WITCHES TEAM MANAGER
Monday 20th November 2017
‘Tru7.com’ Witches Promoter Chris Louis says the sport has been simplified for 2018 after listening to what the fans want.
Club bosses held the annual AGM in Tenerife over the weekend as it was confirmed that the Witches would compete in the SGB Championship once again with Lakeside Hammers joining the division. Set nights have been introduced in the Premiership on Mondays and Wednesdays.
The team building points limit has been increased to 42.5 with the starting rules set to be simplified as the tactical double points rule is scrapped with a tactical substitution coming in to replace it.
Louis was in positive mood following the AGM and says it has been a successful few days with the fans taken into consideration.
“It has all been very positive,” said Louis. “We have simplified the sport and that has predominately come about from listening to the fans and what they like and don’t like. It has been very successful.
“Race nights are set in the Premiership for Monday and Wednesday but because of stadium availability Swindon have grace to use some Thursdays to help them.”
Louis is pleased the team building points limit has been increased, seeing no need to lessen the quality of teams.
“It will be 42.5 in both leagues which is basically the meeting average. When it was the old Premier League we used that all the time until last year when it went down. It works, it keeps the status quo and there is no need to de-strengthen the teams and everyone knows where they are, it is better.”
The Promoter says that everyone in the sport wants less restarts in meetings and explained what will be done in 2018 to reduce this.
“Everybody gets fed up with the amount of restarts we have. The rules have not actually changed with regards to what you are allowed to do at the start gate. You still have to be still and the referee will make sure that is the case when the tapes go up but there won’t be any warnings and there won’t be any restarts unless you touch the tapes.
“I think that is good and it returns the art of getting a fair start to the referee and the riders. In my time we didn’t have anywhere near the amount of restarts that we have now and that was down to the rules and the interpretation of them. There were no warnings, occasionally a referee would talk to you on the phone and tell you that you are delaying starts because of movement and that is fine. It becomes a mind game because the referee has told you that he is watching you. It is a return to that really and there was nothing wrong with that as it didn’t delay the start with so many restarts and that has got to be better for the fans.”
The former skipper is also pleased that the tactical double points ride is gone for 2018 with the tactical substitute giving team managers more to think about.
“Another fan bug bear is the tactical ride and it is a rule that fans even outside of the sport just couldn’t work out how a team could suddenly be given a double point advantage, so that is gone. It has been replaced by an old fashioned tactical substitution where you can replace a rider with one that is in better form or whatever and you can do that once between heats five and 14 excluding heat eight.
“Team managers have got to think about it and it is not such an advantage because the only way you can maximise anything out of it is being absolutely certain that the rider that is programmed to ride is not going to score any points and the one you are putting in is going to win the race. He has really got to think about what he is doing and that is the format I rode under.
“As a top rider it gives you an extra ride which is nice and you are not going to take out reserves that you are trying to bring on so it gives everyone more to think about and I like it. I didn’t like the advantage that double points gave you as you just name someone for a tactical ride and I wasn’t a fan of it nor were many fans. We have listened to them and gone back to the tradition of what we had.”
The two-time British champion is delighted to add another local derby to the fixture list with Lakeside stepping up to the Championship with travelling reduced for fans and riders in 2018. The Witches will face Peterborough and Lakeside in their League Cup group and will face one of those two sides in the Knockout Cup second round.
“It is always good to have more clubs rather than less and we have gained Lakeside as a local derby so that is fantastic. It will be one meeting at home and one away in the league as the League Cup returns in small groups as you look to qualify for the semis and the Knockout Cup continues.
“I am happy with the League Cup returning and although it is only a small regionalised group, going three or four times if you qualify for the latter stages of competitions to Scotland and Workington is expensive and too expensive for fans. We are trying to localise as much as we can for fans so that they are happy to travel and we are trying to make everything as sensible as possible for the fans.”
Attentions now turn to completing the team for the new season and Louis says that he hopes to complete the side in the coming weeks.
“A lot of work can be done pre-AGM because you have parameters that you know won’t change that much but you can’t announce your team until everything is ratified and you know what you are doing. It is time now to finish the team, we have got quite a bit done and I would like to think over the next week or two we can get the team finished. We look forward to announcing what we are doing. Look out for 2018 team details and season ticket sales on our official website and social media channels in the coming weeks.”
