Sam's Monarchs
Danny Phillips 0 ()
Richie's Devils
Joe Lawlor 0 ()
Friday 21st May 2021
Armadale Stadium

How good will it be to see crowds streaming through the stadium turnstiles on Friday?

How good to have speedway and the Edinburgh Monarchs back in our lives, up close and personal, so to speak?

Looking back to October 4th 2019 and the last Monarchs' meeting at Armadale staged in front of fans, not even A Question of Sport's Sue Barker could have predicted 'what happened next'. When Ricky Wells led Newcastle's Ulrich Ostergaard through the final bend to take the last chequered flag of an up and down season, little did we know as we headed for the exits that it would be over 19 months before we were able to cross that hallowed threshold again – certainly to cheer on the Monarchs.

Covid aside, so much has happed since then. Season 2020 was a complete non-starter, of course, and as we prepare for the tapes to spring to life on this new campaign, it's interesting to note that the two riders mentioned above, Wells and Ostergaard, are now teammates down the M8 at Glasgow.

But what of the 2021 Monarchs? The plan was for all seven riders signed up for last term to simply assume the same positions a year on. Not so simple as it turned out. It was with great regret that due respectively to visa complications and rule changes regarding team composition (i.e., the inception of the new rising star initiative), it was necessary to release two riders and, sadly, Lasse Fredricksen and James Sarjeant were the pair to go.

The club acted quickly, however, and excelled in attracting exciting alternatives in 23-year-old Yorkshireman Nathan Greaves and Mancunian Joe Lawlor, not long turned 20. Nathan has ridden Armadale sporadically over the years and, this season, doubles up as Devils No.1 in the National Development League. Joe's inclusion, on the other hand, not only satisfies the 'Rising Star' requirement, but also brings to the reserve berths a thrilling youngster of real potential with the hunger to succeed.

Partnering Joe at reserve will be the vastly experienced William Lawson. Since returning to the sport in 2018 after an eight-year gap – and we think the pandemic has been a long drawn-out affair – Perth-born Willie has shown occasional glimpses of the form that, in 2005, saw him crowned British under-18 champion. Now, with the benefit of a major equipment overhaul, this could be his best chance yet to recapture those former glories on a more regular basis.

Edinburgh's third newcomer is Australian Kye Thomson who will start at No. 4. Another fine prospect, the Queensland-born rider finished runner-up to Jaimon Lidsey in the 2018 Aussie under-21championship. With only two meetings under his belt on UK soil, however, he may well take time to get up to speed around Armadale but, when he does, all indications point to an eventful and prosperous Monarchs career for the 22-year-old.

Early season jitters could affect any of our rookies, of course, but the more than ample leeway provided by having a top end of such genuine quality should help enormously in easing any pressure they might find themselves under. Indeed, in Sam Masters, Richie Worrall and Josh Pickering, we are extremely fortunate to have a heat-leading trio regarded rightly by many as among the Championship's finest.

With Friday's opener at home to Birmingham subject to a date swap, our fans now have a rare opportunity to run their eye over all 13 riders making up the Monarchs' and Devils' line-ups on the same evening. Dubbed Sam's Monarchs Vs Richie's Devils, this hastily arranged challenge match will feature fairly balanced selects taken from the entire Blue & Gold rider pool.

The spare slot created by Nathan Greaves' frankly disappointing inability to be in two places at once – doubling up indeed – will be taken up by Berwick's Austrian flyer Dany Gappmaier. Yes, the gap will be filled by the Gapp.

As things stand, Friday's line-ups in full read:

Sam's Monarchs Richie's Devils

1) Sam Masters 1) Richie Worrall

2) Danny Phillips 2) Joe Lawlor

3) Kye Thomson 3) Danny Gappmaier

4) Nathan Greaves 4) Tom Wooley

5) William Lawson 5) Josh Pickering

6) George Rothery 6) Sheldon Davies

7) Gregor Millar 7) Lewis Millar

Intriguingly quirky, it's a concept that should captivate not only the fans but the riders, particularly the likes of Sheldon Davies and the Millar brothers, as well.

So, let's get revved up for a night of thrilling speedway – and that's before we even mentioned the possibility of a Pickering Vs Rothery head-to-head…