“You won’t sting us this time” is the defiant message from Edinburgh Monarchs No. 1 Craig Cook ahead of tonight’s opening Premier League speedway clash against defending champions Scunthorpe Scorpions at Armadale Stadium.
The Scorpions beat Monarchs last August on their way to the title play-offs, but Cook insists history won’t repeat itself. “That match means nothing now, the track was a mess that particular night and it should probably never have gone ahead,” he said. “It was a one-off really and I think this evening will be fairly easy for us.”
Cook saw this year’s Scorpions side first-hand on Tuesday when he guested for his old club Workington Comets in their televised contest. Cook’s last-heat defeat of Scorpions duo David Howe and Ashley Birks earned the Comets a deserved draw. Indeed, this was the second home league meeting in a row in which the Scorpions failed to win, with their contest against Ipswich Witches also ending all square.
It’s not the strongest of starts to the Scorpions’ 2013 campaign and with Monarchs visiting the Eddie Wright Raceway in the return tie on Monday, Cook feels Monarchs are poised to record a quick double over the Lincolnshire outfit.
He said: “I don’t think many teams will trouble us at Armadale, so a good win tonight will put us in a good mood for Monday, but it is hard round Scunthorpe because the gating positions are so uneven and it’s tough to win races. The outside gate tends to favour people.”
Monarchs have been pretty sprightly at the West Lothian arena so far and will clinch their place in the League Cup semi-finals should they beat Glasgow Tigers in a week’s time. There is only one team Cook fears. “I think Somerset Rebels are perhaps the only side who will challenge us in the league,” he said. “They are an awesome team, even at reserve, and are very good at achieving.”
However, while Monarchs have been in the zone, the only dark cloud on the horizon remains the frustratingly indifferent form of German tail-ender Marcel Helfer, who failed to score against Berwick Bandits last week.
While Cook fully backs his team-mate, he stressed the need to have the whole team going. “Marcel is such a good rider, but when he misses the gate he goes into relax mode instead of chasing his opponents.
“We really need to fire him up a bit, but it’s tough because he is so quiet and doesn’t speak. Trying to talk to him is like getting blood out of a stone. He has got talent and needs to start producing.”
Scunthorpe don’t have their troubles to seek at reserve either, with new boys Ryan Douglas and Josh Bates in the firing line after the draw with Workington.
Scorpions team manager Dave Peet said: “Once again they were our Achilles’ heel and Workington outscored us in these positions. I can’t fault Ryan or Josh, but it’s difficult to have two inexperienced riders together at reserve and we really need them to get some points up at Edinburgh.”
Scorpions boast a strong top-five, with young Dane Thomas Jorgensen a potent threat and his opening pairing with Josh Auty could cause Monarchs some headaches.
“Scunthorpe are not the team they were a year ago,” added Cook, “which is why I think we will chalk up a decent-sized win and this will give us a huge confidence boost for the return fixture.”
Meanwhile, Cook and Auty have been handed the reserve jackets for the British Grand Prix at Cardiff on June 1, with Birmingham’s Chris Harris earning the wildcard entry, a decision taken by speedway’s world governing body, the International Motorcycle Federation (FIM).
It has caused quite a furore, but British Speedway Promoters’ Association (BSPA) chairman and Monarchs promoter Alex Harkess explained: “It needs to be pointed out that the BSPA had nothing to do with the decision to award the wildcard in this way. We are getting some stick from people who don’t understand that.”