John Campbell today admitted he is wary that his Edinburgh Monarchs team could be mugged by Berwick Bandits when they begin their League Cup speedway campaign at Armadale tonight.
Besides Berwick, Workington Comets and Glasgow Tigers are also in Monarchs’ Border qualifying section and Campbell says he is apprehensive about this opening tie against a revamped Bandits team who look more than capable of pulling off an upset.
“We are in a strong group,” said Campbell. “Tonight may be the time that Berwick will win at Armadale. Matthew Wethers, our former skipper, can do exceptionally well, and perhaps Claus Vissing will show what he didn’t show us last season. If that happens it could be a very tricky meeting.”
Berwick, who traditionally toil for points on the road, have a well-balanced line-up for 2014 spearheaded by Aussie Kevin Doolan, and Campbell says: “I think Berwick have got far greater potential this time than they’ve had in recent years. They showed last weekend when they slaughtered Redcar Bears what they are capable of.
“They have also got young Liam Carr, who guested for us on quite a few occasions last season, down at reserve. We taught him well and he could disappear into the distance, so Berwick’s visit is of greater concern than usual.”
Workington are widely fancied to claim the championship crown when the league programme begins later this month but they look like fighting for silverware on all fronts as they demonstrated by hammering Glasgow 60-31 in their first League Cup match at Derwent Park last Saturday.
However, Campbell doesn’t expect the battle to top the group and secure a semi-final place to develop into a two-horse race between Workington and Monarchs.
He said: “We will beat them heavily at Armadale. But will they beat us down there? When you have someone like Craig Cook scoring 15-point maximums in your team, that may not be the case. And will ourselves and Workington both win at Glasgow and Berwick? The latter is probably more unlikely for us than it will be for Workington.
“I think it’s a fairly open group and if we make a winning start tonight we will be there or thereabouts. We normally would expect to score 59 or 60 points against Berwick at home, but somehow I don’t think that will be the scoreline, it will be far closer than that.”
Vissing, who moved to Berwick during the winter, scored a 12-point maximum against Redcar in their Tweed/Tees challenge fixture and would love to do the same against Monarchs, especially as he found it a struggle to win over Capital supporters in 2013 due to his erratic performances.
The Dane was only too glad to link up with the Bandits after leaving Armadale. He said: “I have no regrets about joining Berwick, it’s one of my favourite tracks, I love the place and it should be a good home circuit for me. To score a maximum in my first meeting was great.
“I’m still testing a few things out with my bikes and I’ll be doing more testing this weekend because I want everything to be fine-tuned in time for the league campaign. I don’t think I have anything to prove to the Monarchs fans. I will just go out and do my very best, just as I did for Monarchs last season.”
Monarchs are buoyed by their Spring Trophy double over Glasgow and a first-ever 15 point maximum for Cook last weekend. However, they will be looking for Aaron Fox to break his scoring duck. The Californian spent a day with Team Cook on Tuesday in a bid to sort out his mechanical preparation and team manager Alex Harkess emphasised the need for patience before Fox can make his mark.
“Aaron is conscious that he is the only one not getting points at the moment,” he said. “But he will find his feet and it’s important he doesn’t feel there is pressure building up on him.”
Meanwhile, Max Fricke scored five points for Torun against Bydgoszcz in Poland on Tuesday and was scheduled to compete in the return fixture last night.