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History of Saracens

by Leana Kell

Saracens are a highly successful London based rugby union team, and currently the reigning champions of the Aviva Premiership and holders of the Anglo-Welsh Cup.

The club's name is said to come from the "endurance, enthusiasm and perceived invincibility of Saladin's desert warriors of the 12th century".

Founded in 1876, Centurion takes a look below at the history of the 'Sarries' who have developed into one of the most successful and well-respected rugby clubs in the world.

Early history

Founded in 1876 by the Old Boys from Philological School in Marylebone, London, the club's colours were established as black and red which were subsequently worn at the first fixture at Primrose Hill playing fields.

Saracens joined neighbouring club Crusaders in 1878, and by 1892, the club had moved from its original ground at Crown Lane in Southgate to Firs Farm, Winchmore Hill. The club played on nine different grounds before finally moving to Bramley Road for the 1939/40 season, although the war prevented play until 1945.

Saracens found it difficult to get games against first class sides as the facilities at Bramley Road were so poor. After their inaugural match against Blackheath they had to wait another nine years before Harlequins offered to include them on their fixture list.

The 70s, 80s & 90s

The seventies was a highly successful decade for Saracens with highlights including reaching the semi-finals of the National Cup. Memorable games at Bramley Road included a 1971 match against a select International XV, attracting a 5,000 strong crowd (the largest ever to watch a rugby union game in North London at the time) which ended Saracens 34, International XV 34. The Saracens also won the Middlesex Cup beating rivals Wasps in the final.

The 1980s brought some tough times for Saracens, but by 1989 things began to look up when in 1989 the club won the second division of the Courage League with a one hundred per cent record. The following year, now in the first division, Saracens finished a high fourth place in the league behind Wasps, Gloucester and Bath.

In 1992/93, a period of restructure saw Saracens relegated to the second division, but it wasn't long before the club was promoted once again to the first division at the end of the 1994/95 season.

The professional era

In 1995, former players David Wellman and Mike Smith worked on a complete rebrand of the club which would take Saracens professional. A benefactor was required in order to improve the ground and playing staff. Subsequently, the club gained financial backing from Nigel Wray and moved playing grounds to Enfield FC's ground. The season began well with a win against current favourites at the time, Leicester Tigers and finished a respectable seventh in the league.

A couple of years later at the start of the 1997/98 season, the club moved again to Watford for a ground share with Watford FC at the 22,000 seat Vicarage Road Stadium - their home for a further 16 years. The first match played was against Castres in the European Conference which ended in a 26-21 victory for Saracens. The club went on to win all but three games during the season and finished second in the Premiership which enabled them to make their debut appearance in the Tetley's Bitter Cup at Twickenham beating Wasps 48-18.

The noughties

Over the next decade, some of the world's most famous rugby players such as Richard Hill, Thomas Caistengede and Kevin Sorrell all played for the Saracens, but it wasn't until the 2007/08 season that the club enjoyed success, once again reaching the final of the Heineken Cup.

In 2009, Former Springbok, Brendan Venter, took over from Eddie Jones and so began an transition at the club that saw Saracens become England's top side. Venter implemented a new culture at the club with a long-term goal of becoming England's finest club both on and off the pitch.

The new culture worked and in 2009/10, Saracens reached the Premiership final with a narrow defeat to Leicester Tigers placing them in second place in the Premiership. But they kept their goal in sight and by the end of the 2010/11 season, the 'Men in Black' as they were affectionately referred to, lifted their first ever league title in front of 80,000 fans at Twickenham.

Allianz Park

In January 2013, the Saracens opened Allianz Park, their current home located in North London. The state of the art stadium is the only one to be built to BREEM Excellent standards, blending seamlessly into the surrounding greenery of NW4. The Stadium also contains the world's first artificial turf pitch.

A further Premiership final came in 2014 under Mark McCall's leadership with Northampton Saints eventually taking the title after a nail-biting final. The club also reached their first ever European final that season, but lost to the Galaticos, Toulon, at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. But it wasn't long before the Saracens got their hands on not one but six domestic trophies in 2014/15, winning the League and Cup double!

On the pitch, Saracens are continuing to enjoy a period of unbridled success after a record breaking 2014/15 season and are currently top of the Aviva Premiership.