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Team Talk - Week 7 - 25th May
Photo by Dave Payne
Sat 25 May 2013 by Tony Jackson
Saturday 25th May 2013
Hello and welcome to the latest edition of ‘Team Talk' – back after a two week break in our home fixtures; but there has still been plenty going on so let's see where this journey takes us!

Yet again we will pick up where we left off last time – with our home victory over our oldest rivals, Berwick, on Bank Holiday Monday.

We went into that match with spirits high following our last heat victory at Shielfield Park two days previously, however those spirits were dampened within about 50 metres of the start of the opening race when a tangle on the way to the first turn saw Tero and the Bandits guest, Nick Morris of Somerset, crash heavily in a purely racing incident.

Unfortunately it soon became clear that neither rider would be fit to continue – with Nick Morris having broken his collarbone and Tero having suffered an injury to his right foot and to the ribs on his left hand side. Both riders were taken through to the West Cumberland Hospital and, at the time, Tero was convinced that he had broken his ankle and at least a couple of ribs.

Once the match resumed we took control from the start with everyone picking up race wins, including our guest for the evening – former Comet Chris Schramm, who thoroughly enjoyed his return to Derwent Park.

However, the star of the show was undoubtedly Ashley Morris who had his best ever meeting for us by a country mile. Strangely, since joining us in mid-July last year Ashley had never actually won a race for the Comets at home – although he had done away from home on more than one occasion. But, he sped from the gate in heat 2 to put an end to that unwanted record and from then on there was no stopping him as he followed it up with a second win, then a third win and finally a fourth win for a night to remember – and all on the occasion of his nineteenth birthday.

If ever anything demonstrated what a confidence sport speedway is then that was without question it! Ashley is convinced that the improvement was down to a change of frame on his bike – whether it was or not we can only guess. But the results speak for themselves.

Two days earlier at Berwick Ashley was complaining how he was struggling to get the bike to go where he wanted it to go in the corners and was convinced to try a different frame made by a different manufacturer, which he would hopefully find less rigid than the type he was currently using. On the way home from Berwick he called in at Kyle's to pick one up before heading home to his workshop and re-building his bike the next day.

Needless to say, Monday's results were a great boost for him and we all hope that Ashley has turned the corner – pun completely intended – and can carry on picking up the points that his efforts deserve – and of course if we then have all seven riders capable of going out and scoring plenty of points other sides will be worried!

Towards the end of the home meeting we received news from West Cumberland Hospital that Tero had not broken his ankle and that x-rays had shown that he had only broken a bone in his right foot, which was a big relief. Tero then planned to return home to Finland the next day, with his x-rays, and see his own doctor.

However, once back in Finland the news was not as good as he had been told at West Cumberland Hospital. There they found that that he had not just broken a bone in his foot – he had actually broken four bones and dislocated one! After some discussions between various doctors they eventually decided not to operate as there was a danger that an operation could have complications leading to him being sidelined for a longer period of time. But Tero said it had been a close decision whether to operate or not. In the end they put his right foot in plaster and that was due to come off yesterday afternoon (24th May) so we await an update on that – but IF all is healing well he has targeted our next home match – against Redcar on Saturday 8th June – as his comeback date.

Incidentally, our other injured team member – Chris Mills – has also targeted the 8th June for his comeback from the broken left wrist he sustained following our home match against Sheffield on 20th April. His wrist is healing and a combination of further laser treatment and physiotherapy followed by a practice session will hopefully see him able to pick up where he left off, so fingers crossed we can track a team of our own seven riders on that date!

Our guests have done a great job for us recently but at the end of the day you cannot beat having your own seven guys out there – although down the years we have rarely been able to do that – I must work the actual statistics out for that one day – but, I'd guess that the percentage when it has occurred is pretty low!

Following the home match against Berwick we then had a 12-day break between fixtures but there was still plenty going on: Rene returned home to Denmark, where he rode for his Danish club, Esbjerg, the 2012 Danish League Champions, Richard continued to pick up points riding for Lakeside in the Elite League, Kyle was also doubling-up with Poole in the Elite League and Ashley was riding for Dudley in the National League.

Additionally Kyle and Ashley had an international jaunt ahead of them – with both being handed places in the World under-21 Championship semi-finals by virtue of their top four finish in the recent British under-21 Final at Wolverhampton/Dudley – call it what you will!

Ashley was drawn to race at Rawicz, located in the south-west quadrant of Poland – not too far from the Czech and German borders but a distance of just over 1,000 miles from home and a drive of around 16 hours!

Meanwhile Kyle was drawn at Lonigo, in northern Italy, a place that will always be a part of Comets folklore as it was the track where Carl Stonehewer's Grand Prix trail got started when he qualified for the GP series from the Grand Prix Challenge back in October 1999. This meant a trek of over 1100 miles and over 17 hours driving for Kyle from his Manchester base and like Ashley, whatever the outcome it will certainly have added to their experience.

For Ashley it proved to be a difficult day on a track that was far from ideal. I am told that it was a bit on the rough side to start with but then rain started to fall and it became something of a lottery and certainly treacherous. The pre-meeting practice and parade were cancelled due to the rain and, in the end, the referee called a halt to proceedings after 16 heats and the result was declared.

