It’s now 34 years since Widnes were crowned World Champions with a famous win over Canberra Raiders at Old Trafford.
It will undoubtedly remain as the high point of the club’s long history and while a return to those glories has never felt so far away, it should always be celebrated.
It is why I think that the club, and the town, should unofficially adopt October 4th as Widnes Day.
With all due respect, it is the achievements of the town’s rugby league team that has put Widnes – an industrial town with a population of around 60,000 – on the map.
Whatever happens between now and the future, and the lean towards economically vibrant locations for major sports teams, no one can take away the fact that little old Widnes were once top of the world.
The demographics and heritage of the town continues to change, but those living within it, should be educated on the achievements of the rugby league club in the past in putting Widnes on the map, as well as the context of the working industry that ultimately made Widnes part of the breakaway Northern Union in the first place.
So what would Widnes Day look like?
Well, for one, the club could use it as the day to launch Season Tickets year in, year out. Heck, they could even tie in the kit launch as well.
No longer would they need to field questions about when season tickets or kits are due out, people would know. Alarmingly, there seems to have been a lot less clamour for this information this year compared to last, but that can change.
Businesses around town could be engaged to encourage a “wear a Widnes shirt to work” day and help raise money for the club’s community activities, and even raise exposure of the sponsorship packages the club has available for the following season.
The same initiative could be put in place for schools, and it could be used as a vehicle to spend some class time educating schoolchildren about not just Widnes Vikings, but the town in general and how its history has been entwined with rugby league.
The day could also be used, as it’s early in the academic year, to invite schools to get a taster of what community rugby sessions are like at the stadium, with a view to selling spaces on any upcoming half-term camps, or sign-posting to community clubs ahead of the following campaign.
Each year, or alternate years if it gets too much, a celebratory function could be held to mark Widnes Day – and it wouldn’t have to be related to the 1989 team, it could just be something connected with the club’s history. It might be an evening with a popular former player, or a fundraising quiz night by a supporters club, or an all encompassing past players’ evening.
Also in the evening, two of the town’s community clubs could line-up to mark the natural end of the summer grassroots season with an all-Widnes finale at the stadium, where other clubs could be celebrated too. Admittedly, my knowledge of the community game is limited, but I vaguely recall mentions of a Widnes Cup in the past – whether it’s still going or not, I don’t know, but maybe it could be tied in to that.
While some may be frustrated that the glory days are long gone, instead of simply remembering them as fond memories, turn them in to a positive that can galvanise the town and inspire it to connect with its rugby league club.