Comets versus Newcastle at Derwent Park, at 7:30pm this Friday!
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TEAM TALK - Week 5 - 27th April
Photo by Dave Payne
Sat 27 Apr 2013 by Tony Jackson
Saturday 27th April 2013
Hello and welcome to another week of ‘Team Talk' the column that seems to get longer and longer every week as more things happen both behind the scenes and in full view of the speedway world!

I will be honest, I was unsure how this column would go when I started it, but at least by not being limited to the size of a page in a programme there is room to explain all that goes on in an average week – if such a thing exists in speedway – and there has even been some positive feedback from fans who have enjoyed being informed.

Yet again, we will start at the beginning and bring us through the week, ending up on Saturday morning – which at present looks set to be a great day for speedway when looking through the window!

Last Saturday's home meeting against Sheffield saw us eager for revenge following our one-point defeat at Owlerton two days earlier – and that's exactly what we got as we raced to our biggest victory of the season so far – running out 62–33 winners. I daresay that you would have got good ‘odds' on that score before the meeting although to be honest that is a score-line that would not have happened had the Tigers not lost the services of Simon Stead in a fall on the opening lap of the meeting.

Nevertheless, you can only beat what is in front of you, but at least it gave all the lads a confidence boosting night and a good pay-day. A quick look down the scores shows that everyone contributed with a good score in what was a terrific team effort. It was nice to see Ashley in amongst the points while Kyle continued the return to form following on from his great display at Sheffield. Meanwhile Rene was undoubtedly the star of the show as he raced to a paid maximum and so received the well deserved celebratory bumps at the end. I must admit that I am always pleased when ‘the bumps' are over as I can still vividly recall Newcastle's riders dropping Jesper Olsen while giving him the bumps at Derwent Park back in 1999 and him receiving quite a blow on his head as he landed!

While the loss of ‘Steady' undoubtedly played into our hands last Saturday it was obviously very disappointing for Simon as he had really been looking forward to racing here again and of course I know that many fans were looking forward to seeing him in action too. I count myself as one of those in that respect. Simon has been a good mate for a few years and we have always kept in touch since he left to go into the Elite League and I was keen to see his unique style around Derwent Park once more. Hopefully we will get a chance later in the season and I am sure he will be one of the names in the frame when the Team GB side is selected for the match against Australia that will be staged here on Saturday 17th August – which is a fixture I am very much looking forward to – and not just because I get a ‘night off' from being team manager!

Unfortunately the feeling of delight last Saturday was very short-lived as you will no doubt be well aware Chris Mills decided that he needed to try a few things with his starts after the meeting and that's when things went wrong.

At the first attempt the bike lifted throwing him off and he immediately knew that he had a problem. An initial inspection by the medical team saw him being sent off to hospital for an x-ray on a suspected broken left wrist and that was confirmed when he received the results of the x-ray.

A four-week lay-off seems to be the accepted amount of time that he will need to recover, so that looks like keeping him out of action until mid-May. Thankfully May is nowhere near as busy as April has been, but nevertheless it still means that he will miss around half-a-dozen meetings, which will obviously affect the team as well as Chris. He was just getting into his stride and picking up some good points from the reserve berth, both at home and away, and had fitted into the team really well.

Chris will be calling to see the Ipswich-based laser treatment man Brian Simpson – a regular haunt for injured speedway riders. Apparently the basis of the laser treatment is that it encourages blood flow to the affected area, which in turn then encourages healing of the break as it speeds up the growth of bone at that location allowing them to recover quicker and get back racing sooner. But, at least Chris is based relatively local to Brian Simpson so that should make it easier to go and see him.

Obviously there is never a good time for a rider to be injured but this was not a good time for sure as we had a match the next day at Newcastle and of course five days later we were due at Ipswich – the most local track to Chris and one where he has spent quite a bit of time racing as a member of the Witches side – so he was to be our secret weapon in the first leg of the cup-tie.

As soon as Chris was sent off to hospital it was a case of tracking down a guest rider for Newcastle. Looking at the averages and the time-scale involved then our first choice was Redcar's Micky Dyer, although getting him wasn't quite as straightforward as that.

Redcar had been racing away at Leicester that night and before you ask a rider to guest you must first of all clear it with the riders' promoter. Obviously Micky and Brian were travelling back up the road from Leicester but, after several attempts and leaving voice messages, I eventually got hold of Brian Havelock, who was only too willing to help us out. Then I had to track down Micky, whose ‘phone was also going to voicemail. However, eventually I was able to catch up with him and at 11:15pm he agreed to race for us at Newcastle.

