SWINDON Robins boss Alun Rossiter has achieved a lot during more than 30 years in speedway as a rider and team manager, but the pride he felt at being named Great Britain boss yesterday is up there with the lot.
Since beginning his racing career with his hometown club in 1982, the 48-year-old has gone on to win multiple trophies as a rider and represented his country on the track with pride before subsequently winning Elite League titles with two different clubs.
That success, most recently with the Robins in 2012, helped the charismatic 48-year-old beat off stiff competition from former Birmingham boss Phil Morris to earn the right to lead his country yesterday, leaving him unable to hide his delight as he returned home from Wales up the M4 in his day jon as a lorry driver.
The proud Swindonian applied for the top job five years ago before being asked to share the duties with Rob Lyon, an offer he declined, but half a decade on he feels he has grown as a manager and as a man and is more ready than ever to face the challenges his new role brings.
“I really feel like this is my time now, I really do,” he said. “I’ve earned my stripes and I have more experience and am a lot more professional and composed.
“That’s something I’ve worked on and I do believe I’m a better team manager than I was back then. Sometimes if you are too passionate it can overtake you and you can lose control, but the day I lose my passion is the day I quit, I’ve always said that.
“I toured Australia with my country in 1987/88 and we came back with a 5-2 series win, not many people went and did that, and that was pretty special. But getting this has to be up there with all of that and everything I’ve done in speedway.
“Everyone knows it’s the birth of your kids which is pretty special in life but this is different. Family is personal and this is sheer professional pride, but I’m brimming with pride now and I feel wonderful about it all. I heard whispers I may have got it but when I heard the news properly my smile was wider than my truck, I was buzzing like you would not believe and anyone who saw me driving down the M4 must have thought I had lost the plot.”
After the euphoria had died down slightly, Rossiter was quick to turn his mind to the job in hand despite only taking on the job a matter of hours earlier, with the passion of the riders and their desire to succeed for their country at the top of his agenda.
“I want the riders to be passionate about racing for Great Britain and pulling on the race suit,” he said. “I will always remember being called at 11am one morning and was asked by John Louis to get to Ipswich for 2pm for a test match after David Norris was taken ill and I dropped everything to do it. That’s what it meant to me and while I don’t expect riders to do it for nothing I want them to have that pride in their country.
“I want it to be friendly because in the past I have noticed some divisions in the GB ranks and that’s not what I want. I don’t care if you don’t like someone but when it’s World Cup week you have to get on and do it for your country and give it your best.
“You only have to look at the togetherness the likes of the Australians and the Americans have. I want that.
“I won’t please everybody all of the time, I know that, but I will do everything in my power to bring success to my country.”
The new national boss is keen to capitalise on Tai Woffinden’s recent world title victory as well as Chris Harris’ return to the Grand Prix Series, while he would also be keen to tempt Scott Nicholls out of international retirement for this summer’s World Cup. However, with the likes of Craig Cook and Richie Worrall on the verge of taking their careers to the next level, Rossiter was keen to stress his new job was far from a short-term project.
“People say it’s a poisoned chalice but I really can’t see that at all,” he said. “This is a great time to be coming into the job because we have a world champion in our corner and all it needs is the likes of Richie Worrall and Craig Cook to come to the party.
“It’s up to all of them to show me what they can do.
“Chris Harris is back in the Grand Prix next year and has a point to prove so he’s a real asset for us.
“I’m not sure about Scott because it’s all been a bit of a whirlwind for me after getting the job, but I only want people who want to ride for their country and not people who feel they have to. Scott is a world class rider and maybe I will have that conversation because he would certainly be a real asset.
“I’m not going to make wild promises or anything like that but looking at what countries like America have done through sheer passion and hard work show it can be done.
“It’s not a five-minute job, I’m in it for the long haul, so if Phil (Morris) and Neil Vatcher keep on working with the youth I’m sure I will have plenty to talk about with them too.”
Rossiter now joins England netball boss Anna Mayes and Great Britain Under 20 Ice Hockey manager Pete Russell to create a trio of international sports managers based in the town and he couldn’t be more proud.
“For a small little town like Swindon to achieve something like that is amazing especially given how much abuse it gets sometimes,” he said.
“It’s great for Swindon and if I can help put us on the map a bit more it will be fantastic.
“My new job won’t interfere at all with my work with the Robins and I think all in all it will help me continue to improve and help the club win more titles.”