CARETAKER head coach Stuart Wilkinson is confident Widnes Vikings will be primed and ready once the gods finally allow them to kick off their delayed pre-season match schedule.
Wilkinson, alongside conditioning coach Mick Cassidy, continues to oversee the management of the squad in the absence of head coach Paul Cullen, who was this week granted compassionate leave by the club to tend to his wife Chris who is suffering from cancer.
The treacherous snowy conditions have meant the duo have had the unenviable task of finding alternative methods of preparing the squad for a potential seaside trip to Blackpool.
What is now scheduled as the new-look side’s first outing is on Sunday at Fylde RUFC (ko 3pm) but subject to a drastic improvement in the weather.
However, Cullen’s right-hand man Wilkinson says he and his troops cannot wait to return to action following months of gruelling pre-season training sessions.
They are raring to go after the disappointing double postponement and subsequent cancellation of the friendly clash with rivals Warrington Wolves.
Wilkinson said: “The lads are desperate to play.
“There have been a lot of personnel changes and they’ve all applied themselves brilliantly throughout pre-season while Paul has been fluctuating in and out.
“It’s difficult to work on tactical and technical elements of training in these conditions but every other club is in the same boat, so we’ve been working hard in the gym.
“It’s looking unlikely that the game will be on but we’ve got to prepare properly, be optimistic and hopeful that the sun comes out or we get a downpour of rain.”
Despite being a reluctant leader, Wilkinson is happy to do all he can to help out during a difficult time for the club.
“I love the coaching work that I do and I have no aspiration to be a head coach, but it’s a case of needs must at the moment.
“We’re working in an unusual circumstances and Paul will be in and out.
“We're all supporting Paul in the best way we can and so myself and Mick Cassidy will ensure everything runs like he wants it to.”
The duo are expected to lead a young Widnes side to France to take on Carcassonne on January 23.
The hastily-arranged match will mark the 70th anniversary of the Gallic nation's most-successful club.
A full-strength Vikings line-up will then conclude pre-season by taking on Salford City Reds at home on Sunday January 24 (ko 3pm).
Tickets from the Warrington game are valid for this friendly club, although refunds are available from the club up until January 22.