Premier League Preview 2007
Predicted finishing positions relate to the league section of the championship.
Jacek Rempala; Michal Makovsky; Stanislaw Burza; Andreas Bergstrom; Michael Coles; Benji Compton; John Branney
The Bandits have successfully built their team around imports in recent years and go for that approach again. Stan Burza in particular attracted many admiring glances last summer and the Bandits must be delighted to have him on board once more. He'll be well supported by Rempala, Bergstrom and the long-serving Makovsky. Whether that will be enough to get them through remains to be seen as there are certainly question marks over their bottom end. Michael Coles has been a shadow of his former self over the last two seasons and he's not getting any younger. Having said that, there seems to be something about the Berwick air that kick starts a flagging career - see Chris Schramm and Carl Wilkinson as excellent examples of that. If he can regain some form then that would alleviate the burden on their young reserve pair, both of whom still have much to prove.
Key Man: Michael Coles - Can the old fella roll back the years?
Jason Lyons; Ulrich Ostergaard; Emiliano Sanchez; Brent Werner; Aidan Collins; Ben Powell; Lee Smart
Isn't it fantastic to have the Brummies featured in an article about the present day rather than the distant past? Graham Drury has done a good job in putting together a side that's competitive and entertaining, surely the main objectives for the first year? Jason Lyons seems to be settled into Premier League racing now and he'll be a big favourite with the new and returning supporters. Backing him up are Emiliano Sanchez, Ulrich Ostergaard and a surprisingly low averaged Brent Werner. That top four will be good enough to allow Ben Powell and Lee Smart time to develop and for Aidan Collins' occasional high scores to be a bonus rather than a requirement.
Key Man: Jason Lyons - His exciting style should help cement the Brummies in the local's affections.
Ronnie Correy; William Lawson; Matthew Wethers; Henrik Moller; Derek Sneddon; Daniel Tessari; Andrew Tully
After a tough 2006 campaign it's surprising to see that the Monarchs haven't opted for radical change in their side. Five of the team that finished last year are retained with Ronnie Correy replacing Theo Pijper the only significant amendment. Correy steps down to middle tier racing for the first time and it will be interesting to see how he adapts, especially as the majority of the tracks will be new to him. The remainder of the side is populated with youngsters with unfulfilled ambitions in the sport. Of these, Lawson and Wethers are furthest ahead in their development and it's not inconceivable that either or both could usurp Correy in the averages. At the tail end the Monarchs have opted to include Andrew Tully in preference to Sean Stoddart who filled that position last term.
Key Man: Ronnie Correy - Can the veteran American pile up the points that Monarchs expect from him?
Shane Parker; George Stancl; Lee Smethills; Robert Ksiezak; Trent Leverington; David McAllan; Lee Dicken
On a first glance this side looks unremarkable and a side doomed for the lower reaches of the table. A more detailed look suggests that it's perhaps not too bad a side at all. It certainly seems to lack a third heatleader but that's perhaps offset by a remarkably experienced tail, McAllan in particular should be able to post some high scores from a reserve berth. If one of the middle order riders, most likely Ksiezak, can push their average to somewhere over the seven point mark then this side could become a formidable force. Their prospects of success are also largely dependent on the returning George Stancl, the suspicion is that he's a declining force, we'll know in October whether that assessment is correct.
Key Man: Robert Ksiezak - Enjoyed an excellent 2006 campaign, can he push on from that in 2007?
ISLE OF WIGHT ISLANDERS
Chris Holder; Cory Gathercole; Krystof Stojanowski; Jason Bunyan; Glen Phillips; Chris Johnson; Andrew Bargh
That they've retained Chris Holder for another season will be a source of celebration on the Island. He made a tremendous impact in his first campaign last season and this year should be even better for him. The Islanders will be hoping that Cory Gathercole can follow in his footsteps this time around, reports from the field indicate that's a distinct possibility. Jason Bunyan and Krystof Stojanowski will complete a top four that's solid and a pleasure to watch. Their bottom three doesn't look the strongest in the league and that may prove to be their achilles heal. Of course if one of the three does significantly better than expected then the Islanders prospects would be dramatically transformed.
Key Man: Cory Gathercole - Will he live up to the hype?
