Blogs & Opinion


Kelvin Tatum blogs on Poole and Tai Woffinden in speedway review

Features Posted 16th October 2013 view comments

Poole have now won the Elite League twice in the last four years and got to the final on the other two occasions - and that success is down in large part to the management.

The Pirates' owner, Matt Ford, is very ambitious and always wants to put a winning team full of eye-catching, world class-riders on the track, and I see no reason why that will change.

Poole drafted in two-time World Champion Greg Hancock this season following the injury to star-man Chris Holder and the American's team riding - an art that is being lost in the sport after formerly being so prevalent - has been key in their triumph.

Greg Hancock: showed experience for Poole, says Kelvin

Greg Hancock: showed experience for Poole, says Kelvin

Hancock has been around for 24 years so knows exactly what is required to get his team-mates around the circuit, but he also has the technique and composure to be able to deal with tricky conditions, like the ones he faced at Birmingham on Tuesday.

I mentioned how much of an impact Darcy Ward has made in my Elite League Final preview, while Josh Grajczonek has made the Pirates stronger at reserve and been a real star over the final few weeks of the campaign.

It is vital that the Elite League retains Woffinden as it will allow us to attract other top-drawer riders to these shores.

Kelvin Tatum
Quotes of the week

But credit must go to team manager Neil Middleditch, too, because at one stage this year, Poole were bottom of the standings and nothing was going right for them.

He did really well to galvanise his side and the Pirates never threw the towel in.

They kept working hard and kept believing they could achieve something and, despite just sneaking into the play-offs, showed their class when it mattered.

Fate

As for beaten finalists Birmingham, they need to see their final defeat as a learning curve.

They were fantastic during the regular season whilst topping the standings, but just faltered over the last two weeks and couldn't produce something extra, a fate that has befallen many teams before.

The Brummies should now have a clearer idea of what is needed to win the championship and will hope to come back even stronger next year, as Man United did after losing the Premier League to Man City a few seasons ago.

Wolverhampton, meanwhile, were knocked out in the play-off semi-finals and I think they felt the effects of Tai Woffinden chasing the World Championship, with that pursuit probably taking his eye off the ball somewhat whilst riding for his club.

Woffinden also suffered with a collarbone injury, while his team-mate Freddie Lindgren has had a long, hard season as well - he was not at his best in the semi-final with the Birmingham - so I think Wolves did well to reach the play-offs at all.

Not winning the Elite League will disappoint Woffinden but he will be ecstatic at becoming World Champion, which is a marvellous achievement for someone who was struggling a few years ago.

Comfortable

Tai won just one Grand Prix - the Prague event in May - but he only failed to register double digits twice throughout the season, and one of those was when he broke his collarbone, so you can forgive him for that!

Winning the Speedway Grand Prix series is hard but Woffinden did it with relative ease and seems very comfortable at the highest level of the sport.

Tai's success comes at a time when speedway in our country is in a precarious position and we need to embrace the fact we have a first World Champion since 2000.

Woffinden will ride in Poland and Sweden in 2014 but says he hopes to stay with Wolves and it is vital for the Elite League that we retain him as it will allow us to attract other top-drawer riders to these shores.

Finances come into it - riders on the continent can earn significantly more money that they can in Britain - while I also think we would find it easier to get world-class performers here if meets were on one night.

But if Woffinden does stay more people will be enticed to the Elite League - and I believe they should be because we have a vast array of tracks and you learn more about technique in the UK than anywhere else.

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