Words: Henry ChardMore News
WITCHES TEAM MANAGER
I think it was massively disappointing for everyone that we did not get the two trophies we were competing for this season. On reflection, we gave the fans a team to be proud of and I can’t give anything but credit to the boys. It was an unlucky situation that cost us the Knockout Cup trophy and I don’t think it was anything to do with the boys’ performance or effort. I couldn’t have asked for any more and I think the town is proud of the team which is very positive. At the end of the day, you do need to win a trophy though and it is a bit bittersweet if you like.
Sheffield were the better team over the season and they beat us fair and square really in the Play-Off final. The defeat to Peterborough in the cup final summed up sport really, it is not fair and life is not fair is it? That was hard to take but what an effort by the five riders in both meetings though, to come to a last heat decider over the two legs was a massive effort. That was the hard one to take but we have to move on from it.
On a personal note, you take time to reflect on it and think you could have done something different to help. With the cup final it was quite clear where we lost it and no one could do anything about that. We keep the focus on next season now and we will come back and try and win a trophy and improve as a team and put another competitive team out to go again.
It has been a massive stress on Chris (Louis) and I all season with the injuries and has been harder than last year. As the season has gone on we have been picking ourselves up from injuries, only to be kicked down again. In that respect it has been a hard season and we are all ready for a bit of a break now. Without the set of riders we have we wouldn’t have got anywhere near where we did and the attitude of the six we had left kept us going. They made it all worthwhile.
I have learnt a lot again this year and you can only learn with experience. We have improved this year and results have improved since last year which is the main objective. I am more experienced in the role now and am learning how to deal with different riders and challenges that they bring. This season the team is a lot closer to where I want it to be. The team spirit is excellent and they are fighting for the badge and the will to win has been excellent from the six we had left. We have made progress in that sense from a couple of years ago.
Seeing Cam (Heeps) progress this year has been a highlight and I think we will all take great delight in that as he is an Ipswich boy now really as well as a good friend. Obviously we wanted to see Connor (Mountain) and Danyon (Hume) come through together but watching Connor’s season has been a highlight too. He has come through everything and seeing his development has been brilliant.
It is all up in the air again ahead of the AGM this month but the main thing to sort out is the doubling up and guest riders. There needs to be some massive changes to control that. They also need to do some work on this transfer deadline which was far too early and too stringent and not being able to replace injured riders after it has passed which is just stupid and needs to be changed.
I think we gave the fans a team to be proud of and they came out and supported us, the two go hand in hand. Obviously when there is a big crowd and the fans are vocal it gives the riders a boost. I was always massively proud to wear the Witch and I expect the same from the riders. This year, everyone wanted to race for each other and the club and that is what we need to keep for next season.
We have been looking at 2018 teams for a good few weeks already and what teams we will have for different situations. We need to prepare the best we can in that respect and even though things are not announced it does not mean there is not a lot going on behind the scenes. I took three days after the cup final without speaking to Chris and I think that is the first time we haven’t spoken for so long in six months! I have loads of different teams written down for lots of different scenarios and riders I would like to work with. On the whole, I would like to keep working with as many of this year’s team as possible because they bought into the values I want from my team and they deserve another shot at winning a trophy.
I would like to staff at the club that keep the club going and always treat me with great respect and are great to work with. Also I’d like to thank the riders and mechanics for giving everything and contributing so much to us having fun and they have bought into our philosophy. Also thanks to Chris, for all of his support and backing and I think we have a good working relationship. Finally, thanks to the fans, who for five years running have been great to me and they support me and don’t get on my back to much!
See you in 2018,
To steal a line, I have just read a piece Mike Bacon put online called ‘the team that never was’ and that sums up our season really. Before we even started we had problems. To sum up 2017, it has been the best team I have worked or been involved with for many years, just for its unwavering effort from start to finish. That deserved some medals and trophies, or at least one trophy but it wasn’t to be and lady luck deserted us right to the very end, to the very last meeting, to the very last rider to get injured! That summed up the season really and is my only disappointment but it will be remembered by me as a great bunch of guys to work with and who gave everything for the Witch and that is all you can ask for. I think comments from fans on social media that have all been positive even though we won nothing say it all. For a team that started as many people’s favourites, to win nothing could easily come with an onslaught of abuse from fans but everybody feels the same way as I do and you couldn’t have asked for anymore from any of them.