KING'S LYNN STARS
Tomas Topinka; Daniel Nermark; Trevor Harding; Paul Lee; Chris Mills; John Oliver; James Brundle
The reigning champions were quick off the mark and their side was confirmed almost as soon as the points limit had been. The efficiency with which the team building was completed demonstrated the professional attitude now prevalent at the club. Although they built the team quickly their haste doesn't seem to have affected their judgement. The loss of Kevin Doolan was a significant blow to their strength and they've had to compensate by recruiting riders of untapped potential. Paul Lee and James Brundle therefore come into the side, both with experience of what's required and with averages below their true abilities. There's also room for Mills, Harding and Oliver to develop and at least three of that five are likely to increase their averages to some extent. That improvement, coupled with consistent displays from Nermark and Topinka, should see them back in the mix this season.
Key Man: Chris Mills - Stars will be hoping he can claim the third heatleader spot.
MILDENHALL FEN TIGERS
Mario Jirout; Kyle Legault; Tom P Madsen; Shaun Tacey; Jason King; Jamie Smith; Mark Thompson
Mildenhall promoter Mick Horton made no secret of the need for the Fen Tigers to cut their costs and, sadly, that's all too obvious in their team selection. Mario Jirout comes in to lead the team, hopefully fully recovered from the injuries that so badly affected his spell with Newcastle not so long ago. There's certainly an element of gamble there and much will depend on whether that pays off. Canadian Legault was deemed surplus to requirements at Sheffield and the tight confines of the West Row circuit will be quite a change for him. The signing of Shaun Tacey is perhaps the most surprising, principally because they binned him last season. Jamie Smith could be a decent capture if he's over the injuries that kept him out virtually all of last season, mark that one down as another slight gamble. At this stage it's difficult to forsee this side doing too well in the league, perhaps some astute changes throughout the season will help?
Key Man: Mario Jirout - Is he the number one that this team is crying out for?
Joonas Raun; Josef Franc; Christian Henry; Carl Wilkinson; Ross Brady; Adam McKinna; Sean Stoddart
The Diamonds have uncovered some real gems from Denmark over the years - Nicki Pedersen, Bjarne Pedersen and Kenneth Bjerre all starting their UK career in the North East. They're trying that route again and importing the very young Joonas Raun to join their ranks. The whispers we're hearing suggest that he may be biting off more than he can chew at this stage. Even if he doesn't set the heather on fire immediately he may well still prove to be a useful asset to the Diamonds in the future, so in that respect it's not too much of a gamble. If he doesn't prove to be their number one then that responsibility will probably fall to Pepe Franc, a rider whose talent is not always reflected in his final average. The same can certainly be said of Ross Brady who endured a miserable 2006, initially being left on the shelf then struggling to find form at Rye House. Newcastle will be hoping he can get back to the kind of performances he's turned in for Hull and Edinburgh in the past.
Key Man: Joonas Raun - Will he be the next 'Great Dane' from the Geordie's production line?
Michal Rajowski; Tom Hedley; Phil Morris; Tony Atkin; Chris Schramm; Nick Simmons; Karl Mason
The Wasps were dealt a major blow when Craig Watson declined to sign for the package on offer, they've replaced him with Polish newcomer Michal Rajowski. Only the most optimistic supporter would claim that strengthens them. Tom Hedley is another rider making his debut in league racing this season, he does have some limited experience of UK conditions having spent some time here last year. In truth this side looks destined to struggle once again. They will rely heavily on old campaigners Morris and Atkin to get them through the early season fixtures. It's difficult to imagine this side will last the distance, expect to see Neil Collins and/or Glenn Cunningham feature before the season is too old.
Key Man: Michal Rajowski - Is he the new David Kujawa or the new Krzysztof Kasprzak?
Gary Havelock; James Grieves; Matthieu Tressarieu; Daniel Giffard; Chris Kerr; Jamie Courtney; Rusty Hodgson or Josh Auty
The return of speedway to Cleveland was a complete success last year and the foundations for a long future seem to be in place. With the groundwork done it's probably time to start looking for on-track success and this side doesn't look too shabby. Very little needs to be said about Havvy, he'll simply pile up the points as he has for many years. His main support this time around will come from James Grieves who's switched from near rivals Newcastle, always a likely move given that his contract is owned by Chris Van Straaten the Bears' promoter. He should give them good service, especially around the Northern circuits that he knows so well. They've retained Giffard, Kerr and Tressarieu from 2006 and add new reserves in Jamie Courtney, Rusty Hodgson and Joshua Auty. Auty and Hodgson will share the final spot in the side, though inevitably one will prove to be stronger and become the preferred option as the season progresses.
Key Man: Chris Kerr - Didn't quite live up to expectations last season but the best is yet to come.
