Edinburgh Monarchs chief John Campbell today revealed he was “very happy” with the team he has assembled for next season, believing it is capable of winning all home matches at Armadale – a key aim if it is to reach the top six and earn a chance in the championship play-offs.
And he hit back at critics who have labelled the new squad as a “bargain basement” outfit. “Anybody who wants to be critical of the team let me see where the alternative was. Who is going to do better than what we have got?”
Monarchs have perhaps taken a gamble in not replacing key man Kevin Wolbert, who is bound for King’s Lynn, but Campbell says he had to sacrifice a big hitter at the top end in order to strengthen the troublesome non-scoring reserve berths.
The team of Matthew Wethers, Andrew Tully, Craig Cook, Derek Sneddon, Theo Pijper, Charles Wright and Mick Dyer was unveiled at the weekend and only three of last season’s line-up have been retained.
Monarchs have turned back the clock in recalling former Monarchs Pijper and Sneddon, who join newcomers Wright and Dyer with responsibility for the all important tail-end scoring duties.
Despite utilising some of their asset base, Campbell insisted finance did not play a part in team building plans and said: “We set out to produce a team who will win at home, and I think we have done that.
“The play-offs are our target, thinking about winning the league won’t start until September, what we do up to that point is the critical factor. If we win at home, and I think this team will, we will be very close at the end and won’t need that many away points to take us into the top six.
“The thing which really influenced us most was to get away from the situation we’ve had for a lot of years now of having a reserve with loads of potential but failing to score on a regular basis.
“We wanted to move away from that so we had to sacrifice having a big hitter at the top of the team. In signing Charles Wright, it was not possible to have an eight-and-a-half point rider in the No. 1 slot.”
Wolbert’s absence paves the way for Tully to assume the role as lead rider, providing he can replicate the commanding form he showed round Armadale last season.
“Principally, our game is to win at home,” added Campbell, “and in our side we have by far the highest scoring rider in Andrew Tully and he will ride at No. 1 for us. He was the highest average rider at Armadale last season and Andrew is very keen to be in that No. 1 position. If he goes on scoring as he has done previously, we will have no problem there.”
The return of Pijper, the only rider to win a league medal with both Monarchs and Glasgow Tigers, and former skipper Sneddon, could be viewed as a risk, but Campbell is resolute in his belief that both men will deliver when the chips are down.
“Theo wanted to come back to Armadale but we couldn’t fit him in last season and so he joined Glasgow where he did very well and also became an exceptionally popular rider, it was an obvious choice to bring him back. And we have never really wanted Derek to have been away in the first place, we would have had him in our team every year had we been able to manage it.”
Sneddon, who skippered Monarchs to their second league crown in 2008, has spent the last three years with Newcastle Diamonds, and Campbell added: “After a slow start to last season, Derek started to score well towards the end for Newcastle, and both he and Theo go well at Armadale.”
Sneddon is chuffed to be back, saying: “I’m delighted to be coming back to Monarchs and I want to bring success back to the club,” while Pijper said: “I’m also delighted to rejoin Monarchs and hope to score the points I believe I’m capable of getting.”
Campbell revealed that he was in discussions with 20-year-old Australian Mick Dyer a year ago. “He comes in on a five-point average and did well in the National League for Dudley Heathens in 2010, we were attracted to him and there are a lot of these type of riders coming in.”
Wright, who was released by Workington then axed by Leicester Lions in August, hasn’t had the best of luck with injuries, but Campbell added: “Circumstances throughout his career have worked against Charles. I don’t think he failed at Workington and I don’t think he failed at Leicester.
“He has a history of being injured but tells me has been in the wrong place at the wrong time, he simply needs a run without injuries.”
Wright said: “I’m looking forward to riding for Edinburgh and I hope I don’t let anybody down.”