Vikings’ new recruit Kevin Brown admits he’s loving life at Widnes.
Back in May, the classy stand off signed a long-term deal at the Stobart Stadium which will see him pulling on a Widnes shirt until the end of the 2016 Super League season.
And, as first impressions go, the 27 year-old says things couldn’t be better.
He said: “I've been pleasantly surprised with how good the setup is. The way everybody co-operates with each other from the office staff through to the coaching and conditioning staff, not forgetting the interns who keep everything really professional and organised, is absolutely first class.
“It's truly been a breath of fresh air coming in and seeing all of this first hand.
“The team spirit on top of that is fantastic, and we're combining enjoyment with a lot of hard work and preparation for what's ahead. I'm sure the boys are going to be fit and raring to go for whatever is put in front of them.”
Just 12 months ago, the set-up couldn’t have been more different.
With the old grassed surface at the Stobart Stadium removed and a new intelligent pitch being laid in its place, the coaching staff and players were forced to do much of their preparation work off-site.
A year on and those creature-comforts are now all under one roof, much to the delight of the Vikings newcomer, who said: “For me personally, I've only seen the exceptional training facilities as they are now, but I've been keen to speak to some of the other lads about the improvements.
"Constantly travelling around for 30 minutes here and there just to get to training wasn't an ideal situation and some of those frustrations could easily have transferred onto the pitch.
“As a group, we looked at some of the results from the beginning of last season, then compared them to how the team finished the year, and the massive improvement was there for all to see. Having said that, once we had got it out into the open, we moved on immediately and have only looked forward, not only to the 2013 Super League season, but also the pre-season trial games that are on the horizon.”
Brown is the only new arrival thus far for the Vikings on the playing front, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing according to the England international, who added: “Everybody at the club is in unison and working well together. This has allowed us to knuckle down from day one and concentrate on building a strong chemistry across the squad.
"We've been training hard on both the fitness and strength and conditioning side of things and have only recently introduced a ball into our drills. The lads are looking really sharp, focused and excited for the future.
“We are well aware that many people will still choose to write us off as 'not very good', but within the camp our belief is strong, so we’ll be hoping to surprise a few of them in 2013.
"I don't think we necessarily deserve this lack of respect, but having said that, we do need to earn our status as an established Super League side and we intend to do just that through our performances.”
Brown appeared settled in his role as captain of Huddersfield Giants and many would consider him an ideal candidate for a similar leadership role at the Vikings.
Although as Brown admits, for the moment at least, it’s strictly one day at a time whilst he settles into life at the club and familiarises himself with his new team mates.
“In a bid to earn the respect of my peers, I've been getting my head down and doing some hard training and fitness work," he said.
"I'm also trying to set a good example for the younger members of the squad to follow.
“The harmony and spirit in the camp is very tight and I’m certain we can take this togetherness out onto the field. We’re all prepared for the hard work ahead over the next few months and we’ll be aiming to kick-start our season in a positive manner.”
Since joining the club, Kevin has been keen to engage with the wider community as much as possible. With a successful ‘Half-Term Challenge’ for the clubs’ younger supporters, and a number of dynamic promotional activities behind him, he is also delighted at how well he has been received by the ever-expanding Vikings supporter-base.
He said: “I've been blown away by how much of a Rugby League community Widnes actually is and how many supporters are behind the team. Before joining, I was already aware of the club's great and illustrious history and even in places such as St Helens, Runcorn and Liverpool there are always lots of fans keen to talk about the club.
“As you can imagine, expectations are often high during these conversations, with people asking me where we'll finish etc. I'm hoping that when we step out in front of all of these passionate spectators, especially at home, we can feed off the amazing atmosphere at the Stobart Stadium, deliver the goods and give them something to shout about. If we are to be a force in the 2013 campaign, then our home form needs to be as strong as it was last season, and the fans must help us out by turning up in their thousands throughout the year.”
With two pre-season trial games already scheduled for the Vikings, Brown admits that if selected, he is keen to get involved in either, if not both, of these encounters, commenting: “I'm ready to get myself into playing action whenever I'm called upon by Denis, but I have to respect what his plans are in the short and long term. At the end of the day he has to manage his squad and make the most of the resources available to him.
“If he wants me to play, I'll turn up and ensure I give 100% for the team. I'm a competitive individual and I don't want to lose any game.
“I'm eager to make a good first impression on not only Denis, but also the members and the supporters as well, whether that is in a pre-season trial game or a Super League clash.
“At the moment, I’ve no idea when my first opportunity to pull on a Vikings jersey will be, but whenever it comes I'm keen to make my presence felt as soon as I step over the line!”