For a rider who was on the brink of being axed by Edinburgh Monarchs earlier in the season, reserve star Max Clegg could now turn out to be the man who helps guides his team to a third successive championship crown.
Monarchs make the long haul to Ipswich Witches tonight for the first leg of their play-off quarter-final tie and the softly-spoken Clegg has transformed his scoring fortunes when it matters most.
The Yorkshireman is basking in the glory of tasting success in both the British Under-19 and National League Riders championship events in the space of 72 hours last week which silenced those critics who gleefully tore him apart on social media when he struggled to make an impact for Monarchs in the early weeks of the season at Armadale.
Clegg himself today admitted he let his focus wander as a consequence. He told the Evening News: “It was tough because I was going downhill. I wasn’t happy with my equipment, but then I got new engines and now it’s awesome the way they are running for me, which makes such a difference in terms of confidence to any speedway rider.”
He continued: “The last week has been brilliant, winning those two titles was fantastic yet I always felt something like that was coming.”
Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess confessed he is glad the club kept faith with Clegg, saying: “The way Max is going right now is a big bonus for us. He was a slow starter at the beginning but I always felt he was capable of coming on and improving. He has now proved that he is as good as any reserve in the Premier League at the moment.”
Monarchs only lost by three points at Ipswich in the league back in May when they were without double World Longtrack kingpin Erik Riss and Harkess is optimistic they can banish the Foxhall Heath outfit over two legs for a showdown against Somerset Rebels in the semi-finals.
“Obviously we want to keep the scores as close as possible, that’s our aim. And with our team anything is possible. We are capable of scoring 50 or 35, it’s difficult to say what we’ll get.
“Ipswich are a side with good riders who were fancied by a lot of people at the start of the season but that optimism failed to materialise until recently. They have put together a run of good results to make the play-offs and we know it’s not going to be easy.”
Clegg scored seven points in that league encounter four months ago and added: “I like the place and provided we all chip in with something I’m sure we will get some sort of result.”
Witches boss Kevin Hawkins said: “I have been putting pressure on the boys over the last two months in the push for our play-off spot. We have been brilliant lately and we now need to carry that on against Edinburgh this evening who always seems to go well against us.”