THIRTEEN years ago a confused 20-foot minke whale – dubbed Widnes Willy by the media - was beached on the sludge of the Mersey at Hale Bank before the collective efforts of the RSPCA, fire service and other volunteers saw the six-tonne mammal towed out to the Irish Sea.

Although Saints’ temporary residence won’t be as stressful as Willy’s and will not require a regular hosing down, the team and their fans can now judge for themselves what it is like to be grounded in Widnes.

Sure, some will be a little disoriented in their new temporary surroundings at Stobart Stadium, nee Naughton Park, but the prize at the end of a long year on the road is a spanking new stadium.

Widnes may now be across the shamefully dismembered Lancashire county boundaries but it is still only down the road for those in the south end of town. (Easy for me to say, as a resident of Widnes!) There will be teething problems with our new lodgings – the biggest being getting a large volume of fans to and from the ground every other week, particularly when it is a foul, wet evening.

‘Home’ games necessitating the catching of buses, coaches, cadging lifts and eking out new parking spots will be as much a challenge as getting home from work, changed and back out in time for kick off.

If you rely on public transport it is going to be a tough year on the road - although it is good to see the club and the usual supporters groups based at the George, Gerard and Black Bull doing what they can to ferry people to Widnes.

Without wishing to sound too negative, we may have to resign ourselves to seeing 2,000 plus lopped off Saints’ average crowds next year, more when the visitors are Harlequins, Catalans and Wakefield.

This period was never going to be easy, especially for those fans around West Park and old Eccleston who have had the ground on their doorstep for donkeys’ years. On the flip side Widnes is marginally closer for fans living in Sutton Manor, Clock Face and Rainhill, so at least there are some winners in this 2011 arrangement.

Widnes is not a bad place to be playing rugby. The ground is neat and tidy and there are plenty of chip shops, pubs and betting shops in the vicinity. Home from home really.

However, remember to ask for a mixture when you want a split from Paul’s!

A few years ago Warrington’s matchday marketing bods got themselves some grief when they put out a poster depicting Widnes as the land of the three-eyed fish.

It was a bit harsh - and outdated. The smell is not that bad these days in the chemical town – unless I have become acclimatised to the town where the bird’s supposedly wake you up with their coughing.

And for our Aussie guys there is even a bridge that if you sken at, it could easily pass for Sydney Harbour Bridge.

For all Widnes’ good points I don’t doubt a few fans will be echoing the words of Paul Simon - who penned Homeward Bound while waiting on the platform of Widnes North Station – before this challenging year is out.