This would have been up a little sooner, if the club who prides themselves on always being first hadn't dragged their heels with their team selection...however windups aside, here comes part two of the Mythman Season Preview 2020 edition...
Off to Central Park now to see the first of the league’s newcomers, the Kent Kings who have made a statement of intent by securing the services of Scott Nicholls as their top man for 2020. Despite his advancing years Scott isn't even the oldest member of the side, but he is a quality performer at this level, proven by his league winner’s medal with Leicester last season. He will be ably backed up by Cameron Heeps who heads to Kent after arguably his best season ever with Edinburgh. Completing the heat leader trio is Nico Covatti who we all know can be just as poor as he can be good, sometimes in the same meeting! Paul Starke also makes the switch to Kent after an injury troubled campaign with Glasgow and he will be sure to keep the pressure on the heat leaders over the course of the season. At the lower end of the team there is quite the mix of youth and experience with youngsters Dan Gilkes and Tom Bacon joined by 48 year old Rob Ledwith, who made a comeback with the Kings last season in the National League. While Tom Bacon has some experience at Championship level, I believe Gilkes is making his debut at this level whereas Ledwith is making a return to second tier racing almost 25 years since his last appearances with Arena Essex. All in all it looks a very interesting season ahead for the Kings and we welcome them with open arms to the Championship.
Key Man- Nico Covatti
Predictions – The Kings should be a solid enough outfit on home shale which should be enough to see them hold their own, however much will depend on the performances at the lower end of the side if they are to trouble teams on the road.
Destination Beaumont Park where the reigning and defending champions Leicester Lions have put together a side that many people feel are capable of repeating the heroics of its 2019 class. Ryan Douglas returns to lead the side after a tremendous return to British racing last season and by the looks of it there is room for further improvement from the Aussie star. Fellow countryman Ty Proctor also returns having joined the Lions midway through last season during one of the many, many reshuffles on 2019. Completing the Aussie contingent of the side is Nick Morris, who had a fairly quiet season in 2019 by his own high standards so a move to Leicester and reuniting with Stewart Dickson may well see Nick return to the sort of form we all know he is capable of. Kyle Howarth was left without a Championship club when Sheffield made the bold call to move up a league but he didn’t need to wait too long until he was snapped up by the Lions. Ellis Perks completes what looks like an extremely strong top five having been one of the leagues big improvers in 2019. With a side built more top heavy than Katie Price comes a potentially weak bottom end but by all accounts it seems like Dan and Joe Thomson are highly rated and more than ready for the challenge of Championship racing. There are plenty of experienced heads in the team above them for them to feed of and learn from so there is no reason why the Thomson Twins can’t go on to be two of Britain’s next big things.
Key Man – Dan Thomson / Joe Thomson
Predictions – Many people’s favourites for glory once more and with a top five like that it is easy to see why. Much will depend on how the Thomson Twins settle in but the Lions do look a strong side more than capable of being right up there once again.
I think we can all agree that it is a major bonus that the Diamonds are coming to the tapes in 2020. From a Berwick perspective they are arguably the team we like to beat the most, but the fact they have a team coming to the tapes in 2020 when it all looked a little uncertain is a major plus point for the entire league. With former Berwick man Rob Grant now at the helm, he has put together a new look team with an eye on the future. Returning from what was a disappointing 2019 for the Diamonds are Max Clegg and the ever consistent Matty Wethers, both of whom were leading lights in 2019. Connor Mountain makes the switch from Leicester having won every medal possible and he will be hoping that this move sees him move up in the side from reserve to second string. Brought in from Glasgow to lead the side is the hard charging Claus Vissing, fresh off a very good season at Glasgow where he averaged over eight points a match. Following his brothers British Final exploits, former Riders Champion James Wright is on the comeback trail after five years away from the shale. If he can recapture even a fraction of his form of a decade or so ago, the Diamonds could have pulled off a masterstroke signing. Little is known about the last two signings other than they would be worth a few points in Scrabble, but it is on track where the Diamonds will be hopeful that Czech Ondrej Smetana and Slovenian Nick Skorja scoring points. Smetana has done a few second halves around the country and is a protégé of George Stancl and Skorja has a number of Speedway Of Nations appearances to his name and appears to be the heir apparent to Matej Zagar’s throne in Slovenia.
Key Man – James Wright
Predictions – There is little doubt that club owner Rob Grant is building a side with an eye to the future and the Diamonds may well find the going a little tough at times. There will be question marks over the likes of James Wright and the two newcomers but if they can hit the ground running then the Diamonds may be spoilers for a few.
Off to Wimborne Road we go now and the other newcomers to the Championship, the Poole Pirates. Often successful, often controversial but always competitive the Pirates have taken the decision to drop down to the Championship in a move which sent shockwaves throughout the sport. But they are here and I imagine the Championship will be better for it and by the looks of their side they are out for glory. Danny King has been a proven top line rider at this level for a number of years now and he can always be relied upon to do the business in the bigger heats towards the end of meetings. He will be ably backed up in that department by Adam Ellis who has been a steady improver over the last few years. Steve Worrall completes an all British heat leader trio and he will be hoping that a move to a new club will see him return to something like the form he is capable of after a difficult season with Newcastle. Aussie prospect Josh McDonald makes the switch from Sheffield after a promising 2019 and the Pirates management will be hopeful he can emulate the success of Aussie Pirates of the past. Stefan Nielsen seems to have been around a long time now and has had an up and down career blighted by injuries, but a fully fit and focused Nielsen has proven to be a capable performer in the past and his signing could prove key to the Pirates success. Eventually completing the side are relatively unknown Aussie prospects Zane Keleher and Ben Cook, both of whom will be making their debuts on these shores. If they have half as much success as any of the Pirates previous Aussie imports, then Poole could well be the team to beat in 2020, if not then there could be more changes than a David Bowie concert.
Key man – Steve Worrall
Predictions – For me there are more questions than answers about the Poole side, but they have never been a side content with being also rans and for that reason alone, you can never write the Pirates off. If they aren't clicking as a unit, their management won't hesitate in taking the necessary action to turn an underperforming side into a winning one.
Stay tuned for the third and final installment of this preview in the not too distant....
Of course if you wish to agree, or disagree with the Mythman, have an idea for a feature, or you simply want to chew the fat over all things speedway, you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via the JB Speedway Media Facebook page. If your compliments, or indeed gripes can be contained to limited characters, you can send me a tweet @Mythman666.
Until next time...and there will be a next time.
Right I’ll hae’tae gan