Jim Lyon - Don’t throw the stand-off out with the bath water

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

With Valentine’s Day now having passed, how many people took the chance to say those three little words?

Apparently, although most men don’t feel it necessary to say it on a regular basis, it is still nice to be told every now and again.

So, at a time when the love is being shared, Jim Mallinder might be quite grateful Northampton Saints chairman Leon Barwell grabbed the opportunity to say them - your job’s safe.

Not that Mallinder should be waiting for reassurance.

I have no doubt the general feeling within the walls of Franklin’s Gardens means he does not need the chairman to step out in public and issue such utterances to make him feel wanted.

Indeed, the murmurings of discontent among some Saints fans – the murmurings that have forced the issue to this point - baffle me.

Agreed, there are some fundamental issues that cannot be ignored.

Yes, recruitment last summer was poor. Yes, good players were not replaced with ones of an equal standard. And yes, this season has been a big disappointment.

But perspective has to be brought to the situation.

Mallinder and Dorian West are among the best rugby coaches in Britain, perhaps Europe, possibly the world.

So why ditch them so swiftly? And who do you replace them with?

I have been told by some they have taken Saints as far as they can – an assertion allegedly backed up the lack of silverware in the Gardens cabinet at the moment.

But the club is so much stronger and better placed than when Mallinder arrived and, this season apart, they have been challenging the best in the continent for some time now.

This is sport and not everyone gets to take a prize home just for turning out.

Only one team can win and sometimes other sides are better.

There is a plan in place and the signings already made for 2013-14 are impressive.

But they are not Toulon.

For several reasons they cannot wave a cheque book and expect the best players in the world to queue up on the Weedon Road begging to be let in.

That is the case with ‘The Fly-Half Issue’.

Stephen Myler and Ryan Lamb are both players whose games have limitations and I am sure strengthening in that department is one of the key areas Saints are looking at.

However, until the ideal replacement is available to take the club forward, they are also not exactly the worst players in the world either.

By swapping them for the sake of it you run the risk of throwing the stand-off out with the muddy bath water.

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.

Things are not THAT bad at the Gardens. They could be better but they are not that bad.

I think the greater resentment among fans is against the club as a whole.

I know there is talk of an arrogant attitude emanating from within the Gardens and a feeling of alienation among supporters.

But that is not a reason for wholesale change on the playing and coaching staff.

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.