When Kevin Wolbert took over the mantle of No. 1 rider for Edinburgh Monarchs this season, there were grave doubts that the German would ever be able to emulate the exploits of the previous incumbent and thrillmaker-in-chief, Ryan Fisher.
But today Monarchs director Mike Hunter thinks Wolbert is a better rider than Fisher. As Monarchs prepare to face Somerset Rebels in tonight’s Premier League clash at Armadale, Hunter believes Wolbert is currently in the form of his life and has silenced those critics who still yearn for the cavalier efforts of Fisher.
Hunter said: “A lot depends on Kevin’s confidence and as it builds up he gets better. He has done very well in the last few meetings for the club both home and away. He is such a good rider, and to be honest I would rate him a better rider than Fisher but with a more vulnerable temperament. When Kevin loses confidence and thinks things aren’t going right, he lets it get to him. Ryan, by contrast, would just ignore that and bash on anyway, and certainly Kevin is a lot more cautious.”
Hunter has always been an admirer of riders who exhibit a silky quality and added: “Kevin is such a lovely rider to watch when he is at his best. He can sweep round any track and look marvellous.”
Wolbert has been doubling-up for Poole Pirates in the Elite League recently, and said: “I’m enjoying myself down there and I’m also feeling very happy with the way I’m riding for Monarchs. I’m happy with my bikes, they are going well.”
Monarchs will certainly look to Wolbert and also to Andrew Tully and Craig Cook to help quell a Rebels side who could be a lot stronger despite losing two riders, Corey Gathercole and Dakota North during their 48-41 win over Monarchs at the Oak Tree Arena on Wednesday.
The Rebels could possibly track three guests in their line-up and depending on whose services they can secure, Monarchs may well have to be on their guard. “We don’t know the exact look of the Somerset team,” said Hunter. “But it’s my guess they will be as good, if not better than they normally are. And given that James Wright and Sam Masters only got five points between them on their last visit to Armadale, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be as bad as that again. And the way our heat leaders are going at home, things should be okay for us, and without doubt Andrew Tully, Wolbert, and Craig Cook, were in superb form in the first match against Somerset and we would hope to see a repeat of that performance.
“We are not sure if Kalle [Katajisto] will be riding after missing the trip to Somerset, and if he isn’t, it’s a weakish rider replacement facility we will have to use. It’s certainly a hard match to predict.”
Monarchs had hoped to propel themselves into a top-six berth in the league, but Hunter thinks this is unlikely now because of their failure to win enough matches on the road. He said: “We have lost a lot of away matches now.
“We have still got to go to Newport, but no-one wins there, likewise Leicester, who are a stronger team right now. We might have a chance at Plymouth next month, but certainly not at Workington despite them being in disarray. We never go well at Workington. I don’t see getting into the top six as anything magical, we just want to push on as far as we can.”
But Hunter is cautiously confident that Monarchs can even beat Glasgow Tigers in the first leg of the upcoming Scottish Cup despite suffering two league defeats to their oldest rivals at the Lothain Arena in recent weeks.
He added: “If we perform at our best there is no reason why we can’t providing the track surface isn’t as unusual as it was for their league visits. Our heat leaders are capable of beating anyone in the Premier League round Armadale.”