Edinburgh MONARCHS speedway supporters are among the best informed in the country, but even they had no wind about the surprise signing of German star Marcel Helfer who this week replaced Charles Wright at reserve. He makes his debut against Glasgow
Tigers at Armadale tonight in the deciding leg of the Premier League Knockout Cup quarter final, the Monarchs leading 46-44 after their triumph in Sunday’s first tie at Ashfield.
Co-promoter John Campbell conducted a true cloak and dagger operation to bring Helfer over, a plan which was hatched in the Cairn Hotel in Bathgate on the eve of Monarchs’ pre-season practice session.
Away from public gaze, Campbell met Helfer and a deal was thrashed out, with the 21-year-old rider to join Monarchs once his college education was completed. Wright’s departure, which many fans are unhappy about, simply hastened Helfer’s path into the team.
Campbell, pictured below, refuses to reveal who put him on the trail of Helfer. He said, cryptically: “My German spy advised me to have a look at Marcel and when I studied his results on the continent during the winter, he was getting better and better.
“Marcel was keen to come across and keen to give it a go in the British Premier League. I’m happy that Marcel will score a lot more points than Charles and he is also a lot more positive. He was impressive at our practice session and I’ve kept in touch with him ever since.”
Campbell continued: “Marcel has loads of potential and he’ll ride three or four times as many meetings in the UK than he does on the continent. If he’s got anything about him, he will come on very quickly. Part of his contract stipulates that he rides in all of Monarchs’ fixtures unless he is recalled by the German Federation. I know he has a German Championship meeting plus an Under-21 engagement, but they don’t take place until September and I’m not sure at this stage if there will be a clash of dates.
“Everything else he is available for and I’ve told him he must be available for them.”
Meanwhile, while Monarchs are suffering cashflow problems due to the welter of rain-offs, the riders are hoping for a cash windfall against the Tigers tonight.
Despite their first leg success, which was the Capital side’s first away win of the season, skipper Matthew Wethers said: “We must make sure that we complete the job and we also want to score as many points as we can, as none of us has been earning anything because of the weather. So it would be nice if we got 60 points or over!”
Dutchman Theo Pijper, who haunted his old Tigers team-mates at Ashfield, underlined the importance of taking nothing for granted. “It was a great result for the whole team on Sunday, but we can’t sit back and relax because you are never quite sure what Glasgow will do at Armadale, so we need to kill them off again,” he said.
Tigers team boss Stewart Dickson, however, all but confessed the game is up: “We needed to nail our home leg, and while anything can happen in speedway, we have not ridden well on our two visits to Armadale this year. We’ll see what happens.”