Co-promoter John Campbell today insisted Edinburgh Monarchs are still on target to make the Premier League play-offs despite losing their two most influential riders, No. 1 Craig Cook, and high-flying reserve Joszef Tabaka, in a twin injury blow which rocked the title-chasing Capital speedway outfit over the weekend.
Cook broke his left wrist in two places after crashing heavily in the Matthew Wethers Testimonial meeting at Armadale on Friday. Then the bombshell news filtered through that Tabaka, who was riding in the European Championships in Poland, had broken his hand and is likely to be sidelined for at least a month.
Although Cook maintains he could be back in the saddle within three weeks, Campbell believes, realistically, it will be six weeks before he returns to action.
Cook came to grief in the seventh race when he clattered into the safety boards on the third bend, and said his crash was self inflicted.
“It was a stupid injury to get because it was my fault. I was in control but I went into the corner too fast. I thought the amount of dirt on the track would hold me up. However, the bike came right round on me and I fell off heavily.
“I’m hoping to be back within three or four weeks, but my dad thinks that is a bit fanciful because you can never tell how long any injury will take to heal. And the last thing I want to do is come back just 50 per cent fit.
“I’m absolutely gutted inside, but there is nothing I can do about it. Accidents happen in speedway. It’s a very dangerous sport.
“I knew something was wrong as soon as I hit the ground. My wrist was sore and my arm was tingling.”
The Englishman has been on fire for Monarchs and scored three 15-point maximums two weeks ago.
He is also a vital cog for Belle Vue Aces in the Elite League and had been named as second reserve for this week’s British Grand Prix in Cardiff, and added: “It was such a huge honour to have been asked to the Grand Prix in the first place, and although I’ll miss the event this year, I could be there in 12 months’ time again.
“But my priority is Monarchs. I want to be back for their away matches in September because I really do believe we have a chance of the title this season.”
Campbell said: “Craig is an absolutely critical part of our team and he has also recently been driving on his team-mates to do better things, so it’s a huge blow to have him out injured. We will have to use guests to cover for him, but we are talking about replacements who are averaging significantly less than Craig. It’s going to be pot luck who we choose to be honest, but Craig’s average should rise next month, which will give us better options.”
Campbell revealed that Tabaka will undergo an operation on his hand later this week. “I don’t know how this will affect his recovery time,” he said. “Joszef tells me it could be many weeks before he is riding again, but given the way he has been going since he returned to the team, his injury is just as devastating as Craig’s.”
But with Monarchs having picked up five league points on the road recently, providing they win their remaining home matches, this will be enough to steer them into the play-offs despite their handicap, according to Campbell. “It is obviously going to be more difficult for us now with the riders we have got left, but I’m sure we will get there,” he added. “But staying unbeaten at Armadale is critical to our qualifying hopes now. Joszef is also now sixth in our team averages and this will permit us to use a Premier League stand-in as opposed to a National League replacement.”
Meanwhile, Monarchs’ Premier League clash at Newcastle Diamonds last night was rained off and will be restaged at Brough Park next Monday at 6.30pm.
Former Monarch Micky Dyer, who made his Berwick Bandits debut on Saturday, was also in the wars when he suffered a gash to his right thigh in a spill which could require surgery.