Edinburgh Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell has defended the team chosen to pursue a sixth championship crown in the face of criticism online.
With their opening league match of the new-look speedway season less than a month away, doom merchants have accused Monarchs of lacking ambition in 2017.
The electronic critics also say the decision to hand the important No.7 role to Mitchell Davey is a retrograde step, claiming the Australian, who broke his femur three years ago while riding for Monarchs at Sheffield Tigers, displayed little potential prior to his crash.
Campbell, who has guided the Capital side to five league titles including the treble in 2014, during their tenure at Armadale Stadium, insisted: ”I’m very comfortable with the team we have assembled and I’m sure we will be highly competitive.”
Campbell is adamant that 26-year-old Davey is exactly the right candidate to partner Mark Riss at the tail-end and has no regrets about handing him a contract to get his career back on track after he was kept out of the sport for almost two years.
Said Campbell: “Mitchell performed well for Coventry Storm in the National League last season which got him back into regular racing after so long out of the sport.
“I expect Mitchell to do quite well for us. There are lots of guys who struggle for many years to develop into excellent speedway riders. So we set out to get Mitchell who we believe is the best man for us at No.7 and that’s because he will score points.
“But our team is full of riders who will score points and show improvement as the season goes on.”
Campbell says the one commodity Davey has in his favour is his experience and feels he can make that count against his fellow Championship tail-enders, many of whom are callow rookies thrown into the second tier of the sport to comply with rules the promoters passed at their AGM.
Campbell is in no doubt that some of the youngsters, as was witnessed in 2016, will be badly out of their depth once again.
“It will be tough for some of these guys and we have already seen how teams in the Championship targeted certain riders and could see which ones got left behind.
“And you thought to yourself about a certain rider who opposed us in matches against Ipswich Witches last season. And this particular young man’s future will depend on how long he can sit on a bike to score any points.
“Mitchell by contrast will go at speed for certain and will definitely stay on his bike. He will also get points against riders who can’t get round Armadale. He will do the same at opposing tracks as well.
It’s going to be a challenge for them. And we as Championship promoters have taken it upon ourselves to throw in all these youngsters and hope we can turn them into stars.
“But the true success rate will be perhaps as low as one in five. And for some of them, if we weren’t forced to include them in the Championship tier, many of them would spend their time in the National League.”
With the rebranded Championship reduced to just ten teams and just the top four teams contesting the play-offs, Monarchs are going to have to work very hard to put themselves into contention especially as the gulf between all sides looks closer then ever before.
Said Campbell: “I note that some people have already written off our first visitors Scunthorpe Scorpions as being the worst team in the league. I don’t know how they have worked that out.
“There are also some powerful teams as well and it will be interesting to see how our friends at Glasgow will do. They have gone down the same route in their team building as last year and will probably need some of their lesser riders to improve more than they did in 2016.
“I also think there are some dreadfully weak No.7s among some of the teams. Because you give a guy a turn at No.7 it does not make him a good speedway rider overnight.
“The majority will fail and it just depends on how badly they fail and how much of a disadvantage that will be for some teams.”
The one unknown quantity in Monarchs’ line-up is their Australian signing Josh Pickering, but Campbell thinks the gamble is one well worth taking.
He said: “We followed what people were saying about him during the early part of the winter, and they all thought he had something about him.
“He has only been riding speedway for a short period of time so it’s hard to judge what he will do.”
Asked if he was wary about recruiting another untried Aussie after Jye Etheridge’s exit last year, Campbell replied: “I don’t think we would ever be put off by signing Australians because there have been other Jye Etheridges in the past. You try one Aussie and get it wrong, you try another and get it right.
“Let’s hope this is the case this time. I think the balance of the side from top to bottom is good.
“It’s all about squeezing a little bit more from them all. One or two are capable of increasing their averages and that’s what wins the league.”