Our first Members’ Monday session of the 2024 season was held on October 30th at the DCBL Stadium, during which Widnes fans got to meet the club’s new head coach, Allan Coleman, for the first time.
Speaking on the Bridge Suite stage alongside the club’s Director of Operations Chris Hamilton, Allan set out his stall as to what he wants to achieve, with the Vikings squad he is putting together ahead of the new season.
Allan, Chris, and many fans with questions of their own discussed the new year and moving forward from the disappointment of the last few, and the statements below from our new head coach show exactly why Coleman is the right man to lead Widnes into a new era.
“Firstly, it’s great to be here, and thanks for the invite to see you all for the first time.
“I’ve worked damned hard to get to this club. I started from the bottom and got to where I am now, which is at a massive club in Widnes, through hard work, and that’s going to continue; if anything it’s going to require us to work even harder, extremely so.
“I’m thankful for this opportunity, and really excited with it. Some people have said this job is a poisoned chalice, and that you’re under so much pressure, but it’s a privilege to be under pressure.
“I’m certainly excited; first and foremost I’m going to give it everything I’ve got, and when I do things like that, I work harder than anyone around me – I’ll continue to do that for this club.
“In the background we’ve had quite a bit of player retention. There were 8 players under contract when I got here, and we identified the players we wanted to keep. There are some who’ve left who are no doubt fans’ favourites, but not everyone fits into the style and the way I want our team to play.
“That kind of structure is hard-working, because in this game you get nothing if you don’t work hard. I don’t want players who’ll stand around and admire themselves when they’ve done something good – we need to have a team ethos where we all work for each other and work alongside each other.
“I don’t want 13 individuals out on that pitch, I want a collective team, and having that is important in everything we’ll do. You’ve got to set the standard and work hard for everyone around you.
“I can give you my word that this team, this year, won’t leave anything on the field in a game where either we or the fans can be upset with the effort, and if that effort’s not there, they won’t be selected to play in this team.
“The last 4 or 5 years have been troubled times for Widnes and the club has massively underachieved, and in my interview, I was asked where I see this club going under new leadership. Honestly, I think just targeting the play-offs is an easy cop-out for the quality of players you’ve had at this club for the last 3 or 4 years.
“I’m not saying we’re going to win everything, but I am saying we’ll certainly compete in everything we do, with a team that works hard and you can be proud of watching.
“I want to have pressure in this job. I want you to be proud of your team again. The players have to wear that Widnes jersey and be willing to run through walls for it, and not just because they used to be a big club in Super League.
“This will be a big club again, but like anything in life, it’s going to take both hard work time as we build towards that goal.
“For fans unhappy with the players that have left, please give us the time for the squad to settle and judge us throughout the season rather than right now. Getting the right blend, of people who both suit each other, and work well together is very important.
“I’m not a coach who wants a 30-something player coming out of Super League. It’s not me, I instead want to build and create something, and if you look at Super League now, there’s at least 10 young Widnes lads between the ages of 18 and 23 playing at the highest level.
“We have to find those young players and shop around to get them, of course we do, but the 8 players on existing contracts know they have to perform this year in order to get a deal for 2025. That has to be the mindset.
“I’ve come from Swinton which was an even tougher job, sometimes having as few as 12 or 13 players, but it didn’t distract from what we wanted to achieve as a group. Competition is vital and those who don’t perform know they’re are at risk of de-selection the following week.
“The staff at Wigan Warriors for example all pull together, so the players know they’ve got each other’s backs and so everyone believes in the same purpose.
“The fans have got to trust in us. Success isn’t going to happen overnight, but this will be the tightest group you’ve seen for 4 years, I can guarantee you that. Give me a tight team over an individual team any day of the week.
“With the IMG rating, blending structure, youth and performance together is vital, and that’s what we need to strive for. The first year could be difficult, but fingers crossed I’m here next year and then I can really build the team I want.
“My Swinton team always went out and expressed ourselves despite a low budget, and I’m a believer in always playing eyes-up, exciting rugby on the front foot. People say we need big, strong middle forwards, but we also need middles who can play that creative side of the game and are as good with the ball as a half-back would be.
“We’ve got to put the fear factor in other clubs. Other clubs like Batley have managed it and it’s certainly paid off against us in particular, so we need to earn the right as they have. We want teams to look at ‘Widnes away’ in the fixture list and say “That’s a tough game for us.” That’s not been happening, and I feel it’s something we really need to change.
“I’m happy with the new players coming in, I really am. They’re my kind of players, not superstars but I know exactly what they’ll bring to this team, which is a very heavy workload and desire to win. They’ll play tough and not let this team or the club down.
“I think it’s vitally important that when a new coach comes in, it’s the perfect time to bring new staff in also, so they’re all together as a group from day 1.”
With a rousing show of support from Allan for the players who make up the 2024 Vikings squad, and with pre-season just days away from getting underway, preparations for the new year are shaping up nicely as Coleman’s Chemics gear up for a crucial year at the DCBL Stadium!