For Ashley it proved to be a frustrating day – he had been holding second place in his opening ride when someone crashed then, in the re-run, he fell and was excluded. He picked up a point in his second outing but then in his third race, heat 9, he crashed heavily on the by now dangerous surface and picked up a shoulder injury, after which he called it a day. All in all not a great day for him points wise but it provided him with some invaluable experience and it was certainly another part of his speedway education. As I always say – ‘in this game you never go to bed knowing less than when you got up' – every day is indeed a school day in speedway!

Meanwhile, many miles south of Ashley, or should that be kilometres seeing as we are talking about mainland Europe, Kyle was plying his trade at Lonigo – in a meeting that did not start until 9:00pm – their standard start time for summer speedway due to the generally high temperatures.

After a last place in his opening ride Kyle went on to score a very creditable 8 points from his remaining four outings – including a win in his fourth race. This put him in fifth position overall behind two Poles and two Danes – one of them, Michael Bech Jensen, being the meeting winner with 14 points. The other two semi-finals saw the top five progress to the three-round World Under-21 Championship Final – however the Lonigo round saw only the top four progress, which meant heartbreak for Kyle as he will now be the series reserve. But, the team GB under-21 managers – Phil Morris and Neil Vatcher, are pushing for Kyle to be handed a Wild Card in the opening round at Pila in Poland, on Saturday 29th June; while it is almost certain that he will be handed a Wild Card in the second round, which takes place at Berwick on Saturday 10th August. We will just have to wait and see on that score.

Following his exploits in Italy late on Saturday evening Kyle then had to dash back to the UK to take part in the British Final at Wolverhampton two days later after some withdrawals due to injury saw him promoted from stand-by to reserve and then up into the field of sixteen.

A creditable performance saw him pick up five well-deserved points as his speedway education continued. I must also take this opportunity to say a big ‘well done' to the locally-based former Comet and recent Comets guest Craig Cook, who scored twelve points, reached the Final and finished fourth overall in the British Final. A terrific effort all round by him.

Such are the swings and roundabouts of speedway that following Kyle's great efforts at Lonigo and Wolverhampton came the news that Poole were dropping him from their Elite League side as part of a major re-shuffle of personnel following Darcy Ward's shoulder injury and recent results.

The problem with top heavy teams, and we have certainly had them in the past, is that things are okay if your top two are scoring well and they don't get injured but, once one of your top two is hurt you can't cover for them effectively and that is precisely what has happened to Poole following Darcy's injury. In order to sort the situation out they have had to make three team changes and bring in three new riders with different averages to effectively re-distribute the points within the side while remaining within the points limit. To that effect it becomes a numbers game and that is what we have told Kyle. Naturally he is disappointed about it but it is more to do with the numbers than anything he has or hasn't done. No doubt Kyle was in their initial plans because his average fitted and he is now out of their plans because of his average – unfortunately that is the nature of the sport these days.

At the end of the day Poole own Kyle's contract and his time will without doubt come again. In the meantime a less hectic schedule may just be what he needs right now and of course it allows him to put all his energies into the Comets as well as meaning a little less van-time on the roads of Britain!

Last Saturday's visit to Leicester proved to be a disappointment for many reasons as we failed to collect any points from a league match for the first time this season. Yet again we were struggling to make the gate and that is absolutely crucial at that track.

I find it frustrating that passing is so hard there as everything else is absolutely first class – a great new stadium, good facilities that have been improved and added to this year – it is all really good but it is just such a shame that the starts are so critical. When you have a side that are more renowned for their passing and racing ability than their gating it can become a long night, and you see riders from both sides being headed home by riders that have no real right to be beating the riders they are beating it all becomes a bit surreal.

Nevertheless, we were only two points down after seven races and although we dropped back to 10 points down after 11 heats a superb 8-1 from Rusty, on a tactical ride, in heat 12 with our excellent guest, Cameron Heeps, following him home put us back in contention for at least a point when we were back at 3 points down with three races to go.

However, a clever ride by our old friend Kauko Nieminen in heat 13 saw him push Richard wide on turn two of the opening lap allowing his team-mate Magnus Karlsson to come up the inside and join Nemo for a 5-1 meant we needed something from heat 14 – and for just over a lap we had something! Cameron Heeps led, with Kyle holding third, before Kyle locked up and fell on turn two of the second lap. With Kyle excluded the Lions took full advantage of a second chance as they squeezed our guest between them on the way to turn one and hit the front – turning a potential Comets 4-2 into a match winning Lions 5-1. That meant that only a 5-0 to us in heat 15 would salvage a point – but that didn't happen – as we ended up losing 53-40.

Last night saw Rene in action in the first of the two-legged Danish Final at Slangerup – I was glad to be able to find it broadcast live on the internet – where Rene picked up three points in a tough field. The meeting was won by Niels-Kristian Iversen, with Nicolai Klindt second and our old friend – the all-action Peter Kildemand third.

The second of the two finals takes place at Holsted on Friday 30th August, which is a date we have managed to keep clear of in our fixtures so far.

