'New Edinburgh Monarchs captain Josh Pickering: Write us off at your peril'

New Edinburgh Monarchs No.1 Josh Pickering says it is an honour to be captain of an "incredible club".
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The 26-year-old Australian, who has been with the Capital outfit since 2017, assumes the role from compatriot and legend Sam Masters, who made the switch to Championship rivals the Oxford Cheetahs over the winter.

The new British speedway season gets underway next Friday in the BSN Series when arch-rivals the Glasgow Tigers are the visitors to Armadale before the return leg at Ashfield two days later.

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And Pickering will lead his new team onto the shale alongside Lasse Fredriksen, Kye Thomson, Paco Castagna and Jacob Hook, all of whom are back for another year in the blue and gold.

The Edinburgh Monarchs 2023. Picture: Jack Cupido.The Edinburgh Monarchs 2023. Picture: Jack Cupido.
The Edinburgh Monarchs 2023. Picture: Jack Cupido.

They are joined by none other than the return of Monarchs double league winner, Craig Cook, with promising youngster Kyle Bickley completing the septet.

Monarchs last night introduced their riders to supporters at Napier's Craiglockhart campus as well as the new Monarchs Academy, who will compete in this year's National Development League.

The new season buzz is quite a contrast from the doom and gloom last October when the club were set to bring down the curtain on their 74-year history due to the proposed sale of Armadale Stadium, not to mention the rejection from West Lothian Council over plans for a new stadium on the outskirts of Livingston a couple of months prior.

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And Pickering, who is one of the most exciting riders in British speedway, was keen to hammer home the opportunity he and his new team-mates have been afforded.

"My role as captain is to make sure there's that togetherness," he said. "It's an incredible club so it's a great honour to have that responsibility. I always want to be involved and be that person you can rely on. I hope every club in the Championship underestimates us and if we all ride to our capabilities, we can match any team in this league and win. I haven't won anything in the seven seasons I've been here so I'm desperate to change that. I've worked hard to get to No.1 - I've ridden at every number since I've been here, so I feel I am now where I should be."

Meanwhile, Cumbrian Cook has crossed the divide once more having spent the last four years with Glasgow. The former British champion and Grand Prix rider knows Armadale like the back of his hand and will be a key cog in Monarchs' quest for silverware.

The 35-year-old said: "I just want to enjoy my speedway again because that's the most important thing. I haven't been at my best the last few seasons, I can be pretty hard on myself so I just want to ride my bike and enjoy myself."

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Italian Castagna is an entertainer on and off the track and the 29-year-old admitted it was an easy decision to sign on the dotted line for a second season.

"I love coming back to Scotland and Edinburgh," he said. "April is always one of the busiest months for me so I can't wait to get going. I felt I became a better rider last season so I want to keep improving. I had other offers but I just felt that the Monarchs was the club I wanted to ride for. I would love to win something here."

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