You can’t argue with three of the last four signings made by the Vikings board – Tim Sheens, Logan Tomkins and Matty Smith.
The capture of Smith was regarded as nearly as unlikely as Sheens when it was suggested to the board but, no doubt in part to the presence of the Australian, the former Super League winner was tempted to drop a division to the Championship and go part-time.
It won’t be Smith’s first stint at the Halton Stadium – he was part of the hastily put together 2008 team in the season after administration, playing on loan from St Helens alongside Steve Tyrer.
Somewhat ironic then, that he returns to Widnes a year after a second administration as a bookend to a successful career that lived up to the promise shown in his first spell.
Critics of Smith say he has slowed in the past two years. His decision to cut short his stay Wigan to return to St Helens backfired, the emergence of Widnes-lad Danny Richardson costing him his place in Justin Holbrook’s side, and that led to him departing for Catalans.
His time at the Dragons didn’t go as planned either, with almost immediate regret from the French in signing him as it meant that they couldn’t retain Josh Drinkwater, the half-back that had steered them to a historic Challenge Cup triumph.
That meant he ended the season at Warrington, meaning he has played for six clubs west of the Pennines (Crusaders, Salford, St Helens, Wigan, Widnes, Warrington), where he was on a hiding to nothing – joining a team in dismal form and without their talisman in Blake Austin, expected to work miracles.
In fact there are some who thought Smith might well have formed a decent partnership with Austin had the pair been afforded the chance in 2020, but of course the Wolves’ desire for big-money signings has seen them turn to Gareth Widdop for the new season.
So that led Smith to Widnes. The reality is he didn’t have many options, given most Super League clubs were fixed up in the halves, with perhaps only really a bit-part place in Toronto or the arduous travelling to Hull (KR) realistic options.
To join Widnes, playing in what is arguably the best 1-6-7-9 combination in the Championship, thus became attractive, not least because of the presence of Sheens.
While Smith may have lost some pace, a drop down to the Championship might prove just the tonic, and his experience and kicking game to go alongside Danny Craven feels like the perfect balance.
There have been murmurings of discontent over Widnes’ recruitment in the off-season – criticism of the signings made from “lower league” clubs, like Kenny Baker, Jake Spedding and Deon Cross, but these players are just as likely to be hits as they are to be flops.
When two excellent players, and of course a coach, have presented themselves as options, Widnes have swooped.
And it’s many a year since that has happened.