Rene is flying back to the UK this morning and we are collecting him from the airport in order to get him to Derwent Park in time to ride for us this evening as one of only three actual Comets taking to the track tonight against the Glasgow Tigers – along with Richard and Rusty. Tero and Chris are injured of course and are replaced by the in-form Jozsef Tabaka (Edinburgh) and Micky Dyer (Redcar) respectively.

Meanwhile Ashley and Kyle are both away at Gdansk in northern Poland as part of the Team GB under-21 World Team Cup side taking part in the semi-final stage of this year's competition – with Kyle being given the honour of captaining the side. They set off early yesterday (Friday) morning and whatever happens it will be another part of their speedway education – hopefully they can have a good night in what will be without doubt a tough meeting with their Polish hosts the clear favourites to top the score-chart.

Whilst it is a great honour for two of our side to be ‘called up' it does naturally cause problems on the team front – so tonight we are operating Rider Replacement for Kyle, which means everybody except Richard and Rene can have an outing, while the in-form Lewis Kerr steps in to cover for Ashley.

Lewis is having a tremendous debut season in the Premier League with Newcastle and I am pleased for him as he is a good kid. I first met him back in 2011 when I got him to help us out at Leicester in the PL Fours Finals and have kept in touch with him, and followed his progress ever since, so I am really pleased that he is doing so well and that he is able to help us out this evening. No doubt many of you saw him in action for Newcastle in their great win at Berwick on Tuesday evening in the Live TV match on Sky Sports. Lewis did extremely well and yet again the Premier League came away with lots of credit, further proving what really great entertainment this league provides and in my opinion it is far more entertaining than many of the Elite League matches we have seen broadcast recently.

A full ‘Meeting Preview' of this evening's match against Glasgow can be found elsewhere within the ‘Comets News' section of this website.

After this evening our next team fixture will be the home fixture against Redcar on Saturday 8th June (7:00pm start) when our ‘regular' guest Micky Dyer will be on the opposing side trying to take points from us, but that is speedway unfortunately, and guests are a necessary evil. That match against Redcar will be followed by a visit to Glasgow the next day (Sunday 9th June)for the return fixture to tonight's match – so it will be a busy weekend for what will hopefully be a full-strength Comets side!

Although the team aren't in action for two weeks after tonight – because of next weekend's Cardiff Grand Prix – the Comets pairing of Richard and Rene will be in action at Somerset next Friday night (7:30pm start, 31st May) in the Premier League Pairs. We have a great record in that competition – and of course we won it again last year when Rene and late replacement Adam Roynon came out on top of the pile – hopefully Richard and Rene can repeat that success this year. The PL Pairs is a great meeting and every heat is like a heat 15 – I have always been a big fan of the event right back to the mid-1970's when Ian Thomas dreamt up the concept and I think the venue and timing, on the eve of the Cardiff GP, is perfect. IF we can avoid last places – the key to the meeting because of the 4, 3, 2, 0 scoring system to encourage team riding – then we will be in with a shout. But, as usual, it will be tough and a lot of good pairings won't reach the sudden-death semi-finals.

Of course the PL Pairs is a great starter to a great weekend, with the Cardiff Grand Prix always very popular – and last weekend's victory for Tai Woffinden in Prague at the Czech GP will not have done ticket sales any harm. Of course we must mention the fact that ex-Comet Craig Cook is one of the reserves on the night – he was due to be one last year until injury prevented him from taking his place. If he gets a ride then that will be great experience for him in front of a 40,000 crowd – and obviously he will become the first Cumbrian to ride in a GP – but even if he doesn't get a ride he will still have an experience that any of us simply can't imagine.

Then, on Sunday afternoon on the way home from Cardiff, there s the Kauko Nieminen Testimonial taking place at Leicester (4:00pm start) where a Leicester side take on a Nemo Select side. Kauko is one of the sport's real nice guys and fully deserves his big day – I have always regarded him as a mate and thoroughly enjoyed his years as a Comet – both as a spectator and as a team manager when working with him in 2007. I am sure many of you feel the same – and as I told him last weekend – ‘no matter who he rides for we still class him as a Comet!'

It was good to catch up with former Comet Andre Compton at Leicester last Saturday evening. He came down to see Richard and the rest of the boys and found himself getting talked into riding in David Howe's Testimonial meeting the next day – where he did well – scoring 7 points including a race win in his second ride; despite never having been on a bike since he ended the 2010 season with us. Sheffield still own his contract and rumour has it in this week's ‘Speedway Star' that he may well make a track return with Sheffield. I am sure we will all watch that development with interest. Incidentally, Rusty did well in David Howe's meeting too – scoring 12 points and reaching the Grand Final.

Finally, while mentioning the ‘Speedway Star' there is a great article about the Northside Training Track in this week's edition – well worth a read, and it is really good to see all the effort that Craig Branney is putting in getting the recognition that it deserves. I cannot praise that place enough.

Until next time,

Tony J
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Last Updated :  Sat 25 May 2013, 10:15 UK
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Photography
Dave Payne, Adrian Randall