CRAIG COOK has dominated the UK Premier League scoring averages for the last two years, but the Edinburgh Monarchs No.1 today admitted that will count for nothing as he attempts to make a name for himself in Poland this season.
The 27-year-old speedway ace signed a contract recently with Extraleague champions Stal Gorzow and flies out early next month for some preparation work.
Gorzow are a glamour outfit who ride in front of crowds of 17,000 and, with one of just three starting berths up for grabs, Cook confessed: “It is going to be very tough.”
The Capital racer appeared on Gorzow’s radar last season after his team-mate at Elite League outfit Belle Vue Aces, Matej Zagar, put a word in for him. But Cook was unable to take up the opportunity at the time, explaining: “Gorzow were scouting for riders towards the end of last season due to the amount of injuries they had suffered and it would have been nice to have gone out there to check out the track. But my domestic engagements with Edinburgh were so hectic I didn’t get the chance.
“But they maintained their interest in me and have been gracious enough to let me prove myself to them this year. This is going to be a make-or-break season for me in 2015 and getting my foot in the door in Poland is just the positive start to the year I was looking for.”
Cook has been under increasing pressure in some quarters to secure a team spot abroad but has been hesitant due in part to the financial outlay of such a move. He has also spurned calls for him to move into the Elite League on a full-time basis, feeling the UK’s top-flight doesn’t offer him enough meetings.
He knows, however, if he can make a success of his Polish experiment then the gateway to greater rewards and recognition could await him.
Cook has no illusions that unless he impresses his Gorzow paymasters his quest for glory could be crushed at the first hurdle.
He said: “Gorzow is arguably the best club side in Poland and to be associated with them is a great honour. I’ve got to show them when I go out in March what I’m capable of.
“It is not going to be easy. I’m up against guys like Matej and Niels Kristian Iversen. But I feel I’m ready for this and I’m going to give myself the best possible chance to succeed.
“I’m sure some people will underestimate me and that is understandable because I’m unknown in Poland, but I’m a fast learner.”
A Gorzow spokesman said: “We want Craig to take part in some sparring meetings in order that we can watch him. Time will tell if he gets the chance to perform for us in the Extraleague.” Cook added that he has issues to put right in this country first, and revealed: “While I had a smashing time with Edinburgh last season and we achieved so much on the track, winning almost became routine for us. Unfortunately, I did not have such a great time with Belle Vue and even now I’m still not happy with how things went.
“People put faith in me and I didn’t deliver, so I have got to make up for that at Belle Vue this season.”
Cook has been named in an England quartet, who will contest a four-team tournament in the Ben Fund Bonanza meeting at Swindon on Sunday, March 8. Cook, who won the individual event at Leicester last season, said: “I don’t have any bikes ready at the moment and I need some practice but, providing I get that organised, I will be there.”