Edinburgh Monarchs against Somerset Rebels would have been a lot of people’s idea of a dream Knockout Cup final for this season.
Instead, the top two speedway teams in the Premier League clash in the semi-finals of the competition, but Monarchs gaffer, John Campbell, firmly believes whoever prevails over the two legs will go on and lift the trophy.
Monarchs make the long trip to Somerset’s Oak Tree Arena tonight for the first match hoping for a repeat of their stunning league success in June when they emerged 46-44 victors in front of the Sky TV cameras.
Campbell is on a personal mission to bring the cup back to Armadale for the first time since 1999, and he is forthright in his view that the Capital outfit have underachieved in this particular tournament in recent times.
He said: “From my own point of view, I’m desperate for us to get our hands on this trophy.
“I’m disappointed that we have been unable to make it through to recent finals, we seem to do well in other competitions, but have fallen short in this one.
“I would personally be delighted to make it through to this year’s final and win it.”
Monarchs No.1, Craig Cook, is predicting he will score a maximum and is also robust in the belief that it’s high time Monarchs brought an end to their cup jinx.
Cook said: “I definitely think we have got a chance of actually winning the first leg which would make life a bit easier for Friday’s deciding tie at Armadale, but as Somerset proved two weeks ago at our place they are a hugely talented side who will fight for every point.
“It’s not going to be easy and we need everyone to be on top of their game to see us through. We are all up for the task, there is no doubt about that.”
Cook, who has taken teammate Max Fricke under his wing lately, thinks the young Australian could play a pivotal role and said: “Max guested for my Elite League team Belle Vue Aces last week, it was on my recommendation, and he didn’t let anyone down by scoring two points in what was his first taste of top flight speedway.
“He is getting better as the season goes on and has so much confidence about him.”
Campbell concurred with Cook and revealed: “We are now getting constant calls from Elite League teams asking him to guest for them, he is catching the attention of everybody because he is going so well right now, and Craig and his pits team have been fantastic with him over the last few weeks.”
Fricke was a revelation during the league encounter, scoring ten points, but it was his cleverness in picking out different racing lines which impressed even seasoned observers of the sport.
Fricke recalled: “I really enjoyed myself that day, I hadn’t ridden Somerset before, but I really liked the place, it suited my style and it also allowed plenty of scope for passing.
“If I can score the same again this time, I will be more than happy, however Somerset have quality riders in their team and we know we are facing two extremely hard matches.”
Campbell is unsure if Monarchs can produce another away miracle and said: “We are obviously going there hoping to win, but if we came away with a ten point defeat, that would be acceptable. A higher loss would make life a lot more difficult.
“Our league triumph was an exceptional occasion and I’m not sure if we can do it again, however, our away form all this season has been extremely good and you certainly cannot underestimate what this team are capable of achieving.”
Monarchs should be at full strength after Claus Vissing and Josh Bates survived injury scares against Rye House Rockets on Friday.
Bates actually guested for Monarchs on their league visit to the Oak Tree Arena, but failed to score. Any points he does score tonight could prove priceless over both legs.