I feel had we have kept the seven we had on press day fit then we would have won both trophies. Given the circumstances, yes I won’t argue Sheffield were the better side over the two legs in the Play-Off final and it would have only been our tenacity that would have seen us through as even in that final we were suffering with injuries and things going wrong. I won’t argue they were the better side and deserved to win the league. The Knockout Cup against Peterborough, for me we were winners in our hearts because we did both legs with five riders and still only lost by four points. No trophy to show for it but as far as I am concerned we were winners but unfortunately effort does not win trophies, points do and they scored more than us. That was the harder one to take as I felt that should have been ours and we knew what we did in both legs with five men was quite amazing.
The highlight of the season, not to sound like a broken record but it was the effort from all of the lads and how they got on. When a season gets tough and people get injured, the results you expect to go your way don’t because of that and it is easy for the spirit to drop, needle to set in and people to get upset with each other. That happens in all teams in all sports but our lads just battled away and got on with each other and the more adversity we faced, the stronger we got as a unit and bonded. That was great to watch that was facilitated by the gaffer and in any sport that is a large part of what the boss has to do and Ritchie (Hawkins) did a great job of it. Hats off to him, everyone is talking about the riders and their effort but he kept their heads in the game at times and played a massive part.
Another pleasing thing was seeing Cam (Heeps) come back and do so well. We brought him over as a 15-year-old from Australia and worked with him in those early days and he hadn’t pushed on as much he could in my mind and I am sure he would agree with that. He really was a standout rider for us especially at home and that was pleasing on an individual front. It is hard to pick out individuals but Danny (King) did his job despite suffering from his shoulder for large parts of the season which people don’t know about as he does not talk about it. Again, he did his job and maintained his number one position. Rory (Schlein) came back from serious injury as did Connor (Mountain) and both played massive roles this year. What can you say about Nathan (Greaves)? He had a terrible start to the season with Wolverhampton and wasn't necessarily feeling it and didn’t know where he was with the sport because he was struggling so badly. Thankfully he took on coming to us after Danyon’s (Hume) injury and had the best season he has ever had. There are so many positives in a season that gave us no trophies!
There is always the feeling of ‘what more can you do’ when you put together what a lot of people consider the best side. It is not the first time it has happened and even I have looked at the season and thought this is not down to the team not being good enough, it was down to the team missing for the whole of the season. That is frustrating but it has made myself and Ritchie even more determined to put together a winning side and get the job done next time. We’ve missed out on silverware in two finals but we were there to give ourselves a chance and we will be there again next year.
The issues we have faced all year add to the workload because every time you need guests you are juggling things around and effectively you are trying to put a new team together every week, it is difficult and expensive, so it is hard on the club’s finances. At the end of the day that is our job and yes it was made tough by bad luck and injury but as a club we did the best we could do under the circumstances thrown at us. If there is one standout thing it is the support that has snowballed throughout the season culminating in massive crowds in the two finals. That is a standout thing for me and is second to none in both leagues in speedway this year.
The AGM question is far too big to answer in my column as we wouldn’t have the time! However, it is about consolidating the teams in the leagues and making sure we have two competitive leagues. Fixture clashes and doubling up are a major bone of contention for fans and decisions based around what the fans want are what we need to look at if you ask me.
The Grand Prix series as always was very good and very exciting with so many rounds with great tracks and great entertainment. You know you are going to get that with the world’s best riders all together. Jason Doyle is as deserved world champion as there has ever been I think. He has worked his way to that spot over a few years and has dedicated his whole life to the sport and winning that championship. To do it in wheel perfect style in his own country in Melbourne was a fitting end to the effort he has put in and it was fully deserved.
The wildcards I am not sure about really and I don’t know if I fully agree with them but I suppose you are never going to please everyone when you do it. I am sure there is a balance of what is the most exciting line-up for the fans and a bit of business. At the end of the day, they are there to sell to lots of different countries as a TV product and you have to satisfy those audiences. There is more to the thinking of ‘who makes it more exciting’ but it won’t dilute the product and it will be hugely entertaining again in 2018.
