While much has been made of the perceived lack of a recognised big hitter in the Edinburgh Monarchs squad who are gearing up for the start of the new speedway season next week, experienced Dutch star Theo Pijper today said the capital club are ready to shock their rivals as they eye up a fourth British Premier League crown.
Pijper’s return to Monarchs after picking up a winner’s medal with rivals Glasgow Tigers last season could be a shrewd move given that he was scoring almost at will for the Ashfield outfit during the latter part of the 2011 campaign.
Pijper, who has three new bikes prepared for the new season, is too long in the tooth to be fazed by criticism and has deflected worries, expressed by some supporters, that this Monarchs team will struggle to reach the top six and play-offs. He insists: “I think our line-up will cause quite a few surprises because the guys we have in the team are all capable of scoring double figures, and if we all click together at the same time it will be perfect.
“We all know Armadale and we ride it well and if we all chip in with the points we are capable of we will be okay. Quite a lot of our rivals look good on paper but if they don’t work together, it won’t happen for them.”
Co-promoter John Campbell concurs with Pijper’s optimism saying: “We are playing a completely different game this season because of the need for us to get into that top-six bracket.
“But I’m very confident about what the side will do, we might not have a superstar type No. 1, but in Andrew Tully we have a rider who has an average of over ten round Armadale and there are not too many people with that kind of average at home in the Premier League.”
Monarchs begin their campaign with a League Cup trip to Redcar Bears next Thursday and Pijper added: “I honestly think this is a match we can win and I’m looking forward to it.”
Monarchs will announce who will captain the squad this season on Friday. 2011 was certainly a triumphant return to these shores for the 32-year-old Pijper who has concentrated on his World Longtrack ambitions in recent seasons. Yet he had to overcome red tape before he was allowed to pull on his Glasgow race jacket.
After dropping out of the Elite League five years ago, Pijper was saddled with an awkwardly high old Premier League average, which made it hard for him to land a team berth with anyone and he was frustrated that the British Speedway Promoters’ Association proved inflexible over his plea to reduce that average. Eventually sense prevailed and during the winter of 2010-11 Pijper was given a far more realistic 4.09 figure based on his stint with Mildenhall in 2008 which paved the way for Glasgow to snap him up on a loan deal ending his exile abroad.
Pijper said: “Every winter my wife and myself would discuss me returning to ride in Britain again but, because of the dispute over my average, I had almost given up hope of resuming my career here because the BSPA twice refused to budge over the issue, but thankfully everything was sorted out.
“After being away from speedway for quite a long time I didn’t know quite what to expect when I joined Glasgow.
“I didn’t do too badly round Ashfield but I struggled a little bit away from home, however when I dropped down to reserve I was phenomenal and was scoring double figures everywhere I went. I think I was top scorer for the team over the last eight matches of the season and hopefully this will continue for Monarchs now, they are my home club and own me, and I’m quite happy to be riding for them again.”