SAINTS chairman Eamonn McManus has said a huge thank you to the supporters ahead of tonight’s first game with fans for 14 months.

4,000 lucky fans, who were chosen from a ballot of season ticket holders, will file into the Totally Wicked Stadium for the clash with Salford Red Devils.

And the chairman has not only praised the fans sacrifice this past year, but has outlined the role they can now play in driving the back-to-back champions to further success.

In thanking the supporters for their “forbearance and patience over the last year or more” McManus spelled out what a huge difference having 4,000 in the stadium tonight will make to the players and the club.

In a message to the fans, he said: “We have really missed you and appreciate the sacrifices you have made.

“It has been difficult in many ways for all of us, particularly on the business side of the club with the rugby and hospitality income not being there.

“We could not have got to where we are now without the donations that fans have made through season tickets.

“In many ways we are starting again and really looking forward to having you there and having some noise and atmosphere in the stadium.”

The Covid pandemic has sadly touched many lives and families, and against that the travails of sport and entertainment industry can seem minor and insignificant.

However, the love and loyalty towards Saints and rugby league is a major part of so many people’s lives – and missing games and the camaraderie that comes with that will have been a huge wrench to those supporters.

McManus explained that the past year has been tough on the playing and coaching staff too, given the many obstacles thrown in their way.

But despite that, and the lack of vocal encouragement, the team still delivered the goods in lifting the title.

“The players and coaching staff have shown incredible professionalism over the last year,” McManus said.

“It has been a really difficult time for them – to do as they do, at the level they are playing at, without your support and with all the other obstacles in their way.

“It has been aa huge collective effort from everyone in St Helens and it really does bring out how important we are as a team effort – that is a wider team of the club, the players and fans.”

Saints are currently top of the table, unbeaten, and in the semi finals of the Challenge Cup.

There are massive fixtures to come, with the intensity and the scheduling going up a notch.

McManus was confident that the whole team effort – on the field and on the terraces – can help deliver the goods and has asked for the fans to bring the volume.

He said: “We have an awful lot to look forward to.

“It is going to be a tough season ahead and we are going to need that spirit and that noise on the terraces to get us through a congested fixture list for the rest of the year and it is going to take a toll on the players.

“But they are motivated to the extreme – as are the coaches – and we have it all to play for.

“We are in there with a shout for all silverware and determined to pick it up to pay you back for the support you have shown us during this difficult period.”