Widnes manager Dave Dempsey is looking for his side to be as competitive as possible in his first full season.
Dempsey helped his side away from the danger zone, leading to a respectful finish just outside the top half last season.
Widnes have welcomed a number of new faces as they look to follow up their solid defensive turnaround with a spark up front.
Additions at the DCBL Stadium include Tom Parry, James Salkeld, Luke Sephton and Lucas Schofield. This week, Jordan Wynne swapped Bootle for Widnes after he was allowed to leave the club.
Pre-season for Widnes saw them face Vauxhall Motors, Isle of man, Cefn Druids, Nelson, Atherton Colleries, Ashton United before their final pre-season friendly against Lancaster City. Their season kicks off in the FA Cup away to Winsford United.
“It’s been eventful, we’ve had a really good trip to the Isle of Man early on, that was a really good time for the lads to bond and get used to one another,” he told Off The Park.
“If you look at results they’ve been all very close games, but every game we keep getting stronger, the lads are getting stronger, working hard. We’ve recruited which we’ve not stopped doing but we’ve almost finished our recruitment process, getting names over the line so all in all I’m relatively content with our pre-season in terms of how it’s gone.
“All of those questions will be answered on August 6 when we play in the FA Cup, we had a good pre-season or we fell slightly short but hopefully we’re looking okay.
“We’ve added Tom Parry, in terms of competition for the left-back position with Kian Bell. Kian’s done very well this pre-season as has Tom. James Salkeld’s come in, we lost Sam Turner back to Chester so we needed to look at that area, he’s been outstanding, settled in very quickly, he’s done very, very well, he’ll be an exciting player for us.
“We’ve brought in Luke Sephton who gives us a bit of a presence higher up the pitch, he’s energetic, got an eye for goal – scored a few already in pre-season – then we signed Lucas Schofield as a younger prospect from Halifax, a lot of learning to do, a lot of potential. Very, very technical, plays Futsal so in and around tight areas we’ve seen glimpses of how good he can be but he has a bit of a way to go in terms of being the finished article in 11-a-side, it’s his first season in men’s football.
“We’ve got one or two more coming in, one from our league who will be a very good addition (Jordan Wynne) and another from the league below. All in all, we’ve recruited five or six players just to give us strength in depth and early in the season we’ll have a lot of suspensions.
“We’re missing Fis for the first three games, got lads on holiday, there will be injuries, fatigue when the games ramp up but the players brought in and coming will add more to the squad and put us in a better position.
“We want to be where every other teams wants to be, we want to be at the pinnacle of the league, we want to be going to win the league.
“Realistically, are we ready for that with the teams that have come into the league and have fallen short last season? It’ll be tough for us to go and get that high up the league but I almost feel like there’s a lot of clubs fighting for those playoff spots, I don’t want to do them a disservice but with Kendal and Market Drayton going I don’t see teams in the league finishing on the points total they did, the leagues got more competitive.
“If we can keep improving year on year in terms of where we were then there’s no reason an improvement on just below mid-table is a top-half finish so why can’t we go and compete and kick on and see how we can and see if we can sneak into the playoff spots.
“I’ve said to the players if we’re competitive come the start of March and mathematically we’ve got things to play for I’d be a proud manager because the budgets and the money some of the clubs have been able to throw about this season has been really tough but for me, the players we’ll have belief and self-motivation that we can go and achieve something.
“We’ve got a very, very good squad, if we’re lucky on the injury front, get a few early wins and the morale raises, the belief is embedded as it was then there’s no reason we can’t fight for those final few playoff spaces.”