The 2019 season was undoubtedly a tough one for the Widne. They had a tough few months. Unfortunately, the club had to go into administration on 22 February 2019 when a proposed takeover bid was ultimately unsuccessful. It led to a 12 point deduction for the club, and a match having to be postponed.
The club’s fans held a fundraising campaign that raised more than £100,000, which saved the club. A consortium called the Widnes Rugby League Club Limited had a takeover accepted by the RFL in March, and the club has been able to stabilize since then.
The points deduction did remain in effect which meant the club finished the Championship season in a disappointing 11th place.
The controversy from when the last board of directors were in control of the club is not quite over yet, as there is an investigation still being carried out about missing sponsorship and where other funds ended up. If the suspected wrongdoing is confirmed, there is a likelihood of criminal charges being filed.
The obvious question is, can Widnes overcome their period of turmoil in 2020 and perhaps even contend for a place in the playoffs? Some bookmakers have them as a 14/1 shot to win the Grand Final, so anything seems to be possible for this season.
After the administration, Widnes went on a good winning streak before falling away. They managed to make the final of the RFL 1895 Cup at Wembley where they lost to Sheffield Eagles.
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What squad changes have the Widnes Vikings undergone for the 2020 season?
There have been various positive changes made to the squad over the off-season. Widnes have welcomed 10 new players ahead of the coming season so far. These have included:
- Jake Spedding who has signed from Featherstone Rovers on a one year contract and plays as a centre or on the wing.
- Matty Smith is an England International player who signed a one year deal with an additional year as an option from Super League team Catalans.
- Liam Cooper who has signed on a one year contract from St. Helens and who will play as a second-row forward.
- Shane Grady signed on a two year deal from Halifax and plays either as a centre or as a second-row forward.
- Logan Tomkins has signed a one year deal and arrived from Salford Red Devils and plays as a hooker.
- Jack Johnson signed from Featherstone Rovers on a one year contract and plays either on the wing or as a full-back.
- Pat Moran has signed from Warrington Wolves on a one year deal and will play as a prop-forward.
- Connor Dwyer arrived from Thatto Heath Crusaders on a one year deal.
- Kenny Baker signed for one year from North Wales Crusaders.
- Deon Cross signed a one year contract and arrived from Barrow Raiders.
The new season will soon reveal what impact these new players will have and how well they will integrate into the team.
There have also been several players outgoing. Chris Dean has retired, and Hep Cahill reached the end of his contract. Anthony Gelling and Keenan Brand have transferred to Warringto. Olly Ashall-Bott and Dan Norman headed to the London Broncos, and Harrison Hansen and Tom Gilmore headed to Toulouse Olympique and Halifax respectively.
So it is a fond farewell to some players and welcomes to the new crowd. Whatever happens, the Widnes Vikings appear to be heading for an exciting 2020 Rugby Football League Championship.
Is there a reason for optimism for the 2020 season?
Widnes Vikings have recently appointed the vastly experienced Tim Sheens on a two-year deal to act as the team’s Head Coach. He has over 31 years of rugby league management experience; he has coached in both hemispheres and has won honours at both club and international level.
Tim is a former Australian national team coach and had an outstanding record of 26 victories from the 31 matches he managed the team for.
His experience and expertise is a big reason for Widnes Vikings fans to be optimistic for the year ahead. This is a first-rate appointment for Widnes Vikings, and I am sure Tim would not have taken this type of challenging job if he was not convinced of the team’s potential.
Tim Sheen is a top manager, and you can expect him to have the team performing at the top of their abilities and hopefully contending for a playoff place this season.
There has been some other reorganization the team had to go through. Widnes have transitioned from a full-time operation to become part-timers. This means that they will have to operate under a reduced budget that befits a part-time team. This is clearly a business decision, and this kind of reorganization can often turn out to be a good thing.
Final Thoughts about the Widnes Vikings chances in 2020
Widnes Vikings could well have pulled a masterstroke by appointing Tim Sheens. He has a reputation as a brilliant Head Coach and a track record that would make most Super League teams jealous.
It is an open question of how effectively these new players will fit in with the team, and if the switch to becoming a part-time club will have much of an effect. Still, there is a definite reason to feel good about the team’s chances for the season ahead.
The feeling here is that they will do well in 2020. The team were building up some good momentum towards the end of last season.
They have a top-class new coach, and when I listen to some of the player’s interviews, I hear a lot of good attitudes about what is to come.
I predict they have a pretty decent chance of getting into the playoffs, and then anything will become possible!