GLASGOW TIGERS throw open the doors of their new-look Ashfield Stadium venue to entertain Edinburgh Monarchs tomorrow afternoon in the first leg of the Spring Trophy, the traditional pipe opener to the Scottish speedway season.
But Monarchs co-boss John Campbell today said the Capital outfit are determined to put a dampener on their hosts’ “house-warming” celebrations. “I’d like to think we’ll spoil their party”, said Campbell.
There is no question that the Tigers have created a huge buzz over the winter since they were bought over by Allied Vehicles. They have spent big on a revamped squad who have already been installed as 3/1 favourites to relieve Monarchs of their Premier League crown this season.
But Campbell said: “The bookies have obviously consulted some expert to come to that conclusion but I don’t know who that is. I personally think anybody will do well to beat us. But you can’t tell, the title can come down to just one race, as happened with us last year. And injuries and the ability to steer clear of them also plays a big part.”
Glasgow are spearheaded by an impressive top three of Aaron Summers, Richard Lawson, and Nick Morris, who has already started the campaign in fine style by winning the Ben Fund Individual event at Swindon earlier this month.
And Campbell acknowledges the Tigers are not going to be any pushovers this term. “Their team is completely stronger than last season but I’m sure perhaps one worry they have is will they be good enough to beat us.
“I think in Craig Cook and Sam Masters we have two riders that Glasgow might struggle to beat. And if they don’t we will do very well on Sunday.”
While a lot of focus has been trained on Tigers’ top end, Campbell believes the key to success could lie in the reserve battles, with Monarchs’ tail-end pairing of Rob Branford and Max Clegg ranged against Victor Palovaara and the highly rated James Sarjeant.
“I think Glasgow have an excellent reserve in Palovaara,” said Campbell, “and he could significantly increase his average over the course of the season. I think it is going to be difficult for Rob and Max at any away track to do well from the reserve berths. I think home reserves this season will dominate in the Premier League.”
Certainly for the health of the sport north of the border it is important that Glasgow are on a more level playing field with Monarchs who have had things pretty much their own way in recent years.
Campbell says: “Everything that Glasgow have done so far can only be good for Scottish speedway. They will increase their crowds substantially and this obviously gives us the chance to draw on bigger crowds from Glasgow at Armadale.”
Glasgow’s fixation with ending Monarchs’ domination may seem parochial, but Campbell observed: “It’s probably the right thing for them to have said from a publicity point of view, it’s what their supporters want to hear. After all, Glasgow have been unable to defeat us regularly so they have to suggest they’ll do it this year, but we’ll see what happens overall.”
Asked if this first instalment in their handful of exchanges this year is more important for Glasgow to win, Campbell replied:”I think it will be a real occasion with everybody keen to see how Ashfield has been transformed and Glasgow should have a massive support there.
“But I would like to think we will spoil their party, but we’ll see.”
For Monarchs’ new German star Erik Riss it will be a baptism of fire less than 24 hours after touching down in Scotland and Campbell is not expecting any fireworks from the young racer.
He said: “I don’t know what Erik will do. What I do know is he will get better and better as the weeks go by. If he scores nothing in what will be his first match for us then so be it, it’s going to be difficult for him.
“From a team perspective we always have a winning mentality and no matter what the match is, we want to win, and Sunday will be no different.”
Glasgow also seem certain to feature on the small screen with Sky Sports set to cover a meeting from Ashfiled which will be seen as a huge coup for the newly-installed management team.
Campbell commented: “A derby against us would be the obvious choice of fixture and it would be nice for us to be in that situation. Glasgow are perhaps slightly unique in transforming a poor stadium into a fantastic looking place and they have caught everyone’s attention.