The new National Stadium, home of the Aces

The Elite Aces will test the New Monarchs

PREVIEW Wednesday 30th March 2016, 8:32pm

by Graham Muncie

The 2016 season gets underway this week with 2 milestones being celebrated. Firstly we begin the 20th consecutive season at Armadale and secondly and undoubtedly of more note we celebrate the start of the 30th consecutive year with our promotional team, Edinburgh Speedway (1986) Limited, at the helm.

In a sport where a promotion can run a season opening meeting on the Friday and announce they are to close on the Monday like Plymouth did the other week this is a truly remarkable achievement.

30 years, 3 venues and 2 team names worth of dedication (some of us will remember the ill fated year of the Scottish Monarchs) deserved a grand opening and what an opening we have as we welcome the most famous team in world speedway the Belle Vue Aces! The list of Belle Vue greats reads like a who’s who of world speedway from Peter Craven to Ivan Mauger. Peter Collins to Jason Crump the Aces have always had a star studded line-up.

Unfortunately the Elite League does not boast the star names it once did but that does not mean we will not be treated to a feast on Friday with a homecoming of sorts on the cards. The Manchester men’s number 1 Matej Zagar does not make the trip but that does not weaken a line-up full of Armadale track specialists. Where do we start!

At number 1 for the Aces sits someone who needs no introduction to the Blue and Gold. Some would argue the greatest ever Monarch our Captain Fantastic from last year Craig Cook. The Monarchs faithful will be watching with great interest this year to see if Craig can take that next step we all hope he will.

At number 2 another former league winning Monarch this time from 2014 when he was the sensation of the Premier League increasing his average from a 3 point assessed average to a near 8 point mark. A very popular and consistent guest last year at Armadale one half of Belle Vue’s twin duo Stevie Worrall

Completing a hat-trick of league winning Monarch legends at number 3 is young Aussie Max Fricke. Max was seen as a coup for the Monarchs when he signed in 2013 and this was to prove the case as he moved from a rookie to a heat leader in 2 years. Earning his move to the Aces where he progressed nicely last year in his debut campaign.

Breaking the trend of ex home heroes at number 4 is the second of the Worrall twins Richie. Richie is another renowned Armadale performer and has made the move to Glasgow in the Premier League this year on what looks like a bargain average alongside his Aces duties.

So after a top 4 of men with copious amounts of Armadale experience you would expect a respite at number 5............ Not with this Aces team though as we see no less than 7 times British Champion Scott Nicholls! Scott is making his first Armadale appearance since 1998 but is a well known proponent of the smaller tricks so will be sure to revel in the conditions.

At reserve for the Aces we have the reasonably inexperienced duo of Joe Jacobs and Matt Williamson. Jacobs making his return to the sport after a year out although he does have previous Armadale form from his time along the M8 with the Tigers. Williamson is another of the increasing line of motocross converts and spent time with Scunthorpe last year. He is yet to make it stick at the Premier or Elite league levels but cannot be discounted.

Enough about the away men though what about our home heroes. After 2 years of unparallel success that included 2 league championships, 2 league cups, KO cup, pairs and fours successes what line-up could the promotion put together to try and complete the hat-trick of league titles. Due to the nature of speedway and the team building limits we were forced to mathematically de-strengthen and out went previously mentioned number 1 Craig Cook his partner in crime Justin Sedgeman and at reserve Robert Branford. Unfortunately also as this meeting is a challenge fixture we fall foul to a fixture clash with no Sam Masters or Max Clegg available due to Elite league commitments.

The Home men have brought in 2 more than capable guests though starting at number 1 where Workington’s American hero Ricky Wells guests in place of Sam. Ricky has been a bit of a slow burner since his arrival on these shores but is now an experienced British performer increasing his average year on year. He rates Armadale as one of his favourite tracks and was one off if not the most impressive visitor last year.

The second of our guests rides at number 2 and is one of the most experienced men ever to grace the Armadale circuit Theo Pijper. Theo having first ridden for the Blue and Gold way back in 2002 and was of course a key component of our first ever league title in 2003.

At number 3 is the first of what we hope will be our dynamic German duo ‘The Kaiser’ Kevin Wolbert. Kevin more than put his disappointing 2014 behind him last year and was crucial in our success this was noticed the most when we couldn’t complete back to back trebles when Somerset pipped us in the KO cup final with Kevin absent.

At 4 is our German Wunderkind Erik Riss. Erik was a roaring success last year more than maintaining his 5 point starting average despite spending very little time at reserve and his heat 14 wins particularly away from home became stuff of legend. Erik has dedicated himself to his fitness this winter and is looking to really kick on and make a mark for himself on the speedway scene in his second season with the Blue and Gold.

At 5 is another returning legend Ryan Fisher! The Fish as he is affectionately known had by his own admission the most enjoyable years of his career with the Monarchs and if he can recover his previous form will make an absolute mockery of his starting average. Mon The Fish!

With Theo guesting at number 2 that means a reshuffle of the line-up and our new Aussie Jye Etheridge slots in at number 6. Anyone who was at the press and practice last Friday would have been impressed as he improved lap on lap. There will be little pressure on Jye this year but if he can carry on the recent record of Monarchs Aussie imports we will be delighted.

Having previously mentioned all the experience in the other performers at number 7 for the Monarchs is perhaps the most inexperienced rider in British speedway. Haven ridden a grand total of one competitive fixture 16 year old Dan Bewley joins us on loan from Friday night’s opponents. Dan was super impressive at press and practice last week and had a fantastic debut for the Belle Vue Colts in the National League on Monday. Racing to an impressive 11+1 from 5 finished rides. Definitely one to watch and we will give him all the time he needs to progress.

So what a mouth-watering prospect we have in store on Friday with no less than 7 league winning Monarchs on show between the two sides. A truly fantastic start to what looks to be a very interesting season.