Mallinder delighted with Dickinson's Saints comeback
When Sam Dickinson was released by Saints last season, you felt clubs would be queuing up to hand him a contract.
After all, the big No.8 had just captained the Wanderers to Aviva A League glory and boasts a CV with an Aviva Premiership and Challenge Cup double on it.
But at the age of 32, Dickinson found himself struggling to find suitable new surroundings.
The deal he hoped he would be handed at Saints didn't materialise and he was left wondering what his next move would be.
Then Louis Picamoles opted to make a big-money move back to Montpellier, and everything changed.
Dickinson was suddenly in demand at Saints again, with the club keen to give him a short-term deal to cover for the loss of the French star.
Dickinson accepted, making a swift comeback at Franklin's Gardens, where he has been a popular figure over the years.
He played a part in the pre-season campaign and was then given the chance to skipper the Wanderers again as they earned a win at Sale Jets.
Dickinson was back in the saddle and he last week he rode to the rescue of the first team, with Teimana Harrison ruled out of Sunday's trip to London Irish.
With Mitch Eadie also injured, Dickinson was suddenly the only senior No.8 in the squad and he was handed the starting shirt that he wore so regularly during the 2013/14 double-winning season.
As ever, Dickinson did himself justice, producing a big display that helped Saints secure an impressive bonus-point 40-25 success at the Madejski Stadium.
And he certainly impressed boss Jim Mallinder, who was glad the player was able to take full advantage of his second chance at Saints.
"It's fantastic for him," Mallinder said.
"He's had a good pre-season for us and he played well for the Wandies up at Sale.
"We were disappointed we'd lost two No.8s - Teimana couldn't play last weekend - but Sam Dickinson worked really hard and had a great game."
Mallinder was asked whether it came as a surprise to him that Dickinson hadn't manage to secure a deal elsewhere at the end of last season.
And the director of rugby replied: "It did, but it just shows it's tough out there, with so many good players.
"We're certainly delighted with how he's come back.
"He's led the Wanderers and we're really impressed with his leadership skills, even with the first team."