It wasn’t the kind of decision Mark Darbon would have anticipated he would have to make during the formative stages of his time at Saints.
But, just four months after taking up the role of chief executive at Franklin’s Gardens, Darbon has been part of the move to call time on Jim Mallinder’s 10-year association with the club.
The board will now face the tough task of finding a long-term successor, with a short-term boss likely to brought in to buy some time.
Saints, who will be under the guidance of attack coach Alan Dickens for the Champions Cup clash with Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, desperately need an immediate upturn in fortunes.
They have lost nine of their past 10 matches, with last Saturday’s 43-32 defeat to the Ospreys the nadir of Mallinder’s time at the club.
And Darbon and Co now face more tricky decisions as they look to help the club to achieve that, while also finding the right person to build for what they hope will be a much brighter future.
“The decision (to dispense with the services of Mallinder, who was contracted until 2019) was based on our recent run of results, not an individual game,” Darbon said. “Ultimately, in a performance-led environment, we weren’t comfortable with where we are and we felt it was time to make that decision.
“Making this type of decision midway through the season is not ideal.
“I’ve been here four months and it wasn’t something I thought was going to play out in that period of time, but, as a board, we felt it was the right time to make some change.
“We’ve got to focus ourselves on setting ourselves up for success moving forward.”
Saints are currently sitting bottom of Champions Cup Pool 2 and 10th in the Aviva Premiership, having endured a shocking run since the start of October.
And that has meant Mallinder has been the man to pay the price, with Dickens stepping up as interim head coach and the rest of the coaching team remaning unchanged - for now.
“We’ve made the decision which we think is the right one, and that’s to change things at the top,” Darbon said.
“Ultimately, Jim is responsible for rugby matters here at the club and it’s not a decision we’ve made lightly, but we felt change at the top was the right thing to do at this stage.”
Some fans have questioned why Dorian West, who has been by Mallinder’s side since he took over at Saints since 2007, has remained at the Gardens.
But Darbon has stressed the importance of standing by West and the likes of Dickens, Mark Hopley and Phil Dowson.
“Dorian is one of our existing coaches and I wouldn’t single anyone out,” Darbon said.
“We’re focused on getting behind those guys, creating the right conditions for them to succeed and turning things around because that’s what we need to do.
“We need to set the club up for success in the future.
“We’re getting behind our existing team - they’re all under contract.
“Our immediate focus is the weekend and the rest of the season.
“In parallel, we’re running that search for the long-term successor for Jim and it’s difficult to answer it in much more detail because our focus is on finding that individual.
“Clearly, we’re going to want to make sure we’ve got the right conditions for that individual to succeed, but we’re a long way from that at the start of this search.”