Speedway: Title-winning skipper says Monarchs can defy critics

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Returning Edinburgh Monarchs star Derek Sneddon is optimistic about the speedway outfit’s Premier League title hopes this season – which flies in the face of criticism among some supporters who feel the lack of a big hitting No. 1 rider could see the team struggle to reach the play-offs.

Sneddon, who has spent the last three years with Newcastle Diamonds, skippered Monarchs to the second of their three championship crowns in 2008, and reckons it would be wrong to write off the squad’s chances when the new campaign begins next month.

“Basically you have to look back to that 2008 success and we were in a similar position. Nobody knew what we would get from Ryan (Fisher), but throughout the team there was no weak links, and I think that’s how this season’s squad has been built.”

Team-mate Andrew Tully, who will ride at No. 1, is being widely tipped to remain dominant at Armadale as he was last year, in the wake of the departure of German kingpin Kevin Wolbert, and Sneddon says: “Andrew has always been a very determined rider. And when he puts his mind to something he pretty much always does it.

“In the past he has always had someone like Fisher or Wolbert to take that No. 1 position, but being top scorer 12 months ago, Andrew is determined to hang on to that role this season.

“I think Andrew can up his game, perhaps not 100 per cent of the time, but I think he will surprise a few people.”

Sneddon continued: “Looking at the rest of the team I can’t really see any weak links. Obviously we have a new Aussie, Micky Dyer, on board but coming into a squad with good team spirit, I think he’ll come on, and I’ve heard nothing but praise for him.

“I’m not as pessimistic as some people about how we’ll do. It’s not always good for expectations to be high. The last thing you want is to open the pages of Speedway Star and find them tipping Edinburgh to win the league title.

“This puts added pressure on everybody, you’re better coming from behind.”

Sneddon is noted for having the best equipment he can and revealed that preparations are already well in hand to ensure his machinery is tip top for the challenges ahead. “I’m renewing a lot of my machinery. I will have one brand-new bike, and one of my engines is going away to get a complete rebuild.

“My other two have already been done recently.”

Despite enjoying himself in his three-year sojourn with Newcastle, Sneddon is delighted to be back in Monarchs colours and added: “It was a very hard decision to leave Newcastle because Newcastle made me feel so welcome and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it down there.

“But at the same time I’m very happy to be returning to Monarchs.”