Even so, it still meant a busy few hours for Micky, who had wrecked a clutch basket in his number one bike at Leicester, which meant getting back to his Edinburgh base and then spending a few extra hours in the workshop on Sunday to get everything ready for his guest appearance Newcastle that night. So, a public vote of thanks goes out to Brian Havelock and Micky for helping us out at such short notice.

Our trip to Newcastle was very similar to the one that we made at the start of the season in the ‘Ian Thomas Shield' – on both occasions we reached 40 points – the only team to do so at Brough Park so far this season – but yet again we just were beaten out of the gate there.

Despite trying everything we found it impossible to out-gate the Diamonds pairing and by the end we were convinced we were missing something quite fundamental but no-one could work out why or how? But, on that form we won't be the only side that can't live with the Diamonds out of the gate at Brough Park this season and in many ways we did well to reach 40 points considering we were consistently out-gated!

What was pleasing at Brough Park was to see Kyle back to his best there in his final outing. He has been back there a few times since his crash there last summer but naturally he was a little wary of the place since then. However, his final ride saw him shake off those demons and look right back to how he was before his crash last year, so that augers well for our return visit later in the season when we will be in search of league points.

Naturally the failure to pick up any League Cup points at Brough Park on Sunday effectively ended our hopes of progressing in the competition barring a series of unlikely results in the remaining fixtures in our group. However, after Redcar defeated Newcastle at the South Tees Motorpark on Thursday of this week it just made it even more frustrating about what might have been had we actually held our lead at Redcar and not dropped that home point to Newcastle. But, as I have said previously – speedway, like most sport is full of ‘what ifs'.

Tuesday evening saw Kyle and Ashley in action at Wolverhampton, although the meeting was staged by Dudley who use the Monmore Green circuit, in the British under-21 Championship.

Kyle rode really well, dropping just a single point (to Rye House's Jason Garrity – a youngster from Manchester that was a regular at the Northside Training Track a few years ago) in his five qualifying rides to progress straight to the Final, along with the unbeaten Garrity.

Meanwhile Ashley had a tougher time of it right from the off – having had a fall on the parade lap when he was ran into by James Sarjeant. He was then brought down by Josh Bates in his opening ride before winning the re-start. Despite feeling sore after his falls he went on to claim the third highest points total (13) from his five outings – dropping his only point to Garrity and Kyle. This put him into the semi-final, where he finished second to Robert Branford, and so into the final where he joined Kyle and Garrity.

By all accounts the final was a terrific race, with all four riders close together for all four laps but in the end it was Robert Branford that held on to take the title having led from the gate. Kyle finished second, an improvement on the third place that he took last season, while Ashley came home fourth – just behind Jason Garrity, the favourite going into the final race.

But, overall, both Comets can justifiably feel proud of their achievements and to provide two of the four finalists proves that we have two of Britain's best young prospects in our team. No doubt they will be offered places among Britain's representatives in this year's World under-21 qualifying rounds, which can only be good for their experience and on-going development.

Again, as so often in speedway good news is followed by bad, and so it proved this week when after seeing how well Kyle and Ashley had done on Tuesday night we were hit by the news that Richard was hurt on Wednesday night when riding for Lakeside at Birmingham. Apparently he was on a 5-1 with Robert Mear in heat 2 when Birmingham's German rider Martin Smolinski came up the inside of him and simply ploughed into him causing a very big crash.

You become obsessed with the ‘speedway live updates' website in this game when you have riders racing in the Elite League or other competitions almost waiting to relax when the meeting is over. But, of course you also get the frustration of knowing something has happened but not being able to find out for a while afterwards. That was simply the case on Wednesday when once I knew Richard had been injured and pulled out of the meeting I needed information as soon as I could. Not just to know how he was but also as the clock then starts ticking with regard to booking guest riders. Why these things always seem to happen the night before you have a meeting is one of life's great mysteries!

But, when the inevitable call came through from Richard that he was not going to be able to ride at Ipswich it was a case of booking a guest at short notice to travel a long way – as is so often the case!

I had already identified my number one target as Craig Cook, but yet again it was a case of tracking down the Edinburgh promoters and getting permission to ask Craig and then sorting out the practicalities with him, so yet again it was well after 10:00pm when that was all sorted. Once again, thanks to the Edinburgh promotion for their help with that.

As you can tell by now, speedway management and promotion is very much a 24/7 thing – and I am sure if there were more than 24 hours in a day and more than 7 days in a week it would fill that time as well!

