Hewitt: It is time for a fresh cycle at Saints

Tony Hewitt and Allan Robson will be vacating their current roles at the end of the seasonTony Hewitt and Allan Robson will be vacating their current roles at the end of the season
Tony Hewitt and Allan Robson will be vacating their current roles at the end of the season
In May 2013, Tony Hewitt headed to a meeting that would shape the next four years of his life.

The meeting was with Leon Barwell at the then Saints chairman’s house.

“Leon asked me to go and see him at his house and told me he was too poorly and asked me to take over as chairman,” Hewitt explained.

“I said I’d do it for two to three years.”

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Barwell was battling cancer and with his fight growing ever more difficult, he wanted Hewitt, who was his deputy, to take over as Saints chairman.

Hewitt initially took over on a temporary basis, but after Barwell passed away in June 2013, the position became permanent a couple of months later.

Now, almost four years on, he has finally opted to vacate the role, handing it over to his own deputy, John White.

As is usual at any club, Hewitt has overseen good and bad times, with the 2013/14 double-winning season and 2014/15 top-of-the-table finish in the Premership followed by two tough campaigns.

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Saints slipped to fifth last season and are currently eighth in the league with seven games of the regular-season remaining.

“In the first two years, we had the perfect playing position,” Hewitt said.

“We won the Premiership and then ended up first the following season. We had a great playing record and a great financial record.

“In the third year, we constructed the Barwell Stand, which was a fitting memory for the Barwell family.

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“Really I probably should have stepped down after that because I’d ticked all the boxes then.”

Hewitt is a hugely affable man, who has always been open and up front throughout his dealings with this publication.

And he has acted in the same way with the supporters, fronting up during the difficult times, of which there have been quite a few of late.

He was happy to discuss issues with irate supporters on the club trip after the humbling Champions Cup defeat at Castres in October.

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And despite the fact he definitely does not crave the spotlight, he never shies away from stepping into it to explain things to the paying public.

“I don’t mind that,” Hewitt said. “I get letters, a lot more this year than in previous years, for obvious reasons, but I’m always happy to respond to letters and emails that people send me.”

Hewitt is also in touch with social media and the issues that are raised on forums by supporters.

He said: “We try to be open.

“I feel I’ve given it my all for four years and now as I feel I’m getting older, I need to step back a bit.

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“Particularly as we’re coming up to another challenging period, we need someone else to take that challenge.

“Basically, it’s not going to be a quick fix for one season. You’re going to be constantly competing like this for the foreseeable future.

“John was saying he’ll probably take it for three years so he’s got that cycle to drive it.

“He’s been a director since 2012 and his strength is that he’s a very experienced chairman who has been in charge of two very big companies (Persimmon plc and McCarthy and Stone).

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“We’ve got Colin Povey as his deputy and he’s been CEO at Warwickshire County Cricket Club.

“We’ve got good experience so it’s not a panic situation - it’s a smooth transition.”

Last week, Saints announced that Allan Robson would be retiring from his role as chief executive.

The club hope to start interviewing candidates for that position in March, and Hewitt felt now was the right time for him to announce that he would also be leaving his role.

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“This gives the new chairman a chance to plan, have an input in recruitment, season tickets and things like that,” Hewitt said. “John will focus on our existing supporters to make sure they know we love them and to attract new supporters to the Gardens.”