Edinburgh MONARCHS will not look back on 2011 with any degree of fondness after the defence of their Premier League crown turned into something of a disaster, their eventual 11th place in the 14-team league a position they would prefer to forget.
One factor which may have contributed to their fall from grace in comparison to recent seasons was the problem of filling the reserve berth, with Finnish rider Kalle Katajisto, who had been such a hero in 2010, dropping two points from his average.
To avoid any repetition Monarchs have brought in Aussie newcomer Micky Dyer and Englishman Charles Wright to strengthen the tail-end positions, but the move has come at a price and Monarchs enter the new season without a recognised big star to wear the No. 1 race-jacket.
This has predictably led to some criticism among supporters, but today skipper Matthew Wethers hit back saying it is wrong to write Monarchs off. Wethers, who leads his side into their opening League Cup fixture at Redcar Bears tonight, said: “I think we are probably quite an underrated side and I think we have got quite a bit of potential to do well, I also definitely think we can surprise a few people.
“You look at last season’s team and we did struggle at reserve, and it’s difficult to build a new team with all the key ingredients you need. But Edinburgh have put together the best side they think will give us a good chance of winning the league.”
Dyer and Wright carry quite a weight on their slender shoulders, but Wethers thinks they can blossom and help erase the memories of a year ago when it seemed anyone who was handed the reserve berth did so while clutching a poisoned chalice.
“Both Micky and Charles should do well and improve,” said Wethers. “Obviously it might be more difficult for Micky because he comes in on a five-point average, but Charles has got it in him to improve his average and I think Micky will be happy if he maintains his.”
Monarchs’ top five of 2011 certainly felt a certain degree of pressure because of the dearth of points from the reserve. “I think we did, but we all still went out to score as many points as we could,” explained Wethers. “Our top five now certainly has the potential to score double figures. We are all good round Armadale and I thinks it looks good for us.
“We dominated the league in 2010 and Glasgow did the same last year, this season if we make the top six we are in the play-offs, and all you need is a couple of good matches and you could be league champions. That is our goal and to pull out our big guns when it counts.”
Wethers, who celebrates ten years with Monarchs this season, admitted that he wasn’t entirely shocked by the team’s slump last season. “Not really, because every year you have to rebuild your team to match the rules. When you win the league it gives you no indication of what’ll you’ll do the next year because you always have to lose riders from the team.
“Certainly Kalle dropping his average was a factor and I think Kalle got lost in his ways a bit, he was living with a friend of his own age, and I think he needed a bit more guidance in order to have performed to his potential.”
From a personal perspective Wethers was reasonably satisfied with his own performances, but pointed out: “Although I was quite happy with how things went, I had three crashes towards the end of the season and things went a bit downhill after that. I’m back to full fitness now and want to pick up where I left off halfway through last season.
“Supporters did have a dig at us last season but I don’t think it’s because they expect us to win the league every season, and hopefuly if some of them were unhappy with where we finished in 2011 they’ll come back and support our side for this season. It’s time to look forward and not dwell on the past, we are optimistic about this season and feel we can go out and win every home match and try as hard as we can.”
Co-promoter John Campbell, pictured, said: “I’m very confident about what the team will do and if we can stay unbeaten at Armadale, then two or three away wins should be enough to get us into the top six, but’s it’s not about what we do now, but what we do come September.”