Prior to Richard's crash we had already been chasing guests for Chris and although we had been able to secure the services of Micky Dyer for tonight's home tie with Ipswich and our visit to Scunthorpe on Tuesday, the visit to Ipswich was proving a lot more problematical.

A combination of other meetings taking place on Thursday, including the British semi-final at Sheffield, and many riders being out of the country meant that my list got eaten through pretty quickly before we were finally able to get Somerset's Stefan Nielsen to help us out at Foxhall Heath. Stefan, the reigning British under-19 Champion is based not far from Ipswich and was actually in contention for a team place there this year after some impressive guest bookings for the Witches last season. However, when the Witches didn't include him in their plans for this year Somerset snapped him up.

Unfortunately Stefan had no luck this time when guesting for us, experiencing some mechanical issues and even the loss of his steel shoe in his second ride. However, he will be remembered for one bizarre incident on the parade lap when, as he came down the home straight, he saw that the starting tapes were in the down position and in a quick thinking moment promptly laid his bike down to slide under the tapes ‘limbo' style – one of the most remarkable things I have seen at speedway for many a year!

Unfortunately our visit to Ipswich was yet again another typical Ipswich performance – where again gating is of utmost importance. I know that this sounds a recurring theme, but it just gets so frustrating when we have a team of racers and it doesn't come down to that. Ipswich, very much like Edinburgh, has never been one of our happiest hunting grounds, in fact Ipswich probably even more so. The one exception was the excellent away victory we achieved there last year after it had rained quite heavily beforehand, changing the race-track to something that the home riders didn't like and we absolutely loved. Up until that meeting we had never even led at any point in a meeting at Ipswich going right back to 1970.

On this occasion we had a few mechanical issues affecting various members of the side and even our guest Craig Cook was affected – twice having major clutch problems and once even winning a race despite picking up a puncture on the last lap. Rene was handicapped after getting excluded for a starting offence, while Ashley again picked up some good points, as did Tero, with Kyle yet again being competitive throughout.

Going into the fixture we set 12 points as the worst figure that we wanted to fall behind and we successfully held that margin until the final two heats when the Witches took maximum points to extend their advantage to 20 points; which dramatically altered our target for tonight – but certainly something we can pull back if we get things going our way.

Incidentally, a full ‘Meeting Preview' of this evening's match against the Witches can be found elsewhere within the Comets News section of this website.

Having stayed ‘down country' after the Ipswich match the following morning saw the journey home broken by having to spend over one hour making ‘phone calls from what my satellite office – or Wetherby services car park as it is better known.

Richard confirmed that he would not be fit to ride this evening so that set the whole guest scenario off once again, and thankfully everything was quickly sorted to use Craig Cook this evening. Richard had x-rays yesterday and says that he has been told that nothing is broken but it is now simply a case of letting the swelling subside and the bruising to come out, but he feels pretty rough at the present time.

Obviously we will continue to monitor the situation ahead of Tuesday's Sky TV match at Scunthorpe (7:30pm start) and, if necessary, we will once again have to call upon the services of a guest rider as cover for Richard.

Talking of the Sky TV match; just a reminder that Scunthorpe promoter Rob Godfrey has reduced adult admission to £10 for Tuesday's fixture to encourage a good crowd and help create great atmosphere in the stadium for the tv cameras. Hopefully we can put on a good performance to match that atmosphere.

Also, please remember that there is no speedway at Derwent Park next Saturday evening as we are away at Berwick, starting at 7:00pm, with the return league match taking place at Derwent Park at 7:00pm on Bank Holiday Monday.

Unfortunately we will be without Rene Bach for our visit to Berwick as he is competing in the Danish Championship semi-final that Saturday evening and so we will have to use Rider Replacement for him, but hopefully Richard will definitely be fit for that meeting, although we will still need a guest rider at reserve for Chris. However, Rene will definitely be back from Denmark for our home meeting with Berwick on Bank Holiday Monday (7:00pm start).

This evening's home meeting with Ipswich is followed by a seven-race, eight-rider, second half event for the opening round of the ‘Northern Open Championship' – an individual meeting for riders from the Northern Junior League, which of course includes riders representing the Workington Meteors, many of whom started out at the Northside Training Track. It would be greatly appreciated by them if plenty of fans can stay behind and give them some support – they are the future of British speedway. A race-card for this junior event can be downloaded from the website and the Unofficial Comets fans forum.

Finally, an update on Mason Campton: His appeal has now been submitted to all the relevant authorities and it is yet again simply a case of waiting and hoping that the appeal is successful.

Until next time,
Tony J
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Last Updated :  Sat 27 Apr 2013, 10:05 UK
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Photography
Dave Payne, Adrian Randall