Jim Lyon - Time for Saints to rewrite history

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

You have to say it does not look good.

If you are a Northampton Saints fan hoping for some encouragement ahead of the game against Saracens on Sunday, well, look away now.

The statistics do not make pleasant reading.

I must confess I am of the old school when it comes to the play-offs anyway.

I firmly believe the end-of-season money makers that are the semi-finals and final are both unfair and unnecessary.

I know why they are done – I’m not not naïve enough to ignore that – but I still maintain if you have played in sun, wind, rain, snow, hail and whatever else and English winter can throw at you and finished top of the table then you deserve the trophy.

That said, Saints could perhaps be crowned champions in a couple of weeks and no fan would turn that down.

But this where is gets grim.

Saints’ fourth-place finish might extend their season but it certainly does not ensure them success.

Far from it in fact.

For all my criticism about the most consistent not getting their reward they normally do – to some extent at least.

No side that has finished outside the top two has lifted the trophy since the play-offs were introduced in 2003.

Admittedly the runners-up have claimed it more often than the winners, though.

That may, in part, be due to the advantage of a home semi-final.

And this is where is gets even bleaker for the Saints.

Only three times in the 17 semis – the first three years saw second play off against third to reach the final – has the away side won.

Leicester did it in 2008, London Irish in 2009 and, whisper it, Saracens achieved it at Franklin’s Gardens in 2010.

And Tigers are the only side that finished fourth to have made it to the final.

History does not offer much encouragement.

A 12-point gap between Saints and Sarries in this campaign and the Fezheads’ impressive record at their new home does little to make gold, green and black flag wavers too optimistic either.

There are, as Mark Twain wrote, lies, damned lies and statistics.

Maybe Saints can be the ones to overcome the odds and rewrite this piece of history.