Preview: 2010 Cycle Speedway Premier League
Words & Images: Andy Whitehouse
As early as October 2009 the British Premier League was already making headlines: all eight teams that had competed in the 2009 competition had re-applied for the 2010 season but with an additional two applicants, Ipswich and Stoke, making their bid for top flight racing. Deciding on the number of teams that were to be allowed in the league was going to prove a major headache.
As the winter months dragged by that decision was actually making itself. Great Blakenham, who had struggled towards the latter stages of the 2009 season to field a strong side, decided to withdraw from the 2010 competition on 13th January. Their aim being to concentrate on regional racing and rebuild a new team for future years. The following week saw Ipswich also withdraw their application to compete in the BPL: the Suffolk side was struggling to field a team strong enough to compete at the highest level because of riders committing to other clubs for the new season.
2009 Champions Horspath will be out to hold on to their title in 2010
With Blakenham and Ipswich withdrawing their applications, Stoke Whiterock had, it seemed, been given an open invitation to join the 2010 league. However, at the eleventh hour, the Staffordshire side announced it would not be competing in the new season: they too were looking to strengthen their team for future seasons. So this year's British premier League will be run with seven teams.
Our regular Cycle Speedway correspondent, Andy Whitehouse, runs an eye over the teams:
Having signed Adam Stephenson from Hull over the winter months and, more recently, the ex Great Blakenham pairing of Adam Peck and Josh Brooke, the Glover Park side have a squad of a dozen senior riders ready to compete in the 2010 BPL. This is in stark contrast to 2009 when team Manager Wil Burns struggled to field a competitive side on more then one occasion. A shoulder injury to Leon Yellands looks set to sideline the popular rider for most of the season, which is a blow to the team but their strength in depth should see them still competing for the title.
Sheffield-Wosskow Brown Stars
Runners up in both 2008 and 2009, Sheffield have been busy recruiting riders for the coming season, with the aim of finding that final nudge onto the top step of BPL. The Polish spearhead of Pawel Kozlowski and Darius Pilas lead the 2010 assault, with local riders Ryan Hoyland and Jamie Brown stepping up to the sport's big league. Andy Angell has moved in from Hull and signed to Sheffield on a full license. Ben Dickenson, Luke Jameson and the ever improving rider Lee Smith help make up the foundations of the squad. Former Sandwell supremo Pete Dalley was secured very recently to take control of the Sheffield Premier team and with his knowledge of the sport should steer the Stars towards the top half of the table.
The Dorset club will see a healthy mix of both young and old in their 2010 Premier side. Elite riders Gavin Wheeler, Tom Reed and Pete Young will be looking to share their track experience with the young trio of Jake Williams, Leyton Glover and Aaron Morgan who will be hoping to join Sam Hearn in the first team. With the departure of Ben Mould to Birmingham and the Polish trio Marcin Paradindski, Artur Poprawski and Pawel Cegielski not expected to remain based in the country, because of the current economic climate, the South coast team will have to pull out all the stops to beat the league's big hitters. Like many other clubs this year, Poole are going through a transition period and will be looking to develop their youth riders for the coming years.
The Aces have pretty much kept the same team as 2009, with the exception of new signing Matt Beharrell, who came in from Hull during the closed season. Team managers Roger Ellis and Mick Aris will be looking to improve on a disappointing 2009 season, where they only took six wins. Wednesfield will be looking to the experience of Chris Jewkes, Lee Aris and Mark Griffiths to steer them in their pursuit of the 2010 title. Accepting an empty trophy cabinet is not in the Aces' psyche, so the Midlands side will be more determined then ever to take the PBL title.
After an incredible first year in the 2009 BPL, the Monarchs will be looking to improve on their third place. With new signings Ben Mould and Russ Evans joining the likes of Paul Heard, Nathan Groves and Chris Timms to form the basis of the 2010 side, the Monarchs will certainly be a youthful team. With support from the experienced Marcus Wadhams, Dominic Rycharski and Gary Pearce, who is more then capable of hitting double figures in any outing, the Midlands side will be hoping to push for the 2010 title.
After finishing at the the bottom of the Premier League in 2009,Norwich will be looking to climb up the table this year and with new signings Dan Osbourne from Great Blakenham,Simon Munden(Stoke) and Dan Chambers moving over from Regional racing at Hetherset to compete in the premier league the Suffolk side certainly look more promising this season.The Grange brothers,Ian And Lee will be in contention for double figure points in their outings and with Phil Howells on the start grid,manager Gary Colby should see a few good results coming Norwich's way.
The 2009 League Champions start as favorites for the 2010 title. Horspath have strengthened their squad with the signings of former Hammers rider Lewis Osbourne and brother Chris, who has gained a reputation as one of the UK's top league riders. Horspath regulars Steve Harris, Mark Boaler and Mike Morgans certainly know how to influence and win matches so the Oxford side should see a lot of favorable results this coming season.
So, who is going win?
Right now, the smart money is on Horspath to retain the title this year but with a strong Leicester side looking for glory and a young but successful Birmingham side more than capable of winning matches, the top three positions are certainly up for grabs. But don't forget Wednesfield who, after a quiet 2009, will be looking to restock the trophy cabinet - they are a side who know how to get what they want.
Sheffield, despite their loss of a couple of their Polish riders, can still take match wins. Meanwhile, Poole and Norwich are looking to rebuild their young squads with an eye on being in contention for the Premier League title within a couple of years. Whatever the outcome, it promises to be a great season.