Edinburgh Monarchs boss John Campbell insists “coming up with something extraordinary” is key to landing the Premier League crown.
Monarchs, the current league champions, open the defence of their silverware against Scunthorpe Scorpions at Armadale tonight and Campbell is already buoyed by the early season form shown in their League Cup meetings.
The Monarchs gaffer, who has led his side to four championships during their 19-year tenure at the Lothian Arena, told the Evening News: “Things are shaping up quite nicely, we are set to make the League Cup semi-finals and that is always the target in these sort of competitions, to get to the next stage.
“And as ever our aim is to finish in the top six of the league programme which gets us into the play-offs at the end of the season.”
This year’s septet has undergone four changes to the side who conquered all in 2014, but Campbell said: “It’s all developing fairly well. Erik [Riss], despite breaking his collarbone attempting a celebration at Workington last weekend, is showing he is a genuine speedway rider and, if he made four starts in every meeting, he’d have four wins. Rob [Branford] is doing well at reserve, though he is probably attempting to do too many meetings at the moment.
“Max [Clegg] is talking about not doing as well as he should be doing but he is so young and inexperienced that he will have matches that are frustrating for him.”
Monarchs do have a strong top four, however, if one of them has an off night, it renders the rest of the side slightly impotent. “Justin [Sedgmen] is the guilty party of our top quartet for having stinkers,” Campbell noted. “That’s all in his head and if he can get over this he would score and perform as well as he did at Workington last weekend. He needs to dismiss these bad thoughts he has, if he can do that he’ll be fine.” Campbell is a seasoned-management individual and concedes that winning back-to-back league titles is extremely difficult for a variety of reasons.
“It isn’t easy and already we are losing matches this year and some people are saying we have no chance,” he said. “But we have not lost a critical match yet and I don’t think a critical match will come along until very much later in the season. Erik, providing he gets over his injury, and there is no reason why he won’t, really gives us five good riders in our side and that’s a strong advantage to have, and we’ll get there.
“But I would be wrong if I didn’t say I was concerned about what our captain Craig Cook did at Workington. He beats himself up and doesn’t think if he has one bad race, it should be dismissed and get on with it.
“Craig puts pressure on himself, in contrast if Sam [Masters] has a bad ride, he just moves on. I’m sure Craig will get back to his very best in due course. But, at the moment, he was very good at home last Friday and not so good at Workington.”
Asked if dealing with his own problems affects Cook’s role as skipper, Campbell replied: “He spent the whole meeting at Workington working on his bike and did not have sufficent time to spend with others. It’s not a problem at the moment.”
Of the front runners who might be vying to dethrone Monarchs in 2015, Campbell has clear thoughts, saying: “To win the league you have to win the play-off knockout competition first. On that basis I have to think who is going to beat us on aggregate overall.
“Somerset, who we defeated last year, are always going to be in the mix. It’s all about drumming into the riders minds that every match is winnable and every result is possible.
“And it’s the teams who do that who win championships consistently. Somerset are one of those teams and their manager Garry May drums it into his side that no matter where they go they have a chance.
“In contrast if you go down the Berwick Bandits route saying we have no chance at a particular track because we haven’t done well there before, then that’s what happens, you do badly.
“Glasgow, who were at Armadale last week, normally never have a chance there based on their form over the last few years. It’s all change now and their manager Stewart Dickson was telling his riders beforehand they could win and that makes a big difference.
“So you have to look and see the teams who are going to be in that situation. You have to bring something extraordinary out to win league titles. Somerset and Glasgow are in that situation, others I’m not so sure about. However, Peterborough have such a huge home track advantage and could rattle up a really big score against anybody if they get to the play-off final.”
Campbell admits an all Scottish showdown for the crown would be a massive boost for the sport north of the border.
“It’s something both clubs would love to happen and if we and Glasgow both get the luck you sometimes need, it’s capable of happening. But first I hope Glasgow get to the League Cup semi-finals so we can beat them in the final,” Campbell added.
Monarchs will use rider replacement this evening to cover for Riss and Berwick’s Kevin Doolan will guest for Sedgmen.
Trust’s boost to coffers
The Monarchs Fans Trust has made its first presentation to Edinburgh Speedway of £1000.
The group, formed just two months ago with the aim of stabilising the club’s finances, have committed to making regular payments to Monarchs throughout the season to help pay for ambulance and other medical costs at home matches at Armadale.
Information on how to become a member of the Trust can be found at www.monarchsfanstrust.co.uk