Widnes have been rocked by the resignation of coach Kieron Purtill, ahead of a move to join a Super League club’s backroom staff.
Purtill, 42, has been in charge at the Halton Stadium for less than a year, having succeeded Francis Cummins following their relegation from the top flight, and only recently signed a new contract to lead the Vikings in 2020.
A club statement said: “The club are extremely disappointed with this decision, given that we are currently in the middle of recruiting and retaining players ahead of the 2020 campaign and with pre-season training due to start next month.
“The club is in a crucial transitional phase from a full-time to a part-time operation, and this decision naturally presents a number of unwanted issues for the club over the coming weeks.
“The club understands that supporters would prefer an immediate resolution to this issue, however we are determined to conduct a thorough and extensive search to find a coach that is the right person to take Widnes Vikings forward.”
Purtill arrived from Leigh to mastermind a return to Super League for the Vikings, but it soon unravelled – the club being placed in special measures preventing him from making signings, before slipping in to administration in February.
Despite an encouraging start to the season amidst this backdrop – wiping out a 12 point deduction almost straight away – Widnes struggled in the second half of the campaign and only secured their Championship survival with two games left.
They did reach the 1895 Cup final, losing to Sheffield at Wembley.
Widnes currently have just 11 players on contract for next season, with at least four of those yet to confirm their intentions for 2020 after the club opted to switch to part-time.