Ryan Fisher, ‘Mr Entertainer’ at Edinburgh Monarchs, is turning back the speedway clock to celebrate his testimonial meeting at Armadale Stadium on Friday night (7.15pm start).
The Californian has invited six of his former team-mates from Edinburgh’s 2008 championship-winning side – Fisher’s debut year in Monarchs colours – in recognition of the camaraderie he felt among a special group of riders he personally bonded with.
Andrew Tully, William Lawson, Thomas H Johansson and Aaron Summers did not hesistate in accepting Fisher’s invitation and 32-year-old Fisher said: “It’s absolutely great that they have agreed to take part. It means so much to me. Aaron only confirmed his attendance last week but he is one of the good guys who does testimonials and I can’t thank him enough.”
Derek Sneddon, who was Fisher’s captain in 2008, is also scheduled to appear despite being hospitalised following a nasty moto-cross accident two weeks ago. Fisher’s last remaining squad member, Matthew Wethers, is unavailable due to a racing commitment for Berwick Bandits but has penned a tribute to Fisher for the match magazine.
Fisher remembers Monarchs’ second league title success eight years ago with great affection, saying: “It was a really cool experience. We were all great friends and we got on really well on track and off.
“And riding in the Premier League at that time it was easier to get away with your bike not being exactly top notch.
“I wasn’t sure how well I’d go or fit in but it all worked out fine and to pick up a league medal in my first year with Edinburgh was the perfect end to the season.
“I also recall the support I received from my wife Daelyn back then. She had more belief in me than I had in myself.”
Fisher’s arrival at Armadale in 2008 was a surprise move on Monarchs’ behalf and co-promoter John Campbell revealed the club thought long and hard before signing the American.
Campbell said: “For someone who has spent so much time in British speedway, while, of course, Ryan hasn’t ridden all that many years for Edinburgh, he fully deserves this testimonial and we are happy to stage it for him.
“He made his biggest impact in Britain for us without question.
“Thinking back to when he first joined us, I think our PRO Mike Hunter had seen him riding somewhere else the previous season and we contemplated signing him then but didn’t. Ryan had a potential ‘bad boy’ image at the time and we were not sure what we were getting involved with.”
But, after some deliberation, Monarchs decided to go with their instincts. Campbell went on: “It took a great deal of thought before we eventually took the jump. And I’ve got to say in all the time ever since there has been no hint of botherat all. He is an absolute gentleman on every occasion without fail. He is great to deal with and says what he thinks and you always know where you stand.”
The impact Fisher made was almost instant, his bold style of racing winning over swathes of Monarchs supporters as he proved instrumental in helping steer Monarchs to a second crown, five years after their first.
Campbell said: “We did not know what we were going to get. We didn’t know if Ryan was a rider who would adjust to life in the Premier League.
“You always hope you are going to bring in a world beater and, while he didn’t develop into that, he did develop into a Premier League beater and that proved to be a critical factor. It was, though, a gamble on our part.”
Fisher spent three seasons with Edinburgh, collecting another winners medal in 2010 and scoring over 900 points for the club over that period.
Yet his return in 2016 for a fourth spell in the blue and gold raised a few eyebrows. While he is not the rider of old, he hasn’t done a lot wrong so far.
But, in the intervening years, it’s fair to say things have not been straightforward for the charismatic star. Fisher says: “I had always thought about returning to Edinburgh the moment I first left! And, after agreeing to come back this year, I just felt so enthusiastic about my speedway again.
“I have had some ups and downs since I was last at Edinburgh, problems with my machinery and visa troubles which affected my family.
“It was pretty stressful for everybody involved, but I’m just so happy to be back at a club that I have never lost my fondness for.” But, as Fisher gets ready to reflect on his past, his future in the sport he loves is shrouded in some doubt with some claiming he is ready to call time on his career come October.
Fisher won’t be drawn on the issue, but Campbell observes: “I haven’t had any discussions with Ryan on this subject but I would suggest in general terms if you are a speedway rider and it’s going well for you, it would be difficult to give up on it.
“No doubt Ryan has thoughts that his career is coming to an end and this could be his swansong. We’ll see what happens at the end of the season – we may not want him next season!”
Fisher is certainly not someone who can be pigeon-holed and has had one eye on life away from the shale for quite a while.
He and Daelyn have been honing their culinary skills in the fast food business in the States. The family have just uprooted to Henderson, Nevada, a fruit machine throw from Las Vegas, opening up a takeway sandwich venture there.
For now, Fisher is just hoping Friday night will be a star-spangled one. Everyone who has glimpsed Fisher on a bike in full flow will wish the same for their all-American bike hero.