Jim Lyon - It’s not just Saints reaping rewards of Mallinder’s work

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

Many of Jim Mallinder’s doubters have been quietened with Northampton Saints’ decent start to the season.

But there are still a few around and they would do well to have a butcher’s at both the Aviva Premiership table and the England squad preparing to take on Australia tomorrow.

There are still a few quietly dissenting voices about the management at Franklin’s Gardens – and I guess that is always going to be the case.

But it is not just outstanding performances like that against Saracens last week that should make them think again.

England’s starting line-up tomorrow contains three Saints players and, although I am sure Mallinder would love to have them with him at London Irish, he will undoubtedly take pride in their international success.

It would be wrong to say he discovered Lee Dickson, Courtney Lawes and Tom Wood – or Dylan Hartley and Ben Foden for that matter – as they were ‘on the radar’ before making their way through the ranks at Saints.

But raw talent is not enough to force your way and then stay in the upper echelons of the game.

They were good players when they arrived at the club. But, to use horrible modern parlance, their pathway has been facilitated and the processes have been put in place for them to develop their skill set under Mallinder’s guidance.

At least that is how Stuart Lancaster – and his Guide To Management Speak manual - would probably describe it.

Dickson is a case in point. He was signed having played 50-odd games for Newcastle and arrived as a one of club’s greatest scrum-halves – Mark Robinson – departed.

Few would have been getting overly excited at that time.

Now he has developed his game, recovered from several knockbacks and is currently keeping Ben Youngs and Danny Care out of the England side.

He must rank as one of the management team’s top recruits.

But there are other figures at the Gardens that add to the Saints boss’ credentials.

The likes of Luther Burrell, Christian Day, Sam Dickinson and George Pisi were not necessarily the most heralded of signings but have become stars of the top flight.

The credit for that has to go to Mallinder, Dorian West and the staff.

This may all seem like stating the obvious.

And of course they will always be judged on the day job and whether they can bring silverware into Northampton.

At the moment, in the main, their star is on the rise again.

But the fickle nature of sport means a couple of bad results and those dissenters will get a bit louder again and the ‘I told you so’ voices will emerge once more.

When that does happen they would be wise to look at the bigger picture.