King says pain of previous defeats was crucial to Saints claiming glory

WINNING TEAM - Alex King (left) with the Saints coaching team of Jim Mallinder, Dorian West and Alan Dickens (Picture: Linda Dawson)
WINNING TEAM - Alex King (left) with the Saints coaching team of Jim Mallinder, Dorian West and Alan Dickens (Picture: Linda Dawson)

Alex King was right – anguish was an ally for Saints during the past two weeks.

The attack coach made the point before the Amlin Challenge Cup final.

He said no team that had made it big had ever sampled elation without suffering agony.

Saints had lost four successive finals going into the clash with Bath at Cardiff Arms Park, but that was where the barren run ended.

The victory laid the foundations for success at Twickenham eight days later as Jim Malllinder’s men kept their belief to claim their first Premiership title.

They used the experiences of all those big games they have lost – the Premiership final a year earlier, the Heineken Cup final of 2011 – to push them on.

And now only glory remains in the mind.

All of those final woes were wiped away in the space of eight days.

“We’ve had a good season,” said King, who arrived at Saints from Clermont Auvergne last summer.

“We started off well, had a few tricky patches in the autumn and the Six Nations and then we went on to win two trophies in two weeks.

“The growth comes from losing last year’s final and learning the lesson.

“As I’d said before - very few teams arrive on the big stage without losing.

“We learned our lesson and I’m very proud to be part of this club going forward.”

King’s influence cannot be understated, as he helped bring the best out of a group of backs bulging with talent.

He also helped to change the belief, from a team of nearly men, to a team that became England’s main men.

But in typically modest fashion, King refused to take the credit, instead hailing the special group around him.

“I feel very lucky to have joined the club at a time when Jim, Dorian (West) and Alan (Dickens) have put together an incredible squad of players and people,” said the former Wasps and England fly-half.

“It’s nine months of hard work and the years we’ve got close have culminated in the past few weeks. It’s incredible.

“I can’t take my hat off enough to the boys and the spirit they produced: Leicester at home (in the Premiership play-off semi-final) in the last few minutes, Bath in the final and obviously the last few seconds at Twickenham.

“I’m very proud to be associated with Northampton Saints.

“It’s amazing for the club, the players, the Barwell family and everyone associated with the club.

“I feel very, very privileged to be part of it.”

But just what is it about the culture that has meant the club finally got the trophy their efforts deserved this season?

“Guys sacrifice a little bit of themselves for other players,” said King.

“Our bench were outstanding on Saturday. It was a tough week for them because they all wanted to start the game, but you saw the contribution they brought and that was incredible.

“We’ve had that spirit all year. To get to three finals, to get to an A League final, to win the under-18 competition as well. It’s been a real privilege to be part of this club.”