Edinburgh Monarchs hope to keep majority of their stars

John Campbell, left, and Alex Harkess celebrate the Monarchs completing an historic treble
John Campbell, left, and Alex Harkess celebrate the Monarchs completing an historic treble
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Edinburgh Monarchs speedway co-boss John Campbell today said that the challenge of building a new team for 2015 to emulate the trophy treble achievements of this year’s history making squad is going to be “difficult”.

Monarchs capped off their season in Champagne fashion at the weekend by defeating Somerset Rebels by one point on aggregate to claim a fourth Premier League championship crown to add to the League and Knockout cups they had secured earlier this month.

However, Campbell now has to dismantle his team to bring them within the overall points limit which governs all Premier League squads.

And that means some difficult decisions lie ahead, which won’t please everyone.

Campbell told the Evening News: “I haven’t considered at all any plans at the moment until I know how many riders’ we will have to lose next year because I haven’t looked at all the averages yet, and another set is still to come out.

“It will be difficult, though, to repeat our success because it’s my guess there will have to be substantial changes made to the team. And I’m not aware of anybody apart from Derek (Sneddon) who doesn’t want to ride for us again next season.

“Somerset did well to put together the team they did after winning the league last season, and hopefully we can do the same in order to defend our championship crown.”

Monarchs’ calculations could be determined, or made easier, if No.1 Craig Cook decides to seek pastures new. The Whitehaven rider has resisted the temptation to ride in the Elite League on a permanent basis so far, and with the higher division currently in a state of some flux, Cook may well seek a return to Armadale to continue his association with the Capital outfit whom he “owes his life to” as expressed to supporters at Saturday’s trophy presentation ceremony.

“He hasn’t spoken about his future plans,” said Campbell. “Winning the league is all he has talked about. Craig’s average is still substantial, but lower than last season.

“Craig has scored lots and lots of bonus points this year and has been clever in that regard because it has helped lower his average, which could make it easier for us to fit him in again.”

The feeling to emerge from the clean sweep of silverware in the Premier League is that it will be highly unlikely that a better team will take to the track again in Monarchs’ blue and gold colours. But Campbell doesn’t go along with that belief, saying: “It is heartening that most of our boys want to come back, and it would be wrong to say the success we have enjoyed this year won’t happen again. That is the whole basis of team sport – to create a side who will win everything.”

Campbell went on: “It’s too early to say what might happen because changes are afoot surrounding the doubling-up, doubling-down rules because they didn’t work this year. There was an absence of riders in the Elite League, where Craig and Stevie (Worrall) also rode, and we have got to get back to the situation where two riders share a place.”

Campbell also poured cold water on rumours suggesting that the dreaded play-off system which decides each year’s Premier League champions are set to be scrapped. He cited Monarchs’ bumper crowd on Saturday as a gold-plated reason to keep them.

“I’d be surprised if they are done away with. You couldn’t have had a better situation from a supporter’s point of view than we had at Armadale on Saturday evening when the title was decided in the very last race.

“I haven’t done the figures on our crowd but Somerset, who hosted the first-leg, doubled their average attendance. You wouldn’t want to throw that away.

“Our advance ticket sales rose by 25 per cent compared to any other high-profile meeting we’ve staged. And I’m sure everybody who came to watch us was swept along by the atmosphere, and the conclusion to the final was a perfect sporting occasion.

“If some of the new faces who bought tickets return in 2015, why would you want to scrap the play-offs.”

Whoever follows in the tyre tracks of this year’s band of heroes may find themselves in line for the captain’s job after Sneddon announced his retirement from the sport minutes after he received his winner’s medal.

Campbell added: “I wasn’t told officially of Derek’s decision, but he will be a big miss to everyone at the club. Who knows who will be the next man in line for the job?”