Premier League Preview 2005
The Bandits still lack the number one that Peter Waite has been looking for over the last few seasons. They've gone for a solid side again, an approach that worked for Hull last year, with Michal Makovsky and Adrian Rymel leading the way. Adam Pietraszko made an impact after joining the Bandits mid-way through 2004 and should improve this year, especially if he can negotiate the tighter tracks more successfully. Newcomer Piotr Dym may take time to settle but should become an effective scorer round Shielfield. Simon Cartwright completes the top five and captains the side. The Bandits will need their reserves to come up with the points and in Chris Schramm and Joachim Kugelman have one of the strongest pairs in the league.
Key man: Adam Pietraszko - Needs to turn potential into points - especially away from home.
All change for the Monarchs with five newcomers to the side - including a new heatleader trio. Daniel Nermark has been recruited from Wolves on a two-year loan deal and has the pedigree to do well at this level. He isn't going to get near his 11+ assessed average, but despite a poor start, nine is a realistic target. Ross Brady starts the season as second heatleader and will do well to maintain his average. He rode while injured on many occasions last season but has still to impress over an extended period. Rusty Harrison and Theo Pijper are next in line and both will need to improve their scores on their travels if the Monarchs are to achieve anything. Cameron Woodward, William Lawson and Robert Ksiezak are the other three Monarchs. Woodward and Lawson still have potential to unlock and could both do well, while Ksiezak is an unknown quantity.
Key man: Ross Brady - Needs to prove he's genuine heatleader material
Another side that have rung the changes, most significantly they've lost long-serving Michael Coles, Roger Lobb, Graeme Gordon and Mark Simmonds. Their main capture is Tony Svab who should be a very effective heatleader at this level. Svab will challenge Mark Lemon at the top of the averages and the competition should be good for both riders and the team. Seemond Stephens returns once again and is joined by newcomers Lee Smethills, Pavel Ondrasik and Jernej Kolenko. Nick Simmons completes the side. It will be interesting to see whether this Falcons side will be able to maintain the excellent home record that the club have enjoyed in recent years. On the road they should be attractive visitors, despite losing the services of Coles who over the years has held the team together away from home.
Key man: Tony Svab - Can he consistently hit the heights away from home?
Glasgow's side doesn't look as strong as the team they started with last year - however their powerhouse side failed to deliver so you can never read too much into these early season predictions. Shane Parker, George Stancl and Paul Bentley are a decent set of heatleaders and their reserve pairing of Trent Leverington and James Cockle looks reasonable also. The big question mark seems to be over the strength of the second string department. Matthew Wethers, surprisingly left out of Edinburgh's plans, is an excellent prospect but can't really be considered a strong second string at present. James Birkenshaw is the other member of the middle order and needs to prove he can ride more than one track.
Key man: Trent Leverington - Won't be at reserve for long and may even challenge Bentley for a heatleader role
Last year's champions have lost Magnus Karlsson and Ross Brady. The departing duo have been replaced by Lee Dicken and Craig Branney - moves that certainly weaken the Vikings. Branney will push his average over five, but anything's possible with Dicken. Paul Thorp and Garry Stead have become fixtures at Hull and will lead the way again this season. Neither is the force they once were but their team-mates will have a job overhauling them in the averages. Emiliano Sanchez, Emil Kramer and Joel Parsons also return to defend the title. Parsons is presently out injured but should progress further this year and seems to have a real chance of hitting the big time, an average of 7+ should not be beyond him this year. Sanchez probably enjoyed his best ever season in 2004 but won't enjoy the comfort of the reserve berth this time around.
Key man: Joel Parsons - If he gets the luck he can claim a heatleader berth
ISLE OF WIGHT ISLANDERS
The Islanders will rely heavily on Craig Boyce and Jason Bunyan once again in 2005. Bunyan was something of a revelation last year and has made slow but gradual progress over the years - further improvement seems likely this time around. Boyce is still a classy rider who may actually be even more effective this season than last now that he's familiar with all the tracks. Thereafter it's quite difficult to assess the teams prospects. They'll start the season with Ulrich Ostergaard, Krister Marsh, Manuel Hauzinger, Jason Doyle and Steen Jensen in the side and of those only Marsh and Ostergaard have ridden at this level before.
Key man: Ulrich Ostergaard - Needs to provide consistent backup to Boyce and Bunyan if the Islanders are to do well
KING'S LYNN STARS
Oliver Allen is the big capture for the Stars and he's a proven scorer at this level. Tomas Topinka and Kevin Doolan will provide him consistent backup and both can score on any circuit in the country. It's potential packed all the way after that - Adam Allott, Jan Jaros, James Brundle and Troy Batchelor are all capable of upping their starting average. If one of them really hits the big time then King's Lynn could well challenge for the title. Allott is perhaps best placed of the four to really push on, he's very good around his home circuit, much less so away as yet. It will be interesting to see how the much hyped Troy Batchelor adapts to UK racing.
Key man: Adam Allott - 9.74 at home but 3.77 away - room for improvement
Newcastle have carried out wholesale surgery to their septet after the disaster that was 2004. Sadly they've lost Jason Lyons to Belle Vue and that leaves a big hole to fill. Phil Morris and James Grieves have been recruited to assist with that, both emerging from the shadows of strong pairings at their former clubs. Morris is a born leader who can rally his team mates when the going gets tough. Grieves likes the Brough Park circuit and has presumably been signed with that in mind. Claus Kristensen and Josef Franc join up from Berwick, where both tended to flatter to deceive at times. That solid four will be backed up by Jamie Robertson, Christian Henry and Lubos Tomicek. Tomicek looked that part at times last year and now comes in on a realistic average. Robertson continues to make steady progress and should feel less pressure than he did in last year's struggling side. Henry returns to the UK after missing out last season - he's had plenty of big scores for Edinburgh and Glasgow in the past - but not consistently enough.
