6:00am Thursday 4th April 2013
By Andy Warren
LAKESIDE co-promoter Jon Cook believes Swindon are the favourites for the Elite League title, but thinks their double-up riders hold the key to their fortunes.
Robins duo Nick Morris and Ashley Birks are both also riding in the Premier League this season for Somerset and Scunthorpe, meaning they are set to miss vital meetings with only Premier League riders able to replace Birks and rider replacement operated for any missing member of the top five.
Birks misses both meetings with the Hammers tonight and tomorrow while Morris isn’t available for the Friday night trip to Purfleet, and Cook told the Advertiser schedule complications could be the Robins’ biggest hurdle as they bid to retain their crown.
“By virtue of the signings they made I think they might start as favourites, although obviously it is very early days,” he said.
“They are carrying double-up riders which may or may not hit them, because the doubling-up regulations are a bit tough in regard to that.
“If they can handle that well they have every chance, and it will probably be the key to their season.
“It looks a very open league, because normally you get one or two stand-out teams who you think might run away with it.
“There are lots of riders in the league on quite low averages who look like they might have improvement in them, especially some who moved to new tracks, so it is very open and hopefully it will all be about the speedway with some nice sunny weather.”
The Hammers made the play-offs last season despite the devastating loss of captain Lee Richardson in May, and Cook believes the class of 2013, led by Davey Watt and Peter Karlsson, have every chance of making it to the final four once again.
“With the riders we have brought in we feel we are probably stronger than last year, following a year when we did very well to make the play-offs because of the circumstances,” he said.
“We are looking to do the same again, and be in a fit and healthy state when the play-offs come around.
“In Davey and PK we have two riders who thoroughly enjoyed their first year with us and were keen to come back, and I think they will get the best out of people like Lewis Bridger because of their experience.
“The top end guys will carry on doing what they have been doing for years, and they will bring the wealth of experience needed to help the younger guys down the bottom end of the team make the improvements which will be so necessary to the team.”
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