Big Interview: Anthony Thackeray

With the Franchise decision just two days away, I thought it would be appropriate to catch up with a squad member from the favourites for the decision, Widnes Vikings. Being a Widnes lad myself, I would love nothing more than to see the Vikings back in the big time, and I still consider myself to hold a small piece of responsibility for the league that they currently find themselves in, having been a part of the relegated squad of 2005. But things seem on the up at moment and the optimistic Widnes fans seem as sure as they possibly can be, that the Super League dream is likely to happen this time around.
I caught up with current halfback Anthony Thackeray and having already had some Super League experience having played for both Hull and Castleford in his younger days, he is certainly excited about the prospect of adding to his 16 Super League appearances.
So Anthony, what is the feeling like around the town at the minute, and is there a special feeling in and around the club?
It’s a funny one really, you can feel the sense of anticipation around the town and it is obvious that the fans cannot wait for Thursday to come around. There is excitement everywhere you go and the whole town seems to be gearing up for the big decision. Within the club, I think after the disappointment last time around, we don’t want to get over excited and over play the decision and certainly within the squad we haven’t consciously let it be something that we have thought about. Obviously everybody knows that it is coming, but we have been focussed on matches week to week rather than worrying about something we cannot control.
Have the players become lost in the emotion that is surrounding the decision?
From my point of view, and knowing the rest of the lads as I do, I can honestly say that we haven’t. It’s not something that we have spoken about as a group and even individually, we haven’t mentioned it much. The lads all know that there is a fantastic opportunity to play for a Super League contract should we be given the go ahead, and the players have all been focussed on that. We’ve been preparing for each game as we have for any other and although the decision has got closer and closer, the past few weeks haven’t been any different to what we have done since the beginning of pre season training.
All the talk on the websites and fans forums is of ‘how many new additions will Widnes need to compete’, how has this affected performances on the field?
Well I can only speak for myself and say that although it’s not something that I pay much attention to, the pressure is certainly on to perform. But that doesn’t change because we have a application pending for Super League. I put enough pressure on myself week to week to perform, and I don’t give any special effort for games because there is an opportunity of a new contract. I put the same effort into every performance regardless of what is at stake. We all know that the likelihood is that should we be included in Super League, then there will be additions to the squad, but I know that, again, that is out of my hands and I just want to make sure that I am in the mix come the start of pre season in preparation for 2012 season. The chance to play in Super League is a massive carrot to dangle but I’m trying to use it to focus me even more on getting good performances because I would relish the opportunity to test myself at that level again.
Do you think there is a lot of work to do both on and off the field for 2012 should Widnes be in Super League next year?
I think the work done off the field in the past 3 years has put us in an outstanding position in terms of the club being sustainable. We have a great scouting network and academy system producing some exciting young players and they are being managed in the right way by the current coaches. The stadium is excellent and the crowds will no doubt swell should everything be positive on Thursday. I think there are undoubtedly going to be big changes on the field, because common sense says that you need to buy the best in order to compete at the highest level. We have some great players currently at the club, but I’m excited to have the opportunity hopefully to play alongside some genuine Internationals. Denis has brought in a fresh approach to leadership and everybody is enjoying working with him. He has some great ideas of what he wants from the team, and although this won’t happen overnight, we are moving in a direction that is controlled.
What would be a realistic goal for the club?
Well, as we’ve seen before, Steve O’Connor wants the best for this club, and I cannot imagine that he would want to see the team just making up the numbers next year. I’m sure the backroom staff have a plan in place that will see us make a real challenge to do the very best we can, and although we want to learn to walk before we can run, we want to make sure that we can realise our ambition straight away. It’s not something that has been discussed at all as that would be very presumptuous, but being as competitive as possible is the very minimum that I would like to see us. I’m sure the Widnes fans will look forward to each and every game, and especially the local derby’s but that doesn’t mean that we will only be targeting the local derby’s, we’ll want to win every game.
And lastly, how would you sum up your personal feelings about the opportunity?
Having represented both Hull and Castleford when I was younger, it was a fantastic time for my development, but that’s exactly what it was, development. I was full time at both clubs and although the opportunities were limited, I got a feel for what it is like to pay at the highest level and I want some more of that. I am very confident in my ability, and training full time with talented players only brings out the best in you. Playing week to week against internationals is also a massive challenge but one that excites me greatly, so I really hope the decision goes our way and I get that opportunity.

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