This in some ways this is the busiest time of year even though I am not travelling around the country. At the end of the day, this is about preparing for 2018, building the team and getting the sponsors to finance the club and many other aspects of the club in everything we do from the website to social media. There is also the physical state of the track and making sure the track is better. We are looking to improve that again. I know I have been saying we might lose some home track advantage for a while but that did not affect us this year that is for sure. All I want is the most entertainment and most excitement for the fans, that is what we do and I want to make it the best it can possibly be.
I would like to thank all the many people that keep our wonderful speedway club going and if I have missed anyone I apologise, every single contribution is very much appreciated. I start with thanks to my wife Julie for her hours of work behind the scenes and putting up with the highs and lows that occasionally come home on a Thursday evening! A big thank you to all the track staff including Bob Ellis, the linchpin of the whole operation here at the track. Keith Barton, Richard Amott, Brian Messenger and Shane Silburn who keep the pits organised and the meetings flowing. Henry Chard, for his endless efforts on improving our press and social media coverage and presence. Julie Last, for her hard work on the programme advertising and endless running around looking after our corporate customers along with Danny Robinson on race nights. Chris Ellis, for the long hours spent collating season tickets and arranging the hugely successful Cardiff tour. Peter and Roger Thorpe, Steve Waller, Keith Suffling and all at Gipping Press for all their hard work on the programme and other publications throughout the year.
All the track staff and fence gang who ensure that we have a safe arena to race in. Mark, Cheryl and all of the supporters club who contribute so much to the club and bring a smile to the faces our fans every meeting. All of the companies that contribute to advertising, meeting sponsorship and the air fence sponsorship. A big thank you to title sponsors ‘Tru7.com’, Guy Nicholls and all the family and crew at Tippers ‘R’ Us, Trucks ‘R’ Us and BagAgg. Guy is in his second year as title sponsor but is so much more to the club than that and is a great support to Julie and myself as we strive to push the club forward. Lastly Mark, Maria, Ray and all the family at RN Euston Ltd who came on board as a partner sponsor after many years of support as meeting and programme sponsors. Seeing you here every week cheering on the lads means so much, without you guys, none of this would be possible. We thank you all.
I would like to add Mike Smillie and Dave Wilkins to that list for all their hours of hard work keeping the paperwork and club accounts in order and also Peter, George and the start line crew for all their hard work which admittedly has become a little easier without Mr Sarjeant in the side! The stadium security, stewards and turnstile staff too for all they do to keep a race night smooth and safe. Last but not least Julie and Strawb on the pit entrance for signing in the riders, mechanics and officials, in a thankless task but they do it brilliantly week in week out. I will still have missed some which just goes to show how many hard working people it takes to keep the show on the road, you all know who you are and I thank you all.
Thank you for your continued support,
The end of the season has been a tough pill to swallow really. We had a great season and got over hurdles all year with all the injuries we suffered. We maintained our form throughout it all and got to two cup finals. To win nothing is a real kick in the teeth. It is hard to take and it is probably the best team I have ridden in to not win anything.
It was a tough year but we were lucky that we all ride for a great club and have a great manager, a good boss and a great team spirit that carried us through. You speak to any Peterborough fan or rider and they don’t feel they won the Knockout Cup, the feeling is that we threw it away and maybe that is the case. That is sport and that’s how it goes sometimes and you have to take it.
I think I have been in the game long enough to know how it works but I know a lot of lads will have the feeling of ‘what do we have to do to win a trophy?’ That’s sport and that’s the way it goes. I have ridden really well in some races and come last and then not rode well and won a race. It is one of those things and it is hard to take but you move on and learn from it.
I think I was the only one not to get injured until the final meeting! You couldn’t make it up and it has been the story of our season, someone wasn’t looking down on us in a nice way this year! I’ve got a suspected fractured left wrist but I am waiting to hear from the specialist still though. There is obviously a lot of ligament damage to the wrist.
