We could take relegation

"WE don't mind if we do go down," is the message from the man who reflects the views of Ipswich Witches supporters.Mark Styles, a fan for 23 years, has been chairman of the Witches Supporters Club since 1996.

By Elvin King

"WE don't mind if we do go down," is the message from the man who reflects the views of Ipswich Witches supporters.

Mark Styles, a fan for 23 years, has been chairman of the Witches Supporters Club since 1996.

"Just because the Premier League does not possess top riders it does not mean that it is an inferior product," added Styles, who has rarely missed an Ipswich meeting, home or away, for over a decade.

"In fact, our best years were in 1989 and 1990 when the Witches rode in the National League. They were the most enjoyable under the current promotion – and that is taking nothing away from the dream team's efforts of 1998.

"That was an amazing year when the Witches won the treble, Tony Rickardsson won the world title, Chris Louis the British title, Tomasz Gollob the Polish title and Scott Nicholls the British Under-21 title.

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"But we were so strong there was an air of predictability about results.

"The Premier League will offer a more varied menu, and provide better entertainment.

"Not all fans might agree, but my personal choice would be to see Ipswich join the Premier League for 2004.

"I agree that you have to aspire to be top of your field, and that it would be a shame to wave goodbye to the likes of Scott Nicholls and Jarek Hampel.

"But overall, the way things are and with the financial implications I would prefer the Witches to drop down to the Premier League."

The Witches management has already put in a provisional application to join the Premier League, and if they fail to attract attendances to merit their top-flight position it could turn into fact next season.

This year has, on paper, still got plenty to offer and there should be a good gate for tomorrow's visit of title favourites Poole Pirates.

The Witches have put together a thirsty young side, and if last Thursday's challenge match against Swedish tourists Kaparna is

anything to go by then there will be plenty of exciting speedway at Foxhall.

The sight of Scott Nicholls flying through from the back can be worth the admission money alone, while Paul Hurry is a fighter and Jarek Hampel and Chris Slabon are two young Poles who are hell-bent on making it big in Britain.

"I think we will be more of a cup team, and that means both the Knock-Out Cup and the British League Cup," said Styles.

"Finishing fourth in the table – which is just above half-way – will be enough to put Ipswich into the league play-offs, and that is something that should not be beyond the team

"Last Saturday's match was a good guide to what might happen this year. And it looks as as if the Witches will struggle to give Scott Nicholls sufficient top end support.

"This showed in heats 13 and 15 at Coventry, when the home side put out its top two riders. This is something the club has got to overcome.

"There will be a tremendous amount of emphasis on Nicholls. This Thursday's match is also vital, as it will give us a real test of how well the lads are going to do at home.

"Poole will be hard to beat and we will have more problems in heats 13 and 15 against Tony Rickardsson and Leigh Adams. We must target the Pirates' reserves and work as many points as possible from their second strings and reserves.

"Ipswich have the hardest possible start to the season with meetings at Coventry, Eastbourne and Poole and home meetings against Poole and Wolverhampton.

"Then it will settle down – the next fortnight is so important."

n Ipswich Witches Supporters Club is running a coach to Saturday's Elite League meeting at Eastbourne. It leaves the Holiday Inn, London Road, at 4pm and costs £16. Bookings can be made by calling Mark Styles on Ipswich 718477 or Chris Ellis on 01394 211602.

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