WIDNES Vikings have shown their determination to launch a serious promotion bid this season by appointing high-profile Aussie Tim Sheens as head coach and then getting out the cheque book to land former St Helens, Salford, Wigan and Catalans half-back Matty Smith.
The former England international might be past his peak at 32, but he’s still a clever and hugely-skilled operator at the fulcrum of the Vikings attack.
They start the ball rolling for newly-promoted Oldham, who host the Vikings at Bower Fold, Stalybridge on Sunday, kick-off 3pm, in a Betfred Championship opener that some pundits believe might go the Roughyeds’ way.
Oldham boss Matt Diskin (37), who will also be in charge of his side for the first time in serious competition, will relish pitting his wits against 69-year-old Sheens, who was in charge of the Australians from 2009 to 2015 after coaching NRL sides Penrith Panthers, Canberra Raiders, North Queensland Cowboys and Wests Tigers.
Starting off last season on minus 12 points because they entered administration, Vikings were never going to be pushing for promotion but this time they feel they will have a great chance if Smith settles in quickly to spearhead their challenge.
He will have the support of several more new signings, among them Jack Johnson from Warrington Wolves, Jake Spedding (Featherstone Rovers), Deon Cross (Barrow Raiders), Logan Tomkins (Salford Red Devils), Shane Grady (Halifax), Pat Moran (Warrington Wolves), Kenny Baker (North Wales Crusaders), Connor Dwyer (Thatto Heath) and Liam Cooper (St Helens).
Vikings took 600 fans to Rochdale for a pre-season friendly — the first of their three wins against Hornets, Castleford Tigers and North Wales Crusaders — and they expect to take to Bower Fold a black-and-white army that might, just might, hit four figures.
Diskin says he and his backroom staff will leave no stone unturned in their efforts to give the Roughyeds players the best possible preparation for each match, down to having their Saturday morning Captain’s Run at Bower Fold whenever Stalybridge Celtic fixtures permit.