A SMALL part of Edinburgh Monarchs boss John Campbell wishes his team were facing Somerset Rebels in tonight’s Premier League Grand Final first leg rather than arch-rivals Glasgow Tigers. Regardless, Campbell insists the Capital men would beat either team.
While happy that Scottish speedway will be the focus of attention tonight when Tigers host the Monarchs at Peugeot Ashfield Stadium, Campbell admitted: “The one regret we have is we did not do ourselves justice when we lost the KO Cup to Somerset recently, and to have hammered them in the Grand Final would have been compensation for that.”
Campbell added: “However, from a Scottish point of view, it’s the best final we could possibly have. It doesn’t really matter to us who we race – we’d beat either of them.”
Bullish words from Campbell, who is convinced Monarchs are better equipped than the Tigers to scoop the coveted championship trophy. And, thinking back to Monarchs’ 21-point aggregate win over their opponents in the recent League Cup Final, he is predicting a similar outcome.
“It is going to be a big occasion and pressure will be on both teams. But I would anticipate the same kind of scoreline and I think we’ll do better at Ashfield this evening than last time because Kevin Wolbert is back. I think things are in our favour to win the title again.”
Glasgow know Monarchs have an enviable record at Ashfield, and Campbell revealed: “I watched Glasgow’s semi-final win over Somerset last weekend and the main difference between ourselves and Somerset round Ashfield is we’ll have at least one rider – possibly two – who will dominate the meeting. Somerset were unable to count on their leading riders and lost. We have better top-end strength than Somerset and that will create problems for Glasgow.”
But it’s Monarchs tail-end base that could come under scrutiny after Tigers’ reserve James Sarjeant scored a paid 18 points, which almost single-handedly elbowed the Rebels out of the play-offs.
Campbell seems unperturbed that Sarjeant could make life hot for his opposite numbers Rob Branford and Max Clegg.
“Sarjeant had an exceptional match”, conceded Campbell. “But I have no concerns over our reserve pairing – they will match Glasgow’s.”
Monarchs’ third successive appearance in the Grand Final has been boosted by the timely return of Wolbert following a horrifying crash in Germany. His 12-point haul against Peterborough Panthers at home last week was crucial.
Wolbert, who rode for Tigers last season, said: “It felt great to be back and to get among the points again so quickly. I felt good and I’m looking forward to this weekend. It is such an important event for both clubs and their supporters.”
If Monarchs claim the crown, it will their fifth championship coronation in 16 years. And Campbell never envisaged that when Monarchs moved to Armadale in 1997.
It took Monarchs over 50 years to win the first of their titles in 2003 and Campbell recalls: “That particular season our riders did extraordinary things. And that was because of the belief that they could do it. And what we have done ever since is to draw more out of riders than anybody else has managed and get them to do their best all the time. To claim a fifth title would be unbelievable. It’s almost two decades we have been at Armadale and I could never have foreseen us achieving such a thing.
“Let’s just hope we can do it.”
Meanwhile, Monarchs captain Craig Cook said: “I feel all the pressure is on Glasgow. They are the team which has been hyped up because of all the money behind them. I’m quite happy that the first leg is at Glasgow tonight.
“We know how strong we are at Armadale and can look for damage limitation at Glasgow or, better still, let’s just go and win through there to make it easy for ourselves at home.”