A fortnight ago, Edinburgh Monarchs languished at the foot of the Premier League speedway table and even those fans who sometimes wear rose-tinted glasses would have been hard pressed to offer a reasoned argument against Monarchs finishing as also-rans this season.
But a turbo-charged surge which saw the Capital outfit scoop 11 points from five meetings last week has hoisted them into seventh position in the table, and has suddenly transformed the championship landscape, thrusting Monarchs into the reckoning to lift a fourth title crown in ten years – providing they clinch sixth spot or better which is the gateway to the play-offs.
According to Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell, the point gained at Leicester Lions, their first away reward of the campaign, galvanised a squad whose only feeling was one of frustration despite some sterling efforts on the road.
“I wouldn’t say the Leicester match was a turning point,” said Campbell, “Because the worst scenario I thought beforehand was that we would gain a point, which we did and we came close to actually winning the fixture.
“The point we took off Leicester, who in real terms were in sixth place at the time, was in reality a double-pointer and that’s what I told the team. But what also happened at Leicester was that Craig Cook, who put in an exceptional personal performance, is now driving on the other team members to match him.”
Monarchs travelled to joint leaders Somerset Rebels six days ago and a fantastic ride by skipper Matthew Wethers in the last heat to follow Cook over the finishing line clinched a second away point which was bettered when they triumphed at Sheffield Tigers 24 hours later.
And six points from their two Armadale encounters against Somerset and fellow leaders Newcastle Diamonds on Friday and Saturday has elevated Monarchs to become one of the most talked-about sides in the division now.
Campbell said: “I have always said we need circumstances to go in our favour. Circumstances saw Craig dominate at Leicester and when you have somebody like that in the side anything can happen.”
The other X-factor in Monarchs’ resurgence has been return of Hungarian Joszef Tabaka at reserve despite being released by Monarchs two years ago. Tabaka, it was confirmed yesterday, will remain in the team until the end of the season, which can only enhance their chances of success, especially after he scorched to a brilliant 12-point maximum against Newcastle which delighted the crowd.
“Bringing Joszef back has made a big difference,” said Campbell. “He is such a likeable character and tries really hard, he never gives up. He has done very well so far and was good when we let him go in 2010.
“Since then he has had lots of international experience and was clearly going to be a better rider than we’ve had at reserve this year. He was fantastic on Saturday. Whether or not he even believed what he’d done I’m not sure. He is going to get a run of matches for us now at reserve and this will make a big difference to the whole team.”
Campbell, despite guiding his squad to a trio of league titles, is not somebody prone to bombast and knows there are tricky hurdles still to overcome.
“To have any chance of winning the league we have got to get into the top six first of all and that is not absolutely certain because the weather could stop us. That is my main concern that we may not be able to run enough matches before the cut-off deadline next month to reach the top six.
“If we were starting our play-off matches this week there is no doubt we are the best team in the league. But we have six weeks before they start and you cannot tell what injuries you might get.
“We are on 23 points now and I think we’ll need 36 or 37 in total for qualification and the line would be drawn then, but we cannot talk about winning the league until we secure those points.
Campbell concedes the momentum is with Monarchs at the moment but other things are in play as well. He revealed: “The whole team is buzzing and for the first time in a long time we were in the hotel after Somerset and it was great. Everybody was chatting about various things, they were making fun of me, it was lots of fun and it doesn’t half help to bring the team together.”
Monarchs’ next target is away to Newcastle on Sunday. “A week ago I would have said we had no chance but I think we might get a point there, we are on a roll and nobody wants to meet us right now,” Campbell said.