Robert Branford to fill hole left by fleeing Fox

Aaron Fox has been replaced by Robert Branford, pictured below
Aaron Fox has been replaced by Robert Branford, pictured below
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Edinburgh Monarchs’ chairman Alex Harkess today admitted he is “surprised” that Californian ace Aaron Fox has quit the Capital speedway club after spending just one season at Armadale.

The 26-year-old rider has decided to stay at home in 2015 saying “there is more to life than speedway”.

Fox had been expected to return for a second spell and would have been Monarchs’ senior reserve. His surprise U-turn led the club to unveil Robert Branford as his replacement and he will partner Max Clegg at the tail-end, both men coming in on three-point averages.

Harkess said: “I’m disappointed, but not shocked over Aaron’s decision. He was very upbeat and positive about returning. But once he landed in the States he seemed to be on a bit of a downer.

“I can understand the reason for that because 2014 was not the easiest of seasons for him. But it’s his choice and there is nothing we can do about it.”

Harkess continued: “I don’t know what changed his mind about riding for us again. He perhaps thinks life is better in California and life is too comfortable there – nothing else was troubling him as far as I’m aware.”

Fox’s initial signing came from left field and took more than a few people by surprise. He never seemed fully committed to life in the Premier League however, and occasionally wondered if he had done the right thing in trying to crack the UK.

“The biggest difference for Aaron was being part of a team,” said Harkess. “In America, you basically ride for yourself and if you have a bad night the only person you upset is yourself. It’s different over here.”

Harkess added: “At the same time, Aaron wasn’t one of the biggest scorers within the side and I’m not sure how much that affected him. At least he made his decision early enough for us to sign somebody else.”

Harkess made it clear that he was confident Fox would have improved had he opted to return, saying: “I have no doubt Aaron would have been better prepared – not just mentally, but mechanically had he taken up our offer of a new contract, and I’m sure he would have been capable of winning the majority of the heat two reserve races.”

Fox said: “I have taken the decision to stay at home. I need to secure my future. I’m 26 now and I need to make a move on things in life other than speedway. I don’t feel as if I can go all the way in the sport anyway. If I was 19 or 20, I wouldn’t have hesitated in racing for Edinburgh again and trying to keep improving. But I’m not and need to concentrate on other things in my life.”

With Clegg and Branford sitting on three-point averages, Monarchs will hope that nothing befalls the pair. Finding replacement three-pointers to cover for injuries is almost impossible. Harkess said: “We believe Max and Robert will do well for us – especially Robert, who is a former British Under-21 champion.

“He also likes Armadale as a track. But we need at least one of them to improve their average very quickly indeed. It’s not as if they have both come from nowhere. Max rode for National League champions Cradley Heathens last season and is used to winning races. And Robert has experience at Premier League level.”

Monarchs struck gold in 2014 when three-point man Stevie Worrall rode like a superstar, but Harkess stressed: “That type of thing doesn’t happen every day, but we are optimistic that Max and Robert will do a job for us. It’s why we have signed them after all.”

Monarchs are expected to reveal their final three riders at their winter video show at the Thomas Morton Hall on Friday (7.30pm), and rumours are rife that former skipper Matthew Wethers could be set for a shock return to his old stomping ground.