Nicknames: The Vikings, The Chemics
Ground: Halton Stadium
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Widnes Rugby League
The Widnes Vikings are not only one of the world’s oldest rugby clubs but they are also one of the most successful rugby league clubs and although they haven’t been quite as successful recently, it was only in the 1989-90 season that Widnes competed in the World Club Challenge match, they are now back in Super League and with a good fan base, a passionate owner and a great stadium, who is to say that success and trophies aren’t just around the corner for Widnes.
The Vikings have small rivalries with a number of local teams but there is one rivalry that stands above the rest and really is their ‘Derby Day’ and that is matches between Widnes and the Warrington Wolves.
The club colours are black and white with traditionally a mainly white playing strip. In recent times the black part of their colours has featured as a chevron which has helped the Vikings gain a distinctive playing strip especially when compared to other teams with the same colour scheme.
With the popularity of Rugby League increasing in the Newcastle area thanks to the move of Gateshead and the Magic Weekend taking place at St James Park, the club have also used their black and white links to the town soccer club to produce a black and white strip in aid of the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.
Prior to 1895, the club moved around the town of Widnes, playing at numerous grounds and playing fields before establishing a home at Lowerhouse Lane. In 1932 the club’s sectary, Tom Naughton died and the ground was renamed Naughton in his honour.
In the 1990’s the decision was made to knock down Naughton Park and build a brand-new stadium on the same site. Originally the new stadium, first opened in 1997 was called the Halton Community Stadium and then simply the Halton Stadium- although the official name has changed a few times over the last decade or so due to sponsorship reasons.
Widnes can trace their roots right back to 1871 when the Farnworth & Appleton Cricket Club was formed. In 1875 the club decided to try to the new sport of Rugby and by 1876 the club had changed their name to Widnes FC- concentrating just on football and rugby and it is at this time when the club were referred to as The Chemicals, shortened to The Chemics to give them their modern nickname.
By 1895 the club were firmly established as a Rugby club and they became one of the founder members of the Northern Union after breaking away from the RFU Rugby Football Union). The clubs first match in the Northern Union was against near neighbours Runcorn, a match that they lost 15-4.
The pre-war years were all about survival for the club as financial problems meant they had to constantly sell their best players and in the 1927-28 season the Warrington Wolves donated their share of the gate for both of their matches with Widnes that season just to keep the club going.
In 1930 the club upset the odds by defeating St Helens 10-3 in the Challenge Cup final to pick up their first major trophy- a remarkable feat for a club having to really solely on local and young players, with 12 of the 13 players born in the town of Widnes.
After the second World War the club enjoyed a period of steady improvement and the odd bit of silverware but this was just setting the scene for the 1960, 7’s and 80’s when the club were to become one of the most successful clubs in the sports and were given the name of the ‘Cup Kings’.
From the Challenge Cup to the Lancashire Cup and from the John Player Trophy to the Floodlit Trophy, no matter what the cup competition was during this era, Widnes both won it and made it to the final in each.
In the late 1980’s the club became one of the biggest spenders in the game and signed top players from other Rugby League teams and also from Rugby Union teams. This helped them not just to league glory but also to World Glory as Widnes took on and defeated Canberra 30-18 to be crowned the first World Club Champions.
Unfortunately, this era of success and big spending couldn’t last and by the 1990’s Widnes were back in financial difficulties and had to sell all of their stars.
The club started the new summer era struggling and finished the first Super League season in the relegation zone which saw the team play in the second division for 5 years. After another spell in the top flight, the team where once again relegated before been awarded a license for Super League. The stability and new resources of the club have allowed the team to grow and with the likes England international Kevin Brown in their team, the Vikings easily settled into becoming an established Super League team.
Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse and the club suffered relegation to the Championship.
The challenge now is for the Vikings to keep progressing and moving up the table to becoming an established Super League team once more.