Widnes manager Michael Ellison has dedicated their Northern Premier League West survival to the volunteers of the Vikings.
Following the demotion of Skelmersdale United after they failed ground grading, Widnes were handed a reprieve after finishing top of the Points Per Game table.
Ellison’s side orchestrated an impressive rise to safety after taking over with the club sitting rock bottom. Their imperious form saw them rise to the first relegation playoff spot, taking 26 points from their final 15 games.
“We’re delighted, that was the plan when we come in and stay in the division, we left it until the last day of the season,” he told Off The Park. “We knew we had to win to finish top on Points Per Game and we managed to do that but it’s more relief than anything.
“We shouldn’t have left it until the last game and we’ve dropped points over the course of the season, that lies with me, I’m the manager, there’s things I’ve got wrong and need to improve on. It’s more relief, big relief and I’m delighted for the football club, it’s about them and how hard they work.
“These non-league clubs, the volunteers, the people behind the scenes do everything and they work so hard so I didn’t want to be the one to take them down and we haven’t, we’re in the division for another year which is outstanding.
“We had a points target of 47 points when we came in, Widnes finished 12th on that last season so we knew the league was competitive this year, there was no easy games, we finished on 44,” he continued.
“As I said, that’s down to me as the manager but we had to go on a good run and it’s down to the lads. I remember the Newcastle Town game at home, we lost 3-1, people had us down but since then we put on a really good run and we’ve got over the line.
“I don’t care how we done it, we’ve limped over it but we done it and that’s the main thing, in the games that we’ve won, the lads have been playing under immense pressure, going into games thinking we’ve got to win, it’s been tough and relentless.
“There’s been a few blips in there, defeats to Skem, Clitheroe but we’ve managed to bounce back and it was important in that run that we didn’t lose back-to-back, it’s a testament to the lads, squad and the one we finished with was a decent one in the end.”
Widnes remain in the Northern Premier League West next season for their sixth successive season. With promising plans off-the-pitch, Ellison has expressed his intent to remain in the dugout next season.
He said: “The club have big plans with the ground, I’ll sit down with the club and the board to discuss next season but we certainly plan to not be in this situation again, I want to build a squad that can be competitive in the league and challenge, there will be 10 or 12 teams thinking they can do the same as they do every year.
“I’m itching to get back, first I’ll have a break because it’s been relentless, it’s been really tough every single week.
“There was weeks where you’d win but the teams around you won, you were winning game and not moving anywhere but I’ll meet with the club and see where we go next year. With the new ground and stuff like that, the club are going in the right direction and I want to be apart of that.”
Ellison replaced Dave Dempsey as manager following his dismissal but his appointment came after he was relieved of his duties at City of Liverpool.
He was axed from his position with the Purps following their defeat to rivals Bootle and reflecting on the season, the Widnes boss admitted it’s been the ‘toughest yet’. He added: “It’s been the toughest season yet and it’s the first season I’ve been involved in a relegation battle as a manager, I’ve learned a lot.
“We lost our first four games at City of Liverpool but I wouldn’t say you were in a relegation battle after four games, when we come to Widnes, it might’ve been eight [games] and we were down there then we had to build the squad and get a result at the same time.
“It’s been difficult but [for me] it’s been a massive learning curve, the club have been fantastic, so have my staff but more importantly so have the players. You only have to see the amount of players we’ve gone through and we’ve almost had pre-season during the season but we’ve done enough at the right time to stay up and I’m delighted for the football club more than anything.”