Were it not for such a positive start to the 2022 campaign, which ultimately filled fans with false hopes and expectations, Widnes Vikings could have been in a much worse situation than they are now. 10 defeats in 11 games marked a truly disastrous run dating back to February, during which time Simon Finnigan was fired as head coach, while interim coach Ryan O’Brien has fared little better.

Unfortunate injuries to key players were never helpful to the cause, although performances from the team simply weren’t good enough, as the club searched for a coach capable of turning the situation around. Clearly someone with vast experience and rugby league knowledge was required, as Widnes Vikings announce the appointment of John Kear as the new head coach, contracted until the end of the 2023 season.

Kear began his coaching career at Bramley in 1992, followed by a spell with French rugby league side Paris Saint-Germain before their dissolution in 1997, ahead of leading Sheffield Eagles to Challenge Cup success in 1998. Afterwards came a frustrating stint at Huddersfield, accompanied by his time leading England to the World Cup semi-finals, then five years as assistant coach at Wigan Warriors.

Returning to the fore as head coach with Hull, another Challenge Cup triumph was achieved in 2005. Kear’s longest top tier tenure came at Wakefield Trinity, initially guiding them to safety in 2006, then to an impressive 8th position in the Super League with an inexperienced squad, followed by a club high at the time of 5th position in 2009 before departing in 2011. 

Taking a step down to the Championship, Kear was in charge at Batley Bulldogs between 2011 and 2016, leading the team to three consecutive playoff appearances, along with another push for promotion during his final campaign at the club. After they were relegated from the Super League, Kear joined Bradford Bulls in 2019 and pushed them to 6th position in his first campaign. 

Under the leadership of Kear, the Bulls finished 7th in 2020 and 5th in 2021, losing out in the elimination playoffs at the end of a strong season. However, the 2022 campaign at Bradford would ultimately prove highly disappointing, way off the pace and with little chance of challenging for promotion from the RFL Championship.

The 67-year-old Yorkshireman will officially begin his work at Widnes on 1st July, following the home games against York City Knights and London Broncos, giving him the opportunity to evaluate the squad ahead of assuming leadership. Kear’s first game in charge will be away at Workington Town, who the Vikings thrashed 70-18 in their second encounter of the season.

Fans will undoubtedly be hoping for a similar kind of result, as Kear aims to get his tenure at the club off to a flying start, keen to guide the team towards making a dignified and positive conclusion to a frustrating. This will require a significant improvement in the performance levels of each and every player, which is one of the main reasons Widnes turned to Kear, who boasts an excellent reputation in the game.

Having put such a reputable head coach in place, Widnes could enjoy some positive results from July onwards, restoring the pride and passion that has been sorely lacking, both on the pitch and in the stands amongst the long-suffering supporters. Indeed, this might also be a good time to check for insights via the latest SBO betting guide, highlighting where the best odds and offers can be found, accompanied by independent and impartial bookmaker reviews.

Looking further ahead and assuming that Kear can bring some stability to the team, his efforts as head coach will already be focused towards improving the squad, ahead of the 2023 season. Given his extensive background and contacts, it’s fair to suggest that Kear will also be sounding out plenty of potential player options, despite being aware he will be working under tight economic conditions at Widnes Vikings.

For the moment, and once his feet are firmly under the table in this new role, there is every reason to have confidence that moving forward, things might begin to improve for the Vikings. Providing he has the unwavering backing of the club’s leadership and the fans, maybe we can once again begin dreaming of a promotion push next season and beyond.