Jim Lyon - The doubters will no doubt be few and far between now

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

Unless you are from north London - or perhaps as likely in the case of Saracens, East London - there is every chance you have reason to thank Jim Mallinder and Dorian West at the moment.

Northampton Saints, champions of England at last and holders once again of the Amlin Challenge Cup, have enjoyed quite a fortnight of success masterminded by the Franklin’s Gardens head honchos.

The sight of Twickenham rocking as thousands of Northamptonians jumped out of their skins with delight was something to behold.

And it was such a joy for the town and county to finally have the much-mentioned domestic monkey torn from its collective green, black and gold back.

On a more personal level, it also meant I got very little earache during Sunday’s barbecue which was hosted by my Saracens-supporting in-laws (although apparently there was a forward pass somewhere along the line and it was impossible to tell whether Alex Waller something whatever who cares…….).

The duo of Mallinder and West - along with their many backroom staff - have delivered what Saints fans have been hoping for, asking for, perhaps even demanding for several years now.

Maybe it is time to take stock.

The talk from just about everyone with a link to the club since the final has been about how this could be the start of an era, the chance to become the dominant force in English rugby.

And they are right, there is a chance.

The quality of youngsters coming through is quite astonishing, there are eight players currently representing England in New Zealand and the standard of the non-English members of the Saints squad are exceptional.

But little over a year ago quite a few - although most definitely not all - Saints fans were calling for a change at the helm.

Mallinder and West, said some, had signed bad players and taken the club as far as it could.

You might not be able to recreate the pub chats that said as much, but trawl the forums and the evidence will still be there.

It struck me as crazy then and, with 15 months of hindsight to call upon, is even more baffling now.

I wrote at the time:

“Perspective has to be brought to the situation.Mallinder and West are among the best rugby coaches in Britain, perhaps Europe, possibly the world. So why ditch them so swiftly?

“The club is so much stronger and better placed than when Mallinder arrived.

“The grumblers and mumblers should cut a little bit of slack to the people who have done a lot for the team’s development and are still working hard to bring success.

“It would be a crying shame if rugby made the mistake of mimicking the short-termism football so often suffers from.

“Especially in Saints’ case when there is already a solid and impressive set-up in place.

“It is a case of be careful what you wish for.”

Now all Saints have what they wished for and thankfully not just the minority who wanted the axe to fall.

Those behind the scenes who kept the faith - or more probably never had any reason to doubt it - should take credit for their sense.

Sport has an amazing ability to make certain memories short term and others infinite.

The win on Saturday will mean that in years to come the pain of losing to Leicester last year will be less vivid and the call for sackings almost completely forgotten.

And the future clearly is bright - especially now Mallinder has a new five-year deal with which to plan Saints’ dominance.

So, Saints fans. With the long term looked after and clearly in safe hands, maybe you can be less careful about what you wish for.