Mallinder: Saints players and coaches have dealt with criticism well

Throughout his tenure, Jim Mallinder has rarely fluctuated from a consistently composed approach at Saints.

Sunday, 4th June 2017, 8:00 am
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:29 pm
Jim Mallinder (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Occasionally, the strain has taken its toll on him, with one episode when he kicked a bucket on the sidelines after a late defeat at Gloucester in September, 2013, a stand-out moment.

And occasionally, the biggest highs have evoked emotion from the Saints boss, with his reaction to the Premiership triumph in 2014 living long in the memory.

Mallinder punched the air in an outpouring of joy after both the Premiership play-off semi-final win against Leicester Tigers and the final success against Saracens.

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And when he returned to Franklin’s Gardens, he walked off the bus singing ‘come on you Saints’ at the top of his voice.

But those moments are not the norm.

Instead, Mallinder does his best to remain unflappable in most circumstances.

And that is how he has reacted to criticism this season, with consistency in attitude clearly something he preaches and practises.

“You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth and what you do is you continue to do the job that you believe in,” said Mallinder, who has been subjected to some frustration from fans after Saints only finished seventh in the Aviva Premiership this season.

“You’ve got to keep working hard and a bounce of the ball, a referee’s decision is always going to happen, but you’ve got to make sure you prepare the team properly so that when they go into the game at the weekend they’re best prepared and ready to go.”

And Mallinder’s approach appears to have rubbed off on his players.

“The players can’t really look at the feedback too much because it would be very, very easy to get high on a win when everyone’s the heroes,” he said.

“On the flip side, when they lose, people point fingers and with social media, it’s easy for people to hide and criticise.

“The players are pretty good at dealing with it, and the coaches just the same.

“We’ve got to make sure we do the best job we can.”

Mallinder was at it again in the final game of the season, refusing to outwardly celebrate the thrilling win against Stade Français.

While interviewers are seeking a strong, passion-fuelled story, Mallinder simply smiles and says ‘it was a good win’.

And he didn’t want to get involved in a discussion about Tom Wood’s dismissal for making contact with the face of Stade full-back Djibril Camara with his boot at a second-half ruck.

But Mallinder is slightly more forthcoming when it comes to discussing Wood’s first season as Saints skipper.

“He’s captained the side well,” Mallinder said.

“I don’t think we expected Tom to be away with England quite as much at the time we chose him.

“I don’t think he expected to get back, but he’s played some good rugby and Eddie Jones pulled him back in.

“We were absolutely delighted when that happened.”

Captain Wood and Co can now look forward to the Champions Cup pool draw on June 8.

And there is no doubting just how important being part of that competition is for Saints, who have been in the top-tier tournament in every season since 2009.

“What we look for in terms of the squad of players is to compete at the highest level,” Mallinder said.

“That’s what we want and that’s what the fans want. They want top-class rugby here and that’s the competition we want to play in.”