EDINBURGH MONARCHS are pulling out all the stops to snap up wonder-kid Josh Bates until the end of the season after the 17-year-old Barnsley ace proved to be the unexpected match winner for the Capital side in their 49-41 top-of-the-table victory over Somerset Rebels at Armadale on Friday.
Bates, who was guesting for Mitchell Davey, whose 2013 campaign is over after breaking his leg at Sheffield Tigers last week, rattled up seven points at the tail-end, which included a fantastic win over Rebels No. 1 Jason Doyle, and now Monarchs are keen to include the youngster in their squad for the crucial championship play-offs next month.
However Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell revealed that while talks are taking place, there are still hurdles to be overcome.
Campbell told the Evening News: “Any boy who scores seven points and beats Jason Doyle has to be on the radar. However, Josh is a bit clued up about what goes on in the world and knows if he does not commit himself to anybody, he can get every guest booking going.
“So while we are speaking to him, nothing has been settled. The situation is also mildly confused by the fact that before we spoke to him about turning out against Somerset, he had agreed to ride for Rye House Rockets against us on Friday.
“He does not want to let them down and that is understandable, because they asked him first. His agreement with them remains in place. Whether we can organise something to stop that happening, or get him to ride for us thereafter, I can’t say at this moment in time.”
Campbell added: “If we cannot agree terms with him for the rest of the season he could be available to us on a week-to-week basis, providing he hasn’t accepted any other bookings.
“But his National League club, Mildenhall, have been very helpful already by allowing us to talk to Josh.”
It wasn’t just Bates’ win over Doyle that energised the Monarchs support. His win in heat 14 against Simon Lambert and Alex Davies actually clinched the meeting for the capital side.
“What happened on Friday was extraordinary,” said Campbell, “and it took Josh and everybody else by surprise. All of a sudden from being a filler for us, Josh turned into a guy who we have got to have in our team. A lot of things happened in a short space of time.”
Asked if he thought Bates’ heroics were a one-off, Campbell replied: “The last time he rode for us at Armadale, I thought he was going to fall off, but even then he showed that once he got out in front of the opposition, he could stay there and beat them.
“But it wouldn’t be unusual for a lad of his standard to do well in one particular match and not manage to do the same the next time around.”
Even before his misfortune at Sheffield, the likeable Davey had been struggling to put points on the board. And if Bates had scored just two or three on Friday, it still would have eclipsed what Davey had been coming up with.
Said Campbell: “Josh was our match winner without question and you could tell by his smile in the pits afterwards that he was pretty pleased about it. And to have two scoring reserves in your team is such an advantage.
“The more riders who are scoring points would be a big positive for us during the play-off meetings, but we have not signed Josh yet and he is also mentored by Louis and Peter Carr, who are not great men for making decisions, and I’ve got that in the back of my mind from my dealings with Peter who rode for us with great distinction. So talks are on-going and we’ll see what happens.”
Bates commented: “I enjoyed myself against Somerset and hopefully you’ll see me back in Monarchs colours before the end of the season. Before the match I told myself just to go out and be positive and that’s exactly what I did, though I wasn’t thinking that I would beat Jason Doyle at that stage. He was just another bloke to me!”