SAINTS’ Dream Team prop Luke Thompson surveyed the Old Trafford turf this week at the launch of Super League’s finals series - and then said what every teammate and fan is thinking.

“We have been away too long!”

Four semi-final defeats since that tumultuous 2014 night at the Theatre of Dreams act as motivation for the comp’s number one front rower.

And after finishing 16-points clear at the Super League summit, they are once again within touching distance of the big prize.

Thompson said: “I was only 19 when I played here last in only my second season. I had only played 14 games that year and probably did take it for granted a little bit, but I loved every minute of it.

“I’ll certainly appreciate it a lot more if we do get there this year.”

Subsequent semi defeats could scar a playing group, and those - coupled with the Wembley loss - are the reason why some people put a question mark over Saints’ ability to rise to the occasion at the business end of a comp they have comfortably led from the outset.

But the England prop is not getting caught up in that negativity.

“People will always have their opinions and doubts – but we don’t look too much into that.

“Instead we will look who is in front of us and train as well as we can to give ourselves the best shot.

“We are really pleased with our form this year and how consistent we have been, it was the same last year.

“It is down to the standards we set from each other.

“We demand a lot of each other at training and in the games.

“It is a pleasure to play in this team.”

“Wembley did hurt for a bit – and it still does to be honest.

“We said we were going to put it behind us and crack on - and we have.

“There are bigger things to play for now. We have been the form team since round one but that means nothing in these games.

“It does not earn you a win in the semis, so we have got to go out and do it again.

“We’ll take confidence from our form all year, but we have to make sure we turn up on semi final night,” he said.

Under the top five play-offs the team finishing top has the first week off and then has two bites at the Old Trafford cherry at home.

They know they simply have play the way they have played in all of the big regular round games as they approach the winners of tomorrow’s Wigan v Salford clash a week on Friday.

Thompson said: “It is going to be a higher intense game but not much has to change.

“We are playing well, top of Super League, maybe crank up the intensity a little bit.

“It is nice to have a week off, rest the body. We’ll still be training without getting the knocks.

“It will be nice to freshen up and get some training under our belt, and give us our best shot at the semi.”

And if they do get to Old Trafford - and win it - there will be further shades of 2014 when they sent Nathan Brown off with a Super League title.

Thompson is among the Saints players thankful for the input of departing coach Justin Holbrook, whose two-and-a-half year reign ends in the finals series.

"It has been an absolute pleasure playing under Justin. He is a legend of a coach and a top bloke and I will be sorry to see him go.

"We wish him all the best.

"We have got a lot to thank him for and for me he has taken my game to another level," Thompson said..