New Signings, New Standards: John Kear Wants A Fresh Start For Widnes Vikings

The Vikings head coach says there's new optimism in the town
09:00, 04 Feb 2023

Head coach John Kear believes Widnes Vikings are ready to finally compete at the top of the Betfred Championship once more after years of turmoil.

The Vikings’ most recent stint in the Betfred Super League ended in 2018 after seven years in the top flight, and the club quickly entered administration and just about staved off liquidation amid significant financial problems which blighted them for some years. They were even subjected to a points deduction following a takeover.

But in 2023 Widnes appear to be on a much better footing, with Kear at the helm for a full campaign after joining midway through last season and the likes of Kyle Amor, Jordan Johnstone and Kieran Dixon being signed to add Super League experience to the ranks.


“They’re setting the standard,” Kear tells The Sportsman of the new additions. “They’re setting the example off the field and they’re setting the example on the training field as well. They’ve been really good but obviously the proof of the pudding starts in round one because we’ve got a really tough start and it really will be a good marker as to where we’re going to be this season.

“We’ve redefined what we feel is our culture within the club and we’re working really hard to develop and grow that culture, and should we do that we’ll have a half-decent chance during the season. But everything’s always pretty good and everybody’s always happy in pre-season because nobody’s lost a game, but as soon as you get out there in the muck and nettles on February 5, that’s when results count.”

And the positivity around the camp is refreshing for the whole town, says Kear.

“It’s been really tough for people at the club and obviously they have been through the ringer, and the fans have as well. But they’ve stood by the club and things off the field now are looking much brighter and hopefully we can make sure that things on the field are as well,” says the 68-year-old. “We finished last season very well but it’s a matter now of building upon that and making sure that we have a good full season.”

Kear agrees that it has been too long since Widnes have been pushing to regain a place in rugby league’s upper echelons.

“It has, since relegation they haven’t been in the play-offs yet. So obviously part of my job is to make sure that we get in the play-offs, and then should we get there you don’t know what’s going to happen. But Widnes should be competing in and around the top four of the table and really rolling our sleeves up and attempting to get back into Super League, which is a tough ask because there are some quality teams out there.”

The experienced former Wakefield Trinity, Hull FC, Bradford Bulls and England coach says he continues to develop new skills having coached Wales at a second World Cup during the autumn.

“You’re learning all the time, you learn every time you coach a different group of players and you bring new players in,” he adds. “Everybody’s got something to offer and as soon as you close your mind you’re on your way out, so what you’ve got to do is be open-minded, happy to listen and learn and I think you can influence the people in and around the club as well.”

The Vikings begin their Betfred Championship season with a trip to York Knights on Sunday, kick-off at 3pm.


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