Craig Cook facing dilemma over Monarchs future

Craig Cook has to decide whether to stay at Monarchs or to go full-time in the Elite League. Pic: Ron MacNeill
Craig Cook has to decide whether to stay at Monarchs or to go full-time in the Elite League. Pic: Ron MacNeill
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A HUGE question mark hangs over the future of Edinburgh Monarchs captain Craig Cook as the two-in-a-row Premier League speedway champions turn ther thoughts to their team building for 2016.

Cook, who led the Capital men to Grand Final success over arch rivals Glasgow Tigers last weekend, admits he is in turmoil over which division to ride in next season.

He has to decide whether to make the jump into the Elite League, where he currently doubles-up with Belle Vue Aces or to remain in the lower division with Monarchs which gives him a far more extensive fixture programme. Cook said: “There are not enough matches for me to do the Elite League full-time and also ride in Poland. I would be going from doing around a hundred meetings, as I do at present, to just fifty or sixty. And that is not enough for me to make a living. There is a lot of thinking to be done during the winter and we’ll see what 

Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess said: “We have left it with Craig and he will come back to us to tell the club what he wants to do. It’s no different to the position he was in at this time last year.

“He had ideas then of what he wanted to do and, of course, he stayed with Edinburgh and we were happy to accommodate him. I have heard it hinted that Belle Vue want to change their race night to a Friday next season – which I personally find hard to believe because of their Grand Prix riders – but, if that happened and Craig wanted to stay with Belle Vue, we could not accommodate him.

“Craig is our asset and not Belle Vue’s so a deal would have to be done. If Craig wants to ride in Poland on a weekly basis he is no good to us because he would miss too many fixtures and we wouldn’t be interested in that. We would have priority on him but we could not pay him the money he would get in Poland.”

Harkess added: “If Craig decides he wants to be back at Edinburgh we will do our best to make it happen, but ultimately it’s Craig’s choice and we are placing no pressure on him. We will try and support and help him no matter what he does.”

Asked if under the current financial climate Monarchs can afford to hang on to their top star, Harkess replied: “It is not a major issue. We have to pay for a No.1 somewhere along the line and Craig will get paid more than most simply because he is better than most. That is a fact of life and we take that on board.

“If he intends to remain in the Premier League, it’s our intention he stays at Edinburgh. He is very much part of us. We are a speedway family at Armadale and it’s not our wish that Craig would ever ride against us.”

Monarchs will, of course, have to shed one of their top four in the wake of their latest championship success and Harkess admits it doesn’t get any easier in choosing who to let go.

“We cannot hide from it,” he said. “We don’t want to lose anybody and none of our current team will admit they want to go. We are well past the blueprint stage in terms of next season because you are always aware of what your problems are and who you need to lose to fit under the points limit.

“Already over the last month we have had riders phoning up asking to ride for Edinburgh next year. But our interest just now concerns the riders in our posession, which is only right.”

One thing already certain is that Monarchs will see a change at reserve.

Under new rules announced this week, all Premier League sides must track a British rider eligible for the National League at No.7, ruling out a return for Aussie Rob Branford.

“It wouldn’t have been our choice,” said Harkess, who hinted Max Clegg will almost certainly be handed the opportunity to build on his debut season with Monarchs in 2016.

• MONARCHS will face Plymouth Devils in the 2016 Premier League KO Cup. Should they progress, they will tackle either Redcar Bears or Glasgow Tigers in the quarter-finals.