RYE HOUSE ROCKETS
Chris Neath; Steve Boxall; Stuart Robson; Tommy Allen; Luke Bowen; Adam Roynon; Tai Woffinden
Wily old fox Len Silver was quickest off the mark and snared Tai Woffinden before most other clubs had even started formulating team plans. It's an important capture as Wuffy junior looks to be a gilt-edged prospect on the fast track to success. That he's paired in a reserve berth with Adam Roynon is doubly fortunate as he's another that should make real progress this term. That reserve pairing alone would be enough to mark the Rockets down as contenders, but there's much more to their team than that. They can boast two developing second strings (Allen and Bowen), two top class heatleaders (Neath and Robson) and a rider who seems destined to become one of Britain's best (Boxall). It's difficult to see past them in all honesty!
Key Man: Tai Woffinden - There seems no limit to this boy's potential.
Andre Compton; Ricky Ashworth; Ben Wilson; Joel Parsons; James Cockle; James Birkinshaw; Paul Cooper
Positives first, this side will be very good at home, particularly since track specialist James Birkinshaw will be in a reserve berth. On the road things will be very different and this side will cop a few hidings between now and October. Newcomers Parsons and Cockle may have been signed with a view to away meetings, although Cockle's average does seem to conveniently allow Birkinshaw and Cooper to start at reserve! On paper this does look like a team designed to score huge home wins at the expense of success on the road, let's see if the Tigers prove us wrong!
Key Man: Andre Compton - Will need to be on top form when they go on their travels.
Magnus Zetterstrom; Emil Krammer; Richie Hawkins; Tomas Suchanek; Simon Walker; Danny Warwick; Jordan Frampton
It seems strange to see a Somerset side that doesn't include Glenn Cunningham, he's been a real mainstay for them in their time in the professional ranks. Hopefully we'll see him back in action before the season is too old - perhaps at Mildenhall or Newport? The Rebels have retained their biggest hitter, the mighty Zorro, so the loss of Cunningham will not affect their top end strength too significantly. When you're tracking a rider with an average like Zorro's there's always compromise elsewhere and in the case it's at the bottom end. Simon Walker finds himself out with the comfort of the reserve berth and that may prove tough for him. Danny Warwick, who impressed for Berwick last season, cuts down his travelling substantially and joins up with Jordan Frampton in the reserve berths.
Key Man: Magnus Zetterstrom - Quite simply the best rider in the league!
Garry Stead; Paul Pickering; Rusty Harrison; Robbie Kessler; Ben Barker; Barrie Evans; Jack Hargreaves
The Potters have opted to go for a strong top four and hope for the best at the bottom end. Garry Stead returns to where it all began for him and Rusty Harrison is another newcomer. They're joined by Robbie Kessler and Paul Pickering who returns after a long injury-enforced absence. The length of Pickering's lay-off, given he's now in his forties, may give rise to concern about his likely effectiveness, but it's just great to see him back on a bike. If he can chip in with five or six points a meeting then his return will be justified. Ben Barker finds himself starting the season in the main body of the side and this could be the making of him. He's a rider who has always seemed to have potential and the increased pressure may bring it to the fore.
Key Man: Ben Barker - Giving him an extended run could be the making of him.
James Wright; Kenneth Hansen; Kauko Nieminen; Mattia Carpanese; Craig Branney; Jamie Robertson; Charles Wright
All change at Derwent Park as Ian Thomas returns as promoter and the team undergoes a dramatic makeover. Hopes that local hero Carl Stonehewer would return were quickly dashed so the mantle of number one will be taken on by James Wright. Wright is an excellent example of the kind of young British rider we should be bringing though. He's progressed steadily from Conference to Elite League and largely without fanfare. Kauko Nieminen will join him at the top of the team and will act as captain. The Comets have thrown caution to the wind and introduced two newcomers from abroad in Kenneth Hansen and Mattia Carpanese. Of the two, the Italian (Carpanese) seems the bigger risk, though he does come in on just a five point average.
Key Man: James Wright - Won't have the experienced support he had last year.
This article was first published on 22nd March 2007
"I know that we are a few weeks into the season, but I really don't see Rye House first. King's Lynn will walk it. They beat IOW away and there will not be another team doing that this season. I know Holder got hurt and probably cost IOW 6 points, but K.L. were 8 down after 6 heats. They are just too strong. The sad thing is that there is not more equalisation. For example, if you are a Berwick fan, what is the point of going to watch your team get hammered every week? It's not much fun to have little or no hope of winning one match. Similarly if you are a K.L. fan, it's a bit of a hollow victory, if you are guaranteed to win all 3 competitions because the other sides are so much weaker."
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