Smillie: Season's end will be a blessing

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches ride their final speedway meeting of an horrendous season tomorrow night with team manager Mike Smillie saying that it will be a blessing to get it all over.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Evening Star Witches ride their final speedway meeting of an horrendous season tomorrow night with team manager Mike Smillie saying that it will be a blessing to get it all over.

Certain to finish bottom of the table for the first time for over 40 years, the Witches entertain Belle Vue at Foxhall (7.30pm start).

Second string Paul Hurry misses out after breaking his elbow in the 53-37 defeat against the Aces on a dreadful track in Manchester on Monday night.


You may also want to watch:


Regulations mean that only the rider replacement facility can be used to cover for him at number two – with the two reserves and Daniel Nermark eligible to have extra rides.

Pole Jarek Hampel is programmed to return to the side for what will surely be his last match for the club, while Danny Bird replaces Leigh Lanham, who will ride for Arena-Essex in the Premier League if fit after taking a heavy knock at Belle Vue. Swede Kim Jansson will be fit after taking a shoulder knock at Belle Vue.

Most Read

Despite scoring 18 points on Sunday in the Polish League Hampel was not well enough to fly to England and ride against the Aces on Monday.

And he missed the home defeat against Oxford last Thursday with rider replacement being used unsuccessfully on both occasions.

Many Witches fans have lost patience with 21-year-old Hampel's apparent failure to commit himself to the cause. His fellow countryman Chris Slabon was dropped from the side after similar absences earlier this year.

With Rye House winning at Peterborough, Ipswich have failed to qualify for the final stages of the British League Cup so tomorrow's match against an unchanged Belle Vue brings the curtain down prematurely on their season.

"It will be a blessing," said Smillie, who confirmed he is willing to carry on next year of asked. "It has been a big learning curve and things can only get better in 2004.

"My first season was in 1998 when we won the treble. I experienced a huge high then and it has been a huge low this year when we have virtually been a one-man side."

The Witches are expected to stay in the Elite League next season, under considerable pressure from the British Speedway Promoters' Association, and John and Magda Louis will be working hard to build a much stronger side.

A drop down to the Premier League has not been completely ruled out – with the Witches already having a provisional application on the table.

But with sponsors Sky Sport TV putting the BSPA under pressure to keep the Elite League competitive Ipswich are likely to benefit from changes that will take place during the winter.

There will be no speedway at Foxhall next Thursday, with a sidecar meeting planned for September 18 and the 16-Lap Classic for the following Thursday.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter