Widnes eye up recruitment after special measures exit

Widnes Vikings coach Kieron Purtill says the club will press ahead with its recruitment drive this week after being told they are out of special measures by the RFL.

Purtill has been restricted over who he could add to his squad all season following a change in ownership after the club went into administration in February.

But he says the governing body are now happy with the Vikings’ budget for 2020, allowing him to step up plans to reshape the club’s squad as they move from being a full-time team to a part-time one.

Purtill said: “We’ve got the go ahead from the RFL and we need to start putting things in place over the next seven days to two weeks.

“It will be a bit of a mad rush because we’ve been holding off waiting for that clearance, and it’s been quite frustrating the last few weeks.

“We’ve probably missed out on one or two that have signed with other clubs because we weren’t able to offer them anything, but we’re starting to move forward now and shape a squad that will be competitive.

“We’ve got a number of players contracted on full-time deals that the club will honour, so it could take us 12 months to transition fully from full-time to part-time.

“There are still some things to save and work around and it will be a massive change, but the main thing is that the club can start to look forward now.”

One player that won’t be in Purtill’s 2020 squad is winger Ryan Ince, who left the club last week by mutual consent after being left out of the team for the 1895 Cup final.

A Vikings statement read: “The club would like to thank Ryan for his efforts during his time with Widnes Vikings, and wish him all the best for his future endeavours.”

Full-back Olly Ashall-Bott’s season is over after being told he needs an operation on his back, while Hull FC-bound Jordan Johnstone was waiting for a specialist’s report on whether he will need surgery on the facial injury sustained at Wembley.

Despite defeat against Sheffield, Purtill feels his team will benefit significantly from their 1895 Cup experience – and has backed the competition to return.

He added: “It was a really good experience that everyone can cherish – it’s something to talk about and not many players can say they’ve had the chance to play at Wembley.

“Ideally next year the game would be played before the Challenge Cup final if they give it enough time to get things sorted.

“There were one or two logistical problems and the kick-off and warm-up times kept getting delayed.

“In the second half, while there was a fantastic following from Widnes and Sheffield turned up, in such a big stadium it was a bit surreal.

“Playing first, there would be a very good crowd on for the second half.

“But if you ask anyone that was involved on the day they will say that it was a great occasion to be part of.”