SAINTS prop James Graham says he feels the fans frustration at missing out on watching the first Wigan derby of the year.

There had been high hopes when the scheduled was hatched after restart that spectators would have been allowed by now, and this game was initially lined up for a government pilot.

But that was scuppered by the rising Covid rate – locally and nationally – meaning the first derby of 2020 will be played behind closed doors without the usual adversarial sing-off from two highly partisan sections of the crowd.

Veteran Graham, playing his first derby for nine years, said: “It is disappointing, and I feel the fans’ frustration.

“We had a game at the same Salford stadium the other week in the cup – a huge game, with so much on the line.

“Usually that would be a packed house and the fans would play such a big part in the result. The agony and ecstasy is a big part of the sport.

“Everyone had that feeling that we were going to be coming back for the game against Wigan. That there would be some fans there.”

But Graham, who this week announced his retirement from international rugby league, had a message for the fans.

“As players, we would love to have the fans there. I am even going to miss getting the abuse of the Wigan spectators, but it is what it is,” he said.

“These times are challenging and unfortunately those hopes were built up but they have been taken away.

“I feel for the fans because I know how much it means to them. Hang in there because us as players want you back as soon as possible, but in the safest way.

“All being they will get to experience live rugby league this year but we will see what happens.”