Personally this year wasn’t as good as the year before but that was going to be hard to top after winning the British Championship and getting a silver medal for Team GB. A lot happened last year and I knew it would be tough to top. All in all it was a good year and the form was there most of the time. I had a bad start to the season as I had a few issues behind the scenes but once that was sorted I was back on form and everything was going good until I had a little bike issue towards the end of the year as we got to the Play-Off semi-finals. I brought my Polish engines back over and we were away again so I felt I was riding good but was let down at times by other things.
I know how to deal with the pressure and I try to keep things very basic. Everything is the same and it does not matter what meeting it is or who you are riding against, I treat it the same. I go out and give 100% and that is all I can do and that has worked so far for me in my career and that is how I go into every meeting.
Injuries are part of motorsport. The bikes are not easy to ride don’t get me wrong, they’re a lot harder to ride than ten years ago. However, that is how the sport has evolved and the bikes have evolved and we are aware of how they are and how they react. Sometimes they do get away from you and silly things can happen. My crash was an example of this. Nathan (Greaves) got out of shape and couldn’t avoid me, he clipped me and that was it. That is the way it goes. The bikes could go back to how they were but they won’t because it would cost too much money so I don’t know what the answer is to that one.
I enjoyed my time with Leicester but it was also frustrating. It has been hard going to meetings with no team and you have pretty much lost before you get there, that is not much fun. To be fair, later in the year after they made the team changes it was a lot more enjoyable because we were going away with no pressure on us as we were at the bottom and picking up results, which was really fun. We were going to places that you wouldn’t expect us to get anything from and getting results and wins, the win at Belle Vue was fantastic and who would have thought that would happen. In the end it was great fun and you have to give credit to the Bates family for what they have done, they came in late with little to choose from for the team and stuck with it and didn’t give up.
Ahead of the AGM I like the idea of a fixed race night and that would stop the hindrance of doubling up as there would be no clashes, so I would like to see that come in. I want to ride my bike as much as I can and I absolutely hate missing meetings for clubs I have signed for. I’d also like more teams back in the Championship, it became very northern last year and with the two home and two away meetings the travelling became a killer despite it being nice to have the meetings. I’d like more teams and one at home and one way would be sufficient.
This time of the year is stressful to be honest as we don’t know what is happening in speedway and are in limbo. I am waiting for the AGM and I will be talking to people to try and find out what is going on and get an idea of where it is going. Once the AGM is out the way it is time to negotiate and get the contracts sorted. I would love to get that done before Christmas again as it always makes it more enjoyable knowing I have got two teams that I have signed for. Last year was stressful as I got to February having signed with Coventry and then we got a phone call to tell us they were not running, that was not fun. I want to get all that sorted but other than that I have DIY to sort out at home and the missus has told me I’ve got some decorating to do and after Christmas we will be building bikes and raring to go!
I have loved this year at Ipswich and we have had the best bunch of lads ever, not just riders but mechanics as well and Chris (Louis) and Ritchie (Hawkins). Everyone has mucked in, there has been no hassle in the team either. Sometimes you get a few riders who get under each other’s skin but there has been none of that this year. Everyone has knuckled down and got on and it has been really fun. Because of that people want to ride well and want to win and the way Chris runs the club is very fair. Chris makes you want to ride for him, you get no hassle from Ipswich speedway.
I would like to thank all my sponsors for supporting me again this year and I know I say it every year but without them, none of it would be able to happen. We rely on them majorly and I hope they have had an enjoyable year. I would also like to thank the fans who have been absolutely fantastic this year. I know we have been winning and that is always good but this year has been unreal, even on the road the support has been fantastic, so they deserve a big thank you. I would like to thank my family and Clara for sticking by me. As we have said before, speedway is not a normal lifestyle and not the easiest as you take a lot of it home with you and they take the brunt of it! I would like to thank my mechanics Dave Brabbin and Richard Maull, without them I would not be able to do it. I’d like to thank Ipswich speedway as well, it has been another enjoyable year and it feels like home to me and I want success for the club. That is why this year has been a bit of downer at the end as we have not won anything after being so close but I know how badly Ipswich speedway wants and deserves success and that is what I want to bring to the club.
Have a great Christmas,
Foxhall Rd, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 5TL 01473 623640