Edinburgh Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell today said he is confident his new-look speedway squad can lift a fourth championship crown this coming season.
Monarchs have recruited a quartet of new faces to help spearhead their title challenge, including Sam Masters, who had to remain in Australia in 2013 after he was refused a visa to race in the UK, an issue which has already surfaced again prior to the 2014 campaign affecting Somerset and Rye House Rockets in particular.
Campbell thinks his revamped line-up can deliver on the silverware front, saying: “A top-six spot, which guarantees entry to the play-offs, is our main target again. Nothing else matters during the first part of our programme. It’s what we do towards the end that counts.
“And if we reach the play-offs, who knows what can happen after that.”
The key to Monarchs’ success, as ever, is the ability of the riders to increase their starting averages. “We have signed riders on the basis that they are going to improve,” said Campbell. “That is always what we do. There is no point in signing guys who have reached their peak. If, for instance, Max Fricke doesn’t improve, that would be a disappointment.
“If Max can get up to a seven-point average, and with Craig (Cook) on an 11-point mark, and Sam doing very well back home already this winter, then I don’t see that our team will have any problems.”
It has been suggested that 17-year-old Fricke could grab the vacant third heat leader spot if he gets his scoring boots on. “That will be his ambition I’m sure. And should he raise his average to that seven-point mark he will be doing well, not just at home but also on the away tracks as well,” added Campbell.
The one regret Campbell harbours about the forthcoming season is the absence of popular Hungarian star Jozsef Tabaka, who broke his leg in a frightening crash against Somerset in the Armadale leg of the Grand Final.
Tabaka, who got married last weekend, is unlikely to be back in action until later in the year. Campbell said: “Jozsef is the most likeable character of all the riders I have ever dealt with. And it is difficult that he will miss out, especially as he has such a great temperament and personality. And even more importantly, he was also a thrillmaker.
“But because of the doubts surrounding his fitness we had to decide upon keeping him in our side and hoping he would recover in time, or go with riders who were available to us.
“It was a difficult decision to make, but sensibly, we have done the right thing.”
Tabaka will undergo an operation in November to remove the pin from his leg, but Campbell insisted he remains very much in Monarchs’ plans.
“Absolutely. If we have a problem, and Jozsef’s average fits, we might call upon him, though I’m hoping we won’t have any problems with this year’s team. But I fully expect to make a call to Jozsef for the start of the 2015 season.”
Campbell is also making it a priority to bring the Knockout Cup back to Armadale. Having the won the division’s second most important trophy in 1997 and 1999, the capital outfit have enjoyed a lean spell ever since.
Said Campbell: “We have never really been close in recent years, and while we have happily won the league on occasions, the cup has eluded us. And on that basis it would be nice to make the cup final this season and win it again.
“We lost out in the semi-final last year to Somerset, which we should have won. It’s not down to bad luck, it’s down to racing. Such things happen in speedway. We certainly have had teams capable of winning the cup, we just haven’t managed it over the last decade.”
n MONARCHS have been given a bye to the quarter- finals of Knockout Cup this year and will face either Berwick or Sheffield for a place in the semi-finals in June.