Premier League preview: Monarchs have target on their backs
It's no secret that some of Edinburgh Monarchs' Premier League speedway rivals are almost willing the all-conquering Capital outfit to fail this season, such has been their crushing domination of the sport over the last two years.
As Monarchs prepare to launch the defence of their championship campaign against Workington Comets at Armadale on Friday, co-promoter John Campbell confessed he is not surprised that some hostility is in the air, with pretty much teams to the south of Berwick having their own way until Monarchs intervened and came back on the scene.
He said: “Everybody wants to win and when you can’t do that because someone else is doing it all the time it becomes an issue to others. Everybody else wants a chance and they don’t want us to be involved again this year.”
Campbell does concede that there could be a shift in the balance of power, but still expects his team to still be in with a shout. “Our team is not as good as it has been over the past two years,” he said. “It it very difficult to replace someone like Craig Cook, but Sam (Masters) is currently having a go at it. Whilst we probably won’t win as easily away from home, nor as easily at home, we will be competitive throughout.
“And if we can win all our home meetings and pick up a point on the road, that should be good enough for us to qualify for the play-offs. It is not an impossible task. It’s all about riders getting better between now and then.”
Monarchs begin their quest for a third successive title on the back of shaky League Cup campaign, but Campbell maintained: “We want to win everything and we still have a chance of making the cup semi-finals. We have not given up on that.”
With Monarchs carrying two inexperienced riders in the shape of Jye Etheridge and Dan Bewley in their squad, the importance of the duo getting sufficient track-time and experience cannot be underlined too strongly.
“At the moment the riders are not getting a chance to race on what would be considered normal track conditions because it’s always raining,” said Campbell. “It is very difficult for people like Jye and Dan to get the hang of things when all they get is a terribly wet track.
“The track at Berwick on Saturday was absolutely sodden, as bad as I have ever seen it at any time, and at the end of the day that just isn’t our sport.”
It was noticeable that in some pre-season polls, pundits predicted Monarchs are not considered strong enough candidates to triumph in 2016, their last two titles seemingly counting for nothing.
Campbell said: “I think some of them did not look at our situation fully. We were so dominant last year and the year before, so obviously if you lose a rider or two we are not going to be as good. To write us off is not the thing to do, because it’s all about riders increasing their averages and I’m sure we have some who will do exceptionally well this year.
“Ryan (Fisher), for instance, showed what he could do at Berwick and was unbeaten. Yet I’m reading that Ryan is a ‘has been’ according to certain fans and they are absolutely wrong in saying that.
“I think it is wrong for us to be written off because I believe we will have four good riders at most meetings. And as we proved at Berwick, you don’t have to have strength in depth to win as long as you have race winners. On that basis, we cannot be dismissed.”
Having overthrown Glasgow Tigers in last season’s play-off Grand Final, the Ashfield men are hotly tipped to relieve their neighbours of their crown. Campbell doesn’t altogether throw out that prediction.
“Glasgow, like ourselves, have four very good riders and are one of the favourites for sure. As are Peterborough, and Workington, who will do well at home and have the riders to pick up points away from home too.”