Edinburgh Monarchs begin their 2018 speedway season in earnest tonight at Armadale Stadium when they open their Championship league campaign with a visit from Peterborough Panthers.
Co-promoter John Campbell, who is hoping to guide Monarchs to a sixth crown and their first since 2015, expressed satisfaction at what he has seen from his new-look team so far in the continuing Championship Shield qualifying tournament, but stressed there is still scope for much improvement
He said: “We have done well away from home and had a stinker against Glasgow Tigers at home. We had an acceptable result against Berwick Bandits last Friday.
“We still haven’t had enough matches yet to tell us what is going to happen over the course of the league programme.”
As ever the key to a successful title push is an unbeaten home record as Campbell pointed out: “I think what we have got in our team this year is race winners, we showed that against Berwick last week.
“With Erik (Riss) back this evening and Ricky (Wells) they are capable of seven or eight wins between them and they should do that at Armadale most weeks.
“Josh (Pickering) is scoring well and Mark Riss has been excellent too.
“I think for a No.3 like Mark they’ll win a couple of races and still have a stinker amongst it, but Mark is capable of producing race wins against anybody.
“And our top men are also doing well, and the rest of the team are following on to get the necessary points.”
This year’s Championship division is, according to many observers, the toughest one to call. Said Campbell: “I don’t know, it’s hard to tell, because a lot of teams, like ourselves, still haven’t raced that many meetings.
“Luck of course comes into it as it does every season, and if you can avoid injuries you have the best chance of reaching the end-of-season play-offs.
“It is our hope that all of our new riders will develop by the time we get to the end of the season and who knows what will happen after that.”
Campbell is aware that you often play a long waiting game to see if the new recruits can blossom into reasonable scorers and pointed out: “My personal hope is that our new riders can at least attain their assessesd starting averages of last season and some of them might even push on a bit from these.
“But it’s too early to tell whether that is going to happen or not. Joel (Andersson) had a bit of struggle at first but looked fine against Berwick last week. Based on that performance he is certainly capable of making his five-point average.
“In the time so far Max (Ruml) has looked capable of making his average. But his last two meetings have been very poor for him.
“He had a wonderful start to the season and suddenly it’s become a lot more difficult. That of course happens to a lot of new riders.
“Plenty of people have suggested that Max’s performances in those two matches were down to the fact that his bike frame was bent and makes it very difficult to ride.
“Kenny McKinna, the man who fixes these things, spoke to him this week to make sure if it is a problem, or conversely it’s not a probem.
“Max hasn’t said anything about it. But being brilliant in our first three matches, he has suddenly gone back to nothing and we have got to feel there is something there that is not quite right.”
Monarchs fans believe their reserve pairing of Matt Williamson and Josh Pickering are one of strongest duo’s in the division and Campbell is inclined to agree. “Matt got five points against Berwick and that is fine. I think his expertise will allow him to win a few heat two’s away from home and if he does that then we have a chance in every match.
“I think his performance against Berwick was absolutely fine and that is what we expect from him.”
In conclusion Campbell said: “I think everything is coming together for us. I’m not concerned that any other team in the league has the experience to cause us too many problems at Armadale.”