It might be easier to predict the winner of the Grand National tomorrow than forecast the outcome of tonight’s Spring Trophy speedway derby between Edinburgh Monarchs and Glasgow Tigers, which finally opens the new season at Armadale following last week’s postponement against Berwick.
If you believe the pundits, Monarchs need only turn up to triumph against a new-look Tigers squad who have been savaged in certain quarters, with some tipping the Ashfield team to finish bottom of the Premier League this season.
Glasgow boast four new faces in their line-up, including a couple of untried Aussies, Harley Horwood and Joey Ringwood.
However, Monarchs are not going to be lured into any traps and might be feeling a little jittery themselves as they carry a brace of new recruits themselves, Max Fricke and Claus Vissing, the latter having never ridden at Armadale before.
It’s this uncertainty over how the debutants will perform which lends an intriguing tag to this encounter between Scotland’s oldest motorsport neighbours.
However, Monarchs’ most experienced rider, Theo Pijper – who turned out for the Tigers in 2011 on his return to the UK – is more clear-headed and insists providing the Capital side call the tune, they can secure the big win home supporters will be craving.
“This is a big opening meeting for us,” said Pijper. “No-one knows how their two Australians will go, but Glasgow will almost certainly be relying on Joe Screen and James Grieves to lead the way for them.
“But we have a good team and I think things will work out well for us, and I hope that we can start with a sizeable victory.”
Monarchs took to the track for the first time last weekend when they lost 47-45 at Berwick in the first leg of the Cock O’the North Trophy and Pijper says everybody was pleased with the application and positivity within the camp.
“It was a good result for us overall,” said Pijper, “and I was pleased with the eight points I scored. I felt I should have scored a couple more.
“We need to get Marcel (Helfer) going and Derek (Sneddon) had something of an off night, but he will step up no problem.”
The arrival of Vissing as a direct replacement for Sam Masters, who remains stranded in Australia awaiting a visa, has not upset the rhythm of the Monarchs team, added Pijper, who thinks the Dane will be just as effective as Masters would have been.
“Claus is a good all round rider who has performed well in the Elite League and I don’t see any problems for him in the Premier League,” continued Pijper. “At Berwick, everybody was probably riding for themselves a little bit, just to get dialled in, but we are very happy with our team.”
Skipper Sneddon scored just two points against Berwick and was honest in condemning his display: “From my own point of view I was bad and my bike in my first two rides was terrible – it had no power at all. But I’m ready to go tonight.”
Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell is even hesitant over how well Glasgow might compete tonight, saying: “Max showed at Berwick just how difficult it was for new Australians on a track they had not seen before. Glasgow’s two new Australians haven’t seen Armadale before and are in for a treat, for sure. It might well depend on how their third new face James Wright goes for them. He is an inconsistent rider, but if he become consistent, he is certainly capable of doing well to back up Screen and Grieves.
“We have seen him at his best at Armadale, but he’s had some shockers as well.
“One thing I am sure about is we have the best rider in the league in Craig Cook, although Claus tells me he is going to be the top rider in the league as well. That’s a fortunate position to be in, but Craig is the main man as far as I’m concerned.”
It could be a milestone moment for Glasgow stalwart Grieves. The Paisley ace need only score six to chalk up 1000 points round Armadale, which is an astonishing feat for a visiting rider, especially as he could retire from the sport this year.
Monarchs: Cook, Sneddon, Pijper, Fricke Vissing, Helfer, Tabaka.
Glasgow: Screen, Ringwood, Wright, Bager, Grieves, Horwood, Jacobs.