WIDNES Vikings chief executive James Rule says another ‘top-quality’ signing could be made if more supporters sign up for the season.

Whether they do or don’t, he is excited about the prospects for Denis Betts’ Super League side this season and beyond after the work put in to improve on a disappointing 2017 that finished in the Middle 8s.

“This year feels different,” he said.

“There’s a palpable sense of anticipation and determination from the players and coaches.

“We want to right the wrongs of last year and I think we’re going to shock a few people.

“Our belief is well rooted. In all areas, we’ve looked to refresh, refine and improve what we do.

“There’s a fresh coaching team, who are bringing a new approach to training and forging a real team-spirit.

“The players are fitter, faster and stronger, and they’re all facing real competition for places.

“In the best possible sense, I want Denis to have selection headaches and he’s certainly got that.”

“That competition for places has not only been created by the quartet of arrivals, in Krisnan Inu, Sam Wilde, Stanton Albert and Wellington Albert, but also the Vikings home-grown talent who are ready to grab their starting spots.

“The silver lining to last year’s adversity is that our young players were given the opportunity to gain invaluable experience.

“They’ve shown their capabilities, and now that they’ve had a taste of first-team action, they’re not looking to take a backwards step.

“We’ve got a number of players whose development has been accelerated and now have every reason to want Super League action.

“These players are the future of our club and, much to the disappointment of our rivals, they’ve committed to the Vikings for the seasons ahead. They’re going to be making a big impact this year and in years to come.”

He is pleased with the four new additions to the team.

“Each of the players we’ve signed has the capability to improve what we do,” he said.

“Sam shone on loan, and we were keen to make his move permanent.

“Krisnan’s career speaks for itself, and with his game-changing abilities he’s one of our highest profile signings in years.

“And then of course there’s the Albert brothers.

“I actually spent some time calling Stronghold Members at the end of last year, to thank them for renewing or to encourage them to stay with us for 2018.

“In many phone calls, people talked about wanting us to sign big, intimidating forwards and we’ve certainly done that.

“Anyone who saw them at the World Cup will know they’re tough, powerful and don’t take a backwards step – people will love watching them.”

Rule added that the club would move for another signing if more people commit to backing the team in 2018.

Vikings Stronghold membership for 2018 has over 250 newcomers but almost 600 fans are yet to renew.

“All the money that this club makes – whether that’s in Stronghold sales, tickets or sponsorship – is invested straight back into the club and particularly in strengthening the team,” he said.

“Everyone in our back-office teams works tirelessly to bring in income that sustains this club and helps us to progress.

“While obviously some players have moved on from last year, a large proportion of those savings have been utilised to reward and retain our most talented young players.

“We’ve got several players who have proved that they’re Super League ready or can be stars of the future, and naturally an important strategic focus had to be securing them for seasons ahead.

“We’ve also been able to recruit some of our primary transfer targets.

“I’m excited by the players we’ve signed and the attributes that they bring to the team.

“We’ve been aggressive and brave with our recruitment and retention strategy, in terms of our current business realities.

“We’ve had some big successes with new commercial deals - like the Beat The Scrum programme, the new stadium deal with Halton Council, which offers greater sustainability and new revenue streams, and forming thriving partnerships – but there are difficult challenges too.

“There’s one key area where we need to progress further, and that’s encouraging renewals from our lapsed 2017 Stronghold Members. Their continuing support would help take the plans for the season ahead to new levels, creating the opportunity to bring in more quality to the team.

“We’ve been delighted to have more than 250 new people sign up Stronghold Membership this year, and of course we’re exceptionally grateful to the many people who have renewed for 2018 too.

“However, there’s nearly 600 people who are yet to commit again for 2018 and that’s created a significant shortfall in income.

“The impact that can be made by this valued group of supporters can’t be understated – their renewed investment could help bring in another top-quality signing.

“We’ve got some strong lines of enquiry with some highly-rated potential targets, but as it stands committing to securing their services is challenging without the income from the non-renewals.

“People will have different reasons for not renewing yet – some have had changes of personal circumstances, some will be waiting until after Christmas, and some might unfortunately be weighing things up after a tough season last year.

“We hope that those who are able to, ultimately choose to stay with us on the journey, because this club has an exciting future. We can only realise that potential together though.

“We’ve kept Membership as affordable as possible and developed new ways to provide greater value to our Members, such as discounted family packages. We want to make our game accessible to enable the community to get behind the team.”