Kevin Wolbert, nicknamed the “Kaiser”, hopes to reboot his speedway career after agreeing to rejoin Edinburgh Monarchs for a fourth spell in 2015.
The German ace did not enjoy life in the Premier League last season after his move to Glasgow Tigers turned sour. Wolbert toiled at times to make an impression around Ashfield, which put him under fire from both fans and management.
It seemed he was heading for the chop, but though he avoided the axe, a return to the Tigers was never on the cards. Even before Monarchs had clinched their fourth league title in October, speculation was rife that Wolbert, whose average dropped through the floor as a consequence of his poor scoring ratio, was being lined up to wear the blue-and-gold again.
Wolbert admitted his spell the Tigers did not go as planned and said: “Maybe it was me, maybe it was the club, but I did not have a good season with Glasgow. I wasn’t prepared at the start of the campaign, my bikes had been in the UK all winter and I signed for Glasgow at the last minute.
“So I struggled with my machinery a lot and couldn’t get to grips with my scoring, which I was disappointed with.”
Wolbert’s efforts in the Tigers’ stripes on their visits to Armadale last season were awful on occasions, and he is fully aware that he might have to convince some Monarchs supporters all over again of his genuine desire to return to a level that is deemed acceptable in the Premier League.
He says: “I’m delighted to be back with Edinburgh. I like the Armadale track because you always have the opportunity to pass opponents. It’s not like a normal track. And ‘Doc’ Bridgett (track curator) always has it prepared 100 per cent perfect each week, unlike some tracks which are slick one week and loaded with grip the next.”
Wolbert is already ramping up his machinery in his bid to help Monarchs defend their championship crown. “I have ordered new engines because I sold the motor I used when I last rode for Edinburgh,” he said. “I will try my new machinery at the press and practice day next spring which will give me a feel for the exact set-up I will require. This will hopefully get me back to a standard I enjoyed when I rode for Edinburgh first time around.”
Wolbert, who recently became a dad with a new son named Killan, made his debut for Monarchs in 2009 and by the time he left three years later he was No.1 in the scoring ranks. He also enjoyed stints with Belle Vue Aces and King’s Lynn Stars in the Elite League before signing for Glasgow in the lower division last season.
“It will feel strange in a way to be turning out for Edinburgh again,” he added, “but I’m determined to do the best job I can for them and feel I can improve upon my average. It was important to find a Premier League place again, but I would like to secure some guests bookings in Denmark or Germany to keep me sharp as well.
“I just hope people give me a chance and don’t judge me on what I did for Glasgow.”
Monarchs director Mike Hunter said taking on Wolbert again was a no-brainer given his advantageous 6.19 starting average. Hunter told the Evening News: “Kevin is much better than his average suggests and knows he is capable of pushing that figure up. He never managed to conquer Ashfield and some Glasgow fans wanted him axed, but he is an expert round Armadale.
“Kevin also sometimes lets his head go down if things aren’t going for him, and I think that’s what happened to him last season. Hopefully with us he’ll raise his game again.”
Asked if Wolbert might come under forensic-style scrutiny if he falls short of expectation, Hunter replied: “He is fairly confident he can return to the form he showed when he first rode for us. He is still quite young, so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t do it all over again.
“I don’t think Kevin is going to be in a high-pressure situation, and is likely to succeed. Kevin was sensational for us when he first came across and I don’t know necessarily if he’ll get back to that kind of form, but if he scores consistently we’ll be happy.”
Responding to the news that Max Fricke won’t be in Monarchs 2015 line-up, having opted to move up into the Elite League, Hunter said: “It was never going to be easy to fit in all our top-scoring riders of last season.
“It would have been nice had we got another season out of Max but, because as an Australian he cannot double-up due to visa restrictions, he had to decide which league he wanted to be part of in 2015. We wish him well. He is young enough to be ambitious.”