Tom Brennan reckons he has come a long way since finishing his 15th birthday in hospital, less than four months ago.

Now the Eastbourne Eagles reserve hopes to prove it tonight as his team start finals season against a powerful Birmingham outfit.

Brennan rides for the IT First Eagles at Perry Barr as they tackle table-topping Brummies in the first leg of the Knockout Cup final.

The return fixture is scheduled for a week on Sunday (6.30pm) at Arlington and should be the season finale.

Fitted in between will be both legs of the Grand Final between the same two tracks to decide the champions of the National League.

The Argus:

Brennan’s senior debut at home to Birmingham on July 2 saw him fall and break his collarbone on the first bend.

He was racing again three weeks later and has bounced back in impressive fashion, piling up paid-14 as Eagles beat Cradley in the cup semis on Saturday.

The Hassocks schoolboy said: “I went out in that first meeting meant to be this 15-year-old new big thing.

“It was quite a bit of pressure on me and I don’t think it worked. I didn’t really want that.

“I was nervous going out and I was thinking ‘Everybody’s watching, I’ve got to make a pass’ and I caught a back wheel on the first bend.

“I’ve learnt a lot. The National League has been a really good experience.

“You have got to believe in yourself. That is the No.1 thing with me.

“If I go out there nervous, I’ll ride nervous. I’ll be rigid.

“If I go out there thinking everyone is feeling the same as me, I’ll be fine. That’s how I try to think about it.”

Brennan believes that lesson, plus a marked improvement in his gating under the guidance of mentor Martin Dugard, will help him tonight.

He said: “The pressure cranks up now. You know in the back of your head it is a big meeting.

“But you try to tell yourself it’s a normal meeting and go out and have some fun. I think we have got a good chance as well.”

That chance could hinge on how Brennan and whoever partners him at reserve cope with Jack Parkinson-Blackburn and Jack Smith over the four meetings.

The Brummies’ reserves outscored their Cradley counterparts 22-2 in the recent play-off semi-final.

Eastbourne were the only side to beat Birmingham in the 22-meeting league programme, thanks to two late 5-1s from Adam Ellis and Jake Knight after Brennan had been taken to hospital in that dramatic meeting at the start of July.

But they enjoyed a large slice of luck on the final bend of Heat 14 as Smith fell, just yards from securing an away win for his side.

Eagles skipper Knight said: “The decider for us could be whether we can get the reserves going to stop Birmingham’s reserves.

“I think everyone makes Birmingham favourites but, when we went there last time, we didn’t really have a full team and we weren’t all on top form.

“But we only lost by five there and got a league point.

“We were the only team to beat them in the league. They came down here and we beat them by three.

“I think it will go down to pretty much to the last race.”


Eagles make a change tonight with Connor Coles of Mildenhall guesting for Georgie Wood.

Wood’s partner Lauren is due to give birth to their first child. Coles scored 10+1 (6) for Fen Tigers at Birmingham in July.

Luke Harris gets the nod at reserve ahead of Charley Powell, who has been ill.

Birmingham: Davey, Hume r/r, Ritchings, Bacon, Perry, Smith, Parkinson-Blackburn, Lawlor (No.8).

Eagles: Ellis, Cottham r/r, Perks, Coles, Knight, Harris, Brennan.