Monarchs aim to strike the first blow on rivals Glasgow
The sudden spirit of accord that has broken out between Edinburgh Monarchs and Glasgow Tigers over the Scottish Cup is borne out of a belief that they can restore the competition's status in speedway circles north of the border after years of neglect.
Often used as an end-of-season filler, bosses are convinced that if crowd levels are healthy enough, the matches can become a regular fixture in the calendar again.
Glasgow host the first leg tonight and Monarchs will want to improve upon their record at Ashfield last season where the Tigers dominated rather too easily. And Monarchs No.1 Ricky Wells is looking for a strong showing to kick-start their season.
He said: “I’ve enjoyed going to Glasgow even though we didn’t get the results we were looking for last year.
“I know what it means to both sets of fans and Glasgow can be a frustrating place at times. I’m interested to see what Glasgow have done to the track after recent renovations.”
Wells will partner fellow American and new boy Max Ruml in the opening heat for Monarchs and said: “We’ll be aiming for a 5-1 every time but we’ll see how it goes.”
Wells added: “I’m delighted that Max has joined the team. He perhaps should have come across to the UK a few years ago, but he’s here now and I’m excited to see what he can do for the club.”
Wells also has own reasons in hoping 2018 can bring a much needed rise in consistency to his performances, saying: “I started off last season so well and felt really comfortable throughout May and June.
“But for various reasons I slipped back a little and that was frustrating. You are always hoping to get off to a good start to build up your confidence.
“You have to be open about learning and we had a group of riders last season who should have done better I think. Looking at the team we have got this year it looks pretty good to me.”
German star Mark Riss, elder brother of newly-appointed skipper Erik, is confident about the year ahead and feels another increase in his average is well within his capabilities. He said: “I feel fine about the new season and I’ve lost a lot of weight so I’m feeling much fitter.
“I’ve got a lot more experience behind me now and I feel good about going to all of the away tracks. But I also need to find more consistency and that will be my goal going forward this year. I’m looking forward to the match against Glasgow and hopefully we can show them what a good team we have.”
Monarchs could have the edge at reserve, with Josh Pickering and Matt Williamson forming a powerful-looking spearhead at the tail-end. Williamson, who admitted he was a late starter to speedway after beginning life as a moto-cross rider, said: “There are a lot of strong reserve riders in the league and while I want to improve and get into the main body of the team, providing I do my job for the good of the squad I’m not bothered what number is on my back.”
Pickering said: “Last season was a learning curve for me and I want to push on this season. I’ll be going to the away tracks knowing what I’m going to do as opposed to last year when I guessed what I was going to do.
“Last year was good, I enjoyed the whole team experience thing. But if you are not going good you can be replaced. So you must look out for yourself sometimes as well as your team-mates. It’s going to be a big year for me.”
Glasgow had a massive clear out after they failed to win the league in 2017 and their big marquee signing this year is former British Champion Chris Harris.
Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess says the whole Glasgow squad have been around the block a few times and added: “In Chris Harris they have got a rider whose future doesn’t lie in front of him but he is still an accomplished rider and will score well in our league.
“We certainly want to do much better in our matches with Glasgow than we managed last season. And if we don’t win this evening we want to keep the scores close for the deciding leg at Armadale a week tonight.”