Widnes’ England Knights trio heap praise on Academy

Widnes’ three England Knights stars have paid testament to the club’s Academy setup.

Tom Gilmore, Danny Walker and Matt Whitley were all named in the recent 25-man performance squad that has been selected with an eye on the 2021 World Cup squad.

All three players are products of the club’s thriving Academy setup which is earning increasing acclaim as more young talents breakthrough in the club’s first-team squad.

The trio all spoke highly of the setup, and believe many more could follow in their footsteps.

“I think we’ve shown there’s a pathway for players to come to Widnes and become a professional player,” Gilmore said.

“What Widnes do a bit differently is identify players with different backgrounds. Phil (Finney) likes to work with players from a working-class background, being the best
player in the age group isn’t particularly important, he looks for different things like work ethic and a willingness to listen and improve.

“I wouldn’t be any prouder than winning something with this club, my club, and this town.”

Whitley added: “The club always teach us that you’ve got to work hard and you’ll get your reward. If you look at the amount of players coming through now, it’s all off the back of doing that and when you consider how many players are breaking into the first team I think it’s a real testament to the Academy and how well it works.

“I’ve built so many friendships at this club and I don’t think you’d want to leave that. The game needs more pathways and Widnes most certainly have provided that for young players in this area.”

Meanwhile, Walker believes that it won’t be long before more of the club’s products make their way into Super League.

“There’s another band below us, like Sam Walters and Jayden Hatton. They have the attributes to make it and I don’t think it will be long before even more come through.”