Edinburgh Monarchs: Now is not the time to stick the knives in
That disappointment has been compounded with the loss of skipper and No.1 Josh Pickering to a shoulder injury that is likely to rule the Australian out for a month at the very least.
The Monarchs have failed to qualify for the BSN Series semi-finals and are now on the brink of being eliminated from the KO Cup following Wednesday night's 54-36 first-leg defeat to the Oxford Cheetahs, Sam Masters rubbing salt into the wounds with a 15-point maximum.
Having had a browse of the Monarchs Facebook page after the midweek loss south of the border, some fans, albeit the minority, took the opportunity to vent their frustrations over recent performances. I am not in a position to deny them that right. It produced a healthy debate. Those individuals pay good money to support their team trackside. But it's how you channel that criticism is what will earn or lose you credibility.
So, here's my take on it. Let's remember the riders are working around the clock to ensure they get the best out of their machinery, often for little reward and not through the want of trying. Long hours in the workshop results in very little sleep, days, sometimes weeks, spent away from loved ones, not to mention the hundreds and hundreds of miles racked up in the van and or above the clouds. Speedway really is a sport like no other. There is no one more disappointed than the riders themselves when they're not scoring points. They feel the pinch when things aren't going well on track. They do not live a life of luxury like other sporting professionals who still pick up their hugely inflated salaries irrespective of performance or result. I really could go on.
So to call for heads to roll after three weeks is - to be blunt - rash and totally uncalled for. It's not what the riders, who are perhaps low on confidence or still trying to find their feet, want to read. The team needs more meetings to gel. Five matches is not a suitable barometer to judge anyone on.
As I mentioned in an earlier piece, now is not the time to hit the panic button. If the Monarchs fail to overturn an 18-point deficit against the Cheetahs at Armadale tonight, then of course to have exited two cup competitions just three weeks into the 2023 campaign is a real kick in the teeth. There's no hiding from that.
But the league is the club's bread and butter and that stance will never change. Cups are nice but league titles are what separates the elite from mediocrity.