WORDS: PAUL BURBIDGE PICTURES: TONY BURCHELL pieces and the win was just as sweet as any win I’ve had.”
Pirates’ victory was two years in the making after they built the bulk of their double-winning side in the winter of 2019/20 – only for the Covid-19 pandemic to wipe out the 2020 campaign.
HINGS could not have gone better in terms of results for Pirates. They topped the SGB Championship table and won the title with a 100 per cent home record. But behind the scenes, Danny Ford was handed a huge test in his debut season in charge at Wimborne Road.
Skipper Danny King, Steve Worrall, Ben Cook and Stefan Nielsen were retained from that group, with Rory Schlein and Danyon Hume coming in for Adam Ellis and Josh MacDonald. Zane Keleher was axed in the early stages of the season and eventually replaced by Benjamin Basso after moves to draft in Czech rider Ondrej Smetana collapsed due to travel restrictions.
With the Pirates forced to sit on the sidelines last year, maintaining some form of team spirit across the miles was always going to be a challenge. But Middleditch says the joys of modern technology forged a bond between his stars long before they finally took to the track in May, 2021.
He said: “We had a little What’sApp group going, so we were all in touch with each other. Although we had a year out, we still kept in touch and that probably helped. The team spirit throughout the whole season has been a big factor in the winning mentality we had.
“There was no one rider in this team who thought he was a superstar. Everybody mucked in – Danny, Steve and Rory and the youngsters Benjamin, Ben, Stefan and Danyon too. The spirit was great. Everybody wanted everybody to win. They just had the mentality that they didn’t want to let each other down because they felt like they would be letting a friend down. That was a key factor.”
If bouncing back from a wiped-out year wasn’t enough, he had to contend with financially-ruinous Covid-19 restrictions, which capped crowds until mid-July, meaning the club staged just TWO home meetings in the first two months of the season.
“It was difficult,” Middleditch said. “It has been a funny season for everybody. It was very disjointed. It may have been a short season, but it seemed like a very long one. We had all the breaks early on and that wasn’t good.
“Most of the boys were doubling up anyway, so they were getting track time. It wasn’t like they were sitting around. I know Ben Cook was just riding in one league. Stef and Danyon were for a while too. I was concerned they weren’t getting the track time, but in the latter part of the season, Stef and Danyon got Premiership places.
“It was during this time that I think the What’sApp group was great. You can badmouth the social networks, but the group kept us close. Every day someone was putting something funny or something to do with racing on there. That kept everybody in touch, which was good.
“Nobody knew what was going to happen. We didn’t know whether we would get the season going or not. And then would the fans turn out after we had been given the green light? But they did.
• Happy Poole team bosses Neil Middleditch and Gary Havelock orne Road...
CHAMPIONSHIP IN NUMBERS
Compiled by DAVID ROWE
GUESTS POOLE used a league-high total of 19 guests during the regular season, including those recorded as ‘no facility’ when they were waiting to confirm a replacement for the released Zane Keleher.
James Wright made four appearances in Pirates colours, with Alfie Bowtell and Anders Rowe both standing in on two occasions.
Scunthorpe weren’t far behind on 17 due to early injury for Josh Auty before his replacement Adam Ellis missed several fixtures, and Tero Aarnio was absent for the latter weeks of the campaign.
Newcastle and Plymouth both used 14 guests, the latter including two appearances for Richard Lawson who subsequently ended up joining the club, whilst Birmingham used 13 – and in their case, that was 13 different riders!
Fewest guests during the regular season were tracked by Kent with six and Leicester with just five.
MAXIMUMS LEICESTER had seven maximum scorers during the season – including three in one match as Nick Morris, Kyle Howarth and Hans Andersen were all unbeaten with paid maximums in the home rout against Birmingham.
Howarth and Ryan Douglas also collected full 15-point maximums for the Lions, whilst guest Steve Worrall carded a full 12 against Glasgow.
Worrall was also unbeaten against the Tigers, and also against Newcastle, for Poole whilst skipper Danny King recorded three full houses for the Pirates.
Bjarne Pedersen picked up the only 18-point maximum of the season for Plymouth at Scunthorpe, and clearly enjoyed facing the Scorpions as he was also unbeaten from four rides in the reverse fixture at the Coliseum.
Troy Batchelor was another to secure home and away maximums against the same club, this case being two five-ride paid efforts against Newcastle, with Scott Nicholls recording the Kings’ other full score against Berwick.
Edinburgh’s Sam Masters went through the card three times, including on the road at Berwick, with Josh Pickering their other maximum man, whilst Craig Cook enjoyed two full 15point scores for Glasgow, against Poole and Scunthorpe.
Officially Redcar had three different maximum men, with both Jake Allen and Michael Palm Toft unbeaten in the abandoned clash with Newcastle.
MPT had only taken two rides in that meeting but recorded a more conventional 14+1 paid max against Berwick, and Charles Wright was unbeaten in the away match against the Bandits.
Birmingham’s top two of Chris Harris and Erik Riss both had one home maximum apiece, whilst Tero Aarnio of Scunthorpe picked up 14+1 against Kent, and Berwick’s Jye Etheridge was unbeaten from four rides (11+1) against Plymouth – leaving Newcastle as the only side not to record a league maximum in 2021.
Cook, Morris, Pickering, Masters, Worrall and Richard Lawson all also recorded maximums in KO Cup ties, but Edward Kennett’s full house against Scunthorpe was expunged.
There were play-off maximums for Morris (12) in the quarter-final against Scunthorpe, and Cook (15) in the semifinal against Edinburgh.
November 27, 2021 speedway star 7
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