Former Saints stars have struggled to find suitable clubs

Sam Dickinson left Saints at the conclusion of last season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Sam Dickinson left Saints at the conclusion of last season (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

When players exit Saints, you automatically presume they will have another club lined up.

But while the destinations of the likes of JJ Hanrahan and Ethan Waller were announced midway through last season, there was no news on men such as James Wilson and Sam Dickinson.

Two of the key players during Saints’ double-winning campaign of 2013/14, you presumed Wilson and Dickinson would have a plethora of suitable options from which to choose as they sought their next club.

But that was not the case.

Both were keen to remain in the Premiership, but with clubs splashing so much cash as they salary cap again rises next season, the experienced Saintsmen were left searching for an acceptable offer.

“Unfortunately, I’m still a bit in limbo,” said 32-year-old Dickinson at the conclusion of last season.

“It’s obviously a bit late in the day for me, so I’m not sure where I will be playing, but time will tell.

“The frustrating thing is that I’ve had a fair few injuries then got back to a place where I felt I was playing alright and it’s a little bit late.

“There wasn’t as much interest as I thought there might be and stepping down might be the only option, but it’s a bridge I’ll cross when I come to it.”

Both Wilson, who is 33, and Dickinson had hoped that they would be offered a chance to stay at Saints.

But they were not.

“For me, they were making the right noises and saying they wanted to keep me, but one day he (Mallinder) called me into the office and said ‘we’re not going to be able to keep you’,” Dickinson explained.

“That was that.”

Dickinson joined Saints from championship side Rotherham Titans in the summer of 2012 and went on to make 89 appearances for Mallinder’s men.

He won the Amlin Challenge Cup and Aviva Premiership in green, black and gold, and signed off by skippering the Wanderers to Aviva A League glory in his final game as a Northampton

player.

But with teams like relegated Bristol and newly-promoted London Irish seemingly having ridiculously large pockets, he has found himself struggling to get back in the big time.

“I think it does get tougher,” Dickinson said.

“The entire league has become more and more competitive.

“In a relatively short period of five years, the standards are getting better and better.

“You have the increase in the salary cap and people are able to spend more money so they can pick and choose more in who they are going to be signing.

“I’m no expert in the matter, but you see people drop down to teams lower in the league and they’ve got more money than they had before.

“They’re pulling in international players and you look at Bristol with the standard of players they will be taking into the championship.

“It’s ridiculous.

“They’re going to play in the championship with a full complement of internationals and that’s just the environment you have these days.

“If you’re not performing incredibly well, it will be tough.”

Dickinson’s chances of remaining at Franklin’s Gardens were not only hampered by injury but also the competition he faced for the No.8 shirt.

In both of the past two seasons, the players’ and supporters’ player of the year prize has been won by someone predominantly playing at No.8, with Teimana Harrison taking the spoils in 2016 and Louis Picamoles claiming the prizes in 2017.

And Dickinson said: “It’s not like I’ve just been the No.8 at Saints.

“There’s been some great competition, in the second row as well.

“It’s good, it drives standards, but it’s tough when there are so many guys knocking around and playing so well.

“You’ve got lads like Tei, who can cover the position, and it’s a competitive position to be in.

“Then when you sign a guy like Louis, what can you do?”