Facing three Premier League matches in three days – two of them phase one fixtures – and all on the final weekend of the speedway season, it’s no surprise that Edinburgh Monarchs riders and officials have shown little enthusiasm for the revamped 2011 race programme, which was ill-conceived and hugely unpopular with supporters all over the country.
Monarchs make the long trip to newcomers Plymouth Devils tonight before moving on to Newport Wasps tomorrow and Workington Comets on Sunday. While not ideal, the busy schedule at least gives the Monarchs riders the chance to pick up a campaign finale cash boost. The Devils stepped up from the National League this year and it’s fair to say they have found the going tough at senior level and if Monarchs are going to pull off a victory anywhere, Plymouth is their best hope. The Capital side hope to welcome back Matthew Wethers after the skipper suffered concussion when he crashed heavily against Glasgow Tigers in the Scottish Cup at Armadale last weekend. “I’m not 100 per cent certain to ride,” said the Aussie. “When I sit down and stand up quickly I still feel dizzy, but I’ll race if I can.”
Fatigue could be Monarchs’ biggest worry and certainly heat leader Craig Cook, pictured, who also rode for Belle Vue Aces in the Elite League this season, is looking forward to a rest. He said: “It’s been tough at times and it’s true to say I’ve let things get to me on occasions. I just want to get these last three meetings out of the way then I can relax a bit.”
Cook had another nightmare at Ashfield on Sunday when he shed two chains when leading different races, virtually handing the Scottish Cup to Glasgow Tigers. “It wasn’t the ideal way to set myself up for this weekend,” said Cook. “But such things happen in speedway and I’ve already forgotten about it. Hopefully I can score a few points over the next three days to make up for it.” Monarchs gaffer John Campbell, who acts as team manager away from home, has been perplexed by some of his team’s showings so far. “I’m probably sounding like a broken record, but it’s down to how our top five will perform. They haven’t been able to find their form on a consistent basis this year, and that’s why we have found it difficult to win on the road. But even at this late stage, if our top five can score the way I know they can, we have a chance in all three matches.”
If Monarchs are to spring a surprise they must do it without key reserve Kyle Howarth who flies out for a series of meetings in Australia this weekend. He said: “My flight was already pre-booked before the matches had to be re-arranged but Monarchs have been very understanding.”
Ironically Howarth returned to form at Ashfield against the Tigers, joint top-scoring with 13 points. “It was a perfect way to end my first season with Monarchs, especially as I have struggled to win races recently,” he said. “It gave me a huge boost, but I’m sorry to miss our final fixtures.”
Howarth has already received big offers from two Premier League rivals for next season. “I can’t say who the clubs are but I haven’t decided on anything yet,” he said. “I would love to be back with Monarchs because they have looked after me so well, but travelling up from Cheshire every week has been hard. I’m due to spend at least six weeks in Australia and when I get back I will give some thought to where I want to race next season.”
With Howarth missing and Byron Bekker also sidelined, Monarchs will have to use guests to cover their vacant reserve positions.