VIKINGS supporters hope their side can deliver a late Christmas present with victory over Super League neighbours Warrington Wolves on Boxing Day (3pm), writes Paul Glynn.
Having had a three-and-a-half-month break to digest the bittersweet flavours of last season, the Widnes faithful will get the chance to see some of Paul Cullen’s new stars for the first time in the World of Beds Cup challenge.
Head coach Cullen suggests that the festive trial game at Stobart Stadium will provide his charges with the chance to show that they are no turkeys against his former side.
“It’s a long way from the start of the season but the Warrington match will give our lads an opportunity to show us what we’ve got,” said the Widnes chief. “Training has been sharp and bright so far but none of our sessions have involved tackling full-time players, so it will be a test.
“We won’t have our absolute strongest team out as some of our players are still recovering from bumps and bruises sustained last season and illness.
“But new players like Matt Gardner and Gareth Haggerty may play and we might even bring in some untried youngsters to see how they perform in this environment.”
He added: “This game is not about me versus Warrington, it’s about getting a good run-out for some of our players and raising some funds.
“Warrington will have a look at some of their youngsters and won’t bring many of their bigger players, so we are not kidding ourselves that we are taking on a full Super League side.
“Both sides will experiment and we could use 22 to 23 players.”
Steve Pickersgill will face his former employers for the first time following his permanent move to Widnes and ex Viking and current England international Richie Myler is expected to make his debut for Warrington.
Prop Jim Gannon will miss the game as he is on an extended family break in Australia while he recovers from a persistent elbow injury.
Winger Dean Gaskell is ruled out by suspension and dual-registration signing Chris Dean is still training with his parent club St Helens.
Tickets for the game are available from the club and from O'Neill's in Widnes town centre.
A limited number of tickets will be made available on the day from the Stadium Fitness Box Office.
Vikings provisional squad: Ford, Varkulis, Kohe-Love, Flynn, Thackeray, Webster, Pickersgill, Smith, Doran, Allen, Gerrard, Coyle, Grady, Haggerty, Kavanagh, Yates, Gardner, Strong, Thompson, Houghton, Hulme, Mullally.