MATTY Smith says helping Widnes Vikings to return to Super League would rank alongside the trophies he has won.

The 33-year-old half back, and winger Jayden Hatton, are the latest pair to sign new one-year deals with the Championship club that won't return to match action until 2021 due to the competition being cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Smith added a wealth of experience to the squad when he joined the club at the start of the 2020 season, having made over 200 appearances in Super League.

He also joined Vikings having lifted four major trophies and with England caps under his belt, forming a partnership with Danny Craven before the season was brought to a premature end.

The halfback featured in six of the seven fixtures played before the cancellation of the season, as he kickstarted his second spell at Widnes with a string of impressive performances.

“When the club decided they wanted to take up the option of keeping me for next year as well I said yes straight away. It was a no-brainer," he said.

"When I first signed for Widnes, I wanted to be back home. Being at the club previously it made it an easy option for me.

“I’m enjoying my time at Widnes at the minute, although it being limited with what is going on. It’s a good club with some good lads in the squad and I’m just really enjoying my rugby again.

“The last few years have been tough for me with the injuries I had, and then moving away to Catalans away from my family and friends was probably not what I needed at the time.

“Coming back home and signing for Widnes, I knew it was a good club because of my time there before. I knew some of the fans and the players, I knew the facilities and the set-up was great and then having Tim Sheens as the head coach I knew the quality he would bring.

“The biggest thing for me signing here though is the challenge it has presented, and potentially being a part of a squad that gets this club back to Super League. Widnes is a massive club, and if I can be a part of getting them back to where they belong it would be right up there with some of the trophies that I have won.

“The start we got off to this season was pretty good and the team was starting to gel. We were attacking really well, we obviously needed to tighten up a bit in defence but I felt like we were going to gradually get better as a team each game.

“We’ve signed some really good players already, and I’m sure there will be more announcements to come, so we are building again for next year which is exciting. I think we’re going to be even stronger next year, so I’m looking forward to that.

"I know we can start training soon to get ourselves fit and ready to go for next year, and I’m sure we will be in a good place come early next year when we’re back playing."

At the beginning of his career, Smith spent the 2008 Championship season with Vikings on-loan from parent club St Helens, going on to feature nine times during his short spell at the DCBL Stadium, scoring three tries.

A loan move to Celtic Crusaders followed, before a successful 2010 season with Salford Red Devils led to Matty securing a permanent deal with the Greater Manchester outfit.

After 76 appearances for Salford, Smith moved on to Wigan Warriors where he enjoyed the most successful period of his career.

In 2013, he played a pivotal role in helping the club claim the double, leading his side to a Challenge Cup triumph with his Lance Todd Trophy winning performance, before lifting the Super League trophy later that year.

In his final year with the Warriors he also helped the club to another Grand Final win in 2016, landing two goals in their 12-6 victory over Warrington Wolves.

Smith returned to St Helens for the 2017 and 2018 campaigns, picking up the League Leaders’ shield in his final season with the club.

In 2019, Matty started the year with Catalans Dragons before ending it on loan at Warrington Wolves, making 21 appearance in total that season.

With rugby league having been such a huge factor in his life for so long, this year's lockdown due to Covid-19 must have seemed particularly unfamiliar to him.

“When you reflect on it, the last 15 years of my life I have been playing the game professionally," he said.

"You feel lost a little bit without it. The first couple of weeks I was enjoying time with my kids and it’s nice having a couple of weeks off, but then you start getting a bit twitchy and you just want to play.

“As a rugby player and a sportsman you want to do what you enjoy doing, and to have that taken away from you was probably difficult for everyone, not just me.

"It will be nice to be back, even just being back in training with the lads first and foremost to get back to doing what we love doing.

"I’m on a building site at the minute with my brother so get me back playing rugby league as soon as possible because this is a lot harder."

The signing of Smith was made possible thanks to the continued support of VIQI members.

Matty Smith is sponsored by Landscape World for the 2020 season.

Academy product Hatton, meanwhile, has a chance to build on what he's started with his new one-year deal.

Impressive displays for the Vikings Academy during the 2019 season saw him make his First Team debut away at York City Knights on Easter Monday, starting the game at centre.

He then went on to make the wing spot his own in the latter stages of the season, as the former Wade Deacon student and Halton Farnworth Hornets junior earned a starting spot in the club’s first Wembley outing for 26 years.

Hatton’s breakthrough season ended with the youngster being crowned as the club’s Young Player of the Year, finishing the campaign with nine tries in 14 appearances - which included his first senior hat-trick against Featherstone Rovers.

In the early part of this year he was a standout performer in the club’s Reserves as he took up the role of captain and scored four tries in four fixtures, including an outstanding hat-trick against Super League outfit Wakefield Trinity.

His versatility makes the 20-year-old a valuable asset for the club moving forward, as he has featured at full-back, wing, centre and second row already in his career.

“It feels really good to once again commit to Widnes, I feel really comfortable here and enjoy playing here," he said.

“The reason I committed to the Vikings was the fact that it’s my hometown club and that I want to help get the club back into Super League where it belongs.

“My aim is to cement a place in the First Team for 2021. I’m confident in my own ability and know what I can do.

"I’ve shown what I can do in previous games and in my performances for the Reserves in 2020, so I hope to transfer this to the first team next season.

“Wherever I’m picked to play I’m confident I can do the job, even if it’s not my favourite position I’m willing to give it a crack and give my best efforts which I think will stand me in good stead for selection.

“This period has come with its problems but also its positives. I’ve been working really hard on my hamstring to make sure it’s good to go and feel I’ve increased a lot in muscle mass, feeling stronger than ever which I’m hoping to take into games.

“I’m raring to go now. The fans are so important to our club, and having experienced the passion and atmosphere many times before in previous first team games I feel there is no better fans in the Championship than Widnes fans, which all of us in the team draw on and is vital to our success.”