Key man: Phil Morris - Will be a number one again and needs to lead from the front
Newport's 2004 season was as miserable as Newcastle's but they've not gone for the same kind of dramatic restructuring. Veterans, by any definition of the word, Neil Collins and Michael Coles come in to support Craig Watson at the top end. Coles didn't capture his best form in 2004 but the change of scene should do him good. Collins is used to changing scenery - there are few clubs he hasn't ridden for at some stage of his long career. He's not the force of old but remains one of the league's greatest entertainers. Tony Atkin, Mads Korneliussen and Kristian Lund return and are joined by Karlis Ezergailis - promoted from the Newport Mavericks side. Korneliussen and Lund impressed many last year with their wholehearted displays and both are capable of pushing their averages upwards. This set of Wasps certainly won't be the league's whipping boys again.
Key man: Mads Korneliussen - The young Dane can take the pressure of Coles, Collins and Atkin by becoming Watson's main support
The Racers low-key winter has attracted much criticism with news starved fans becoming increasingly anxious. The fans must be happy with the assembled side, especially since the sensational pairing of Danny Bird and Matej Zagar have been retained. Throw in Andrew Appleton and suddenly there aren't many points to play with at the bottom of the team. Chris Mills has been offered the chance to build on an impressive campaign last season, he'll be under more pressure this year and we'll have to see how he adapts to it. Richard Wolff, Chris Johnson and Mathieu Tresarrieu are also in the side. Not a bad team but the tail may prove a little too long at some away circuits.
Key man: Matej Zagar - The classy Slovenian will need to be on top of his game throughout
RYE HOUSE ROCKETS
Stuart Robson drops down from Coventry and lines up as a full-time Premier League rider for the first time since 1997. He didn't do as well as might have been expected in his limited outings for Newcastle in 2003, but this is now his livelihood rather than some extra racing to be fitted in when commitments allowed. Brent Werner has signed up for another year as a Rocket and seemed to get his career back on track last term. Chris Neath is also back and Edward Kennett returns after his struggles in the Elite league last season - giving the Rockets a formidable looking top four. The bottom three isn't bad either - Tommy Allen, Daniel King and Steve Boxhall. Not a weak link in that seven and the potential is there for all riders to increase their averages.
Key man: Edward Kennett - Can he pick up where he left off in 2003?
The Tigers never field a weak looking side and this year is no exception. Sean Wilson is back and will no doubt be as good as ever before the season is too old. Andre Compton, Premier League Riders Champion no less, is around to support him and Andre's likely to be even more effective now that he's got Peter Carr in his corner. Ricky Ashworth is an 8.5 man in his own right and he only lines up as third heatleader in this side! Richard Hall and Ben Wilson form the middle order and both have proved they can score points away from their Owlerton base. The Tigers also boast perhaps the most interesting reserve pairing in the league in Paul Cooper and Kyle Legault. Cooper attracted the attention of numerous clubs last season but turned down all offers, he should be good for a 5.5 average once he settles in. Kyle Legault becomes the first Canadian rider to appear professionally in this country for a while - probably since Shaun Venables.
Key man: Kyle Legault - The only unknown quantity in the side, if he turns out to be a winner then Sheffield will do very well.
It's going to be the Zorro show at Somerset this season. Magnus will bring a touch of flair and a mountain of points to the club, he's certainly good enough to finish in the top five in the league averages and he'll be a popular attraction on his travels. Glenn Cunningham and Paul Fry will be providing much of his support and are both dependable scorers. Those three experienced campaigners are joined in the side by a posse of youngsters eager to impress. Jamie Smith and Richie Hawkins have been over the course before, and must have expected to have made a little more progress by this stage, this will be a big season for both. Jason King gets to start the campaign with a team spot after missing out last year and has the talent to do well, and perhaps even finish ahead of Smith and Hawkins in the rankings. Lee Smart completes the side after stepping up from Mildenhall.
Key man: Jason King - The Rebels need improvement from somewhere and he offers the most potential
Another season of little change in the Potteries as Trent Leverington is replaced by Barrie Evans. Jan Staechmann, Alan Mogridge and Paul Pickering are back once again and will be as good as ever. Mogridge enjoyed a tremendous 2004 after a poor, by his own standards, year in 2003. He'll need to maintain that form if the Potters are to challenge. Robbie Kessler finally put a decent run of meetings together last term but he must have been disappointed with a 6.85 average - well down on his days with Sheffield. Paul Clews has built a reputation as a dependable second string rider and it seems unlikely he'll progress further at this stage of his career. Rob Grant and Barrie Evans are the reserves, Evans has never realised the potential he showed as a 16 year old and time is running out for him. This collection of riders have done well for Stoke but have never seriously challenged for the title - the same outcome is likely this season.
Key man: Alan Mogridge - Stoke need his 2004 form again, not his 2003 returns
A new promoter at Derwent Park this season and a new look side as well. Stoney is still there and will enjoy a testimonial meeting and will score just as many points as ever. The Comets have lost Simon Stead and have chosen not to directly replace him - if indeed that were possible. Instead they've gone for strength in depth and acquired Kevin Little, Scott Robson and Shaun Tacey - although they're not the kind of signings to set pulses racing. Kauko Nieminen has, perhaps surprisingly, been retained and he'll be under pressure to improve his returns on the road. James Wright is, not at all surprisingly, also back for another term after his startling progress last season. Tony Dart and Scott Courtney will share the number seven spot. When the Comets are good they'll be very good - but a few hammerings on their travels also appear to be on the cards.
Key man: Kauko Nieminen - Comets need more from him this time around
This article was first published on 19th March 2005
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