IT was a signing no one saw coming and it set off a chain reaction that rocked Scottish speedway this week and resulted in the Monarchs team that lines up at Armadale next Friday sporting just four of the riders who started the season with us.
Yes, despite the phenomenal racing and a huge win for the Staggs Bar Monarchs at home last week, there’s been more drama off-track than on it recently.
It all started when Edinburgh’s arch-rivals Glasgow Tigers swooped to sign ‘Monarchs legend’ Craig Cook.
It took everyone by surprise, but by bringing Cook in to bolster their struggling and very expensive team, the west coast outfit were forced to release two of their squad, one was heat-leader Richie Worrall.
As so, over the next few days a game of musical speedway ensued.
With some of Edinburgh’s more inexperienced riders still struggling to find form and Worrall now a free agent, rumour and speculation was rife.
At that point, I viewed the 2018 Monarchs as a team in transition, building from the ground up with a young squad gaining experience with every ride.
A team that probably wouldn’t achieve their full potential until next year’s campaign, but might just have surprised everyone as they did when they came second in the Championship Fours.
They were great to watch and it was good to see them develop. An investment for the future.
In truth, the introduction of Victor Palovaara a couple of weeks back should have been seen as a statement of the club’s intent - to reach the league play-offs.
That signing quickly helped Monarchs to their biggest away win in years when they beat Redcar Bears 57-33... and then came last Friday’s 51-39 home triumph over Ipswich Witches.
Two big scores despite the fact that, on each occasion, a couple of Monarchs failed to bring much to the table - it could be argued, that being the case, the axe could have been stayed a while.
All seven may well have clicked and gone on to make the league play-offs. The release of Worrall means we’ll never know.
Yes, Monarchs snapped up Worrall forcing them to release the struggling Mark Riss and inexperienced Max Ruml. I’m gutted for them both.
That said, the transformed seven that will line up in blue and gold next week are, on paper, a powerhouse of a team.
In Worrall we have the third heat-leader the club has desperately needed to support our brilliant No 1 Ricky Wells and impressive team captain Erik Riss.
In Victor Palovaara and Joel Andersson we have two solid scoring and stylish second-strings. Completing the team Josh Pickering and the returning Max Clegg (pictured), are two of the most thrilling riders in the league. Both gritty racers who are thrilling to watch.
Suddenly, our play-off chances are stronger. By signing Cook, Glasgow might just have unintentionally done us a huge favour. That’ll be the hope of all Monarchs’ fans anyway.