Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text SWINDON NEWS to 80360 or email us
SWINDON ROBINS REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2013
THE Robins went into the 2013 season on a crest of a wave after claiming their first title since 1967 in October 2012, but it was a wave that ended up breaking just before the shore.
Speedway writer ANDY WARREN reviews another spectacular year of racing at the Abbey Stadium, which included as much drama and controversy away from the track as on it...
(Click on the links within the review to read the original stories)
The club’s Elite League triumph in 2012 attracted record sponsorship in the form of Excalibur Communications, who, as well as becoming the team’s title sponsor also played a part in the introduction of the popular purple race suits which would eventually capture the imagination of the Robins fans.
On the track, speculation regarding the potential captures of Chris Harris, Rory Schlein and Tobiasz Musielak came to nothing and 2012 stars Peter Kildemand and Nick Morris were the first to sign up for the title defence, with the latter becoming a club asset.
After Simon Stead was released to join King’s Lynn the first new face arrived in the form of rising star Ashley Birks, who had completed a journey from National to Elite League level which only began three years previous.
The Yorkshireman was soon joined at reserve by Pole Kacper Gomolski, who team manager Alun Rossiter promised would quickly capture the imagination of the Swindon fans.
“From his time at Peterborough Kacper has the reputation of being a bit of an entertainer and a showman, and when he gets going he is a very exciting rider to watch for sure,” he said.
Popular Aussie Jason Doyle was signed as a club asset from Poole in a swap deal for Maciej Janowski, but was loaned out to Birmingham immediately as Edward Kennett linked up with Rossiter once more to become the Robins’ fifth winter signing.
Fans were split on the controversial Brit, but the Robins boss was convinced he could get the best out of him.
All along the title-winning top two of Hans Andersen and Troy Batchelor were the targets to lead the team once again, but a winter long battle with parent club Peterborough dragged on and threatened to interfere with the preparations for the new season.
After the Panthers signed Linus Sundstrom it appeared certain they would go with Kenneth Bjerre at number one once the pint sized Dane had returned from injury, leaving Andersen and Batchelor free to move.
Panthers bosses didn’t see things that way and insisted the duo would only leave on full transfers and were still in their plans, with Robins co-owner Gary Patchett only willing to sanction loan deals.
The 2013 Robins were finally ready to go.
After Niels-Kristian Iversen started another successful campaign with victory in the season opening Bob Kilby Memorial Meeting and a home challenge fixture with a Great Britain side fell through due to the weather, the Robins got down to business with an instant repeat of the previous October’s Elite League final with Poole in the Elite Shield.
Captain Andersen got his season off to an almost perfect start as he only dropped a single point to the Pirates, while Batchelor and Kildemand both hit double figures in the 55-37 first leg win at Blunsdon which all but secured the first silverware of the season.
The job was completed the following day with Kennett the Robins’ top performer, and having seen his side successfully put down the early marker he had demanded Rossiter saw his side elevated to league title favourites ahead of King’s Lynn.
If the Elite Shield victory put down a marker for the Robins, the Blunsdon side’s performances throughout a scintillating April made them the team to beat as they claimed six straight victories – prompting a few suggestions they could go the entire season unbeaten.
While those predictions were never likely to come true it was hard not to disagree while watching Andersen’s majestic maximum and double figure scores for Kennett, Kildemand and Batchelor in the 63-27 hammering of Lakeside on opening night, before the same four riders combined for 40 points as the champions snatched a 47-43 victory in the Hammers’ backyard to following evening.
ALUN ROSSITER WAS IMPRESSED BY HIS SIDE IN APRIL
The success at Purfleet prompted Robins boss Rossiter to tweet “Great win from the boys tonight feeling the love already. Great atmosphere in the pits let’s keep it going boys,” and that team spirit was in evidence again the following Monday in what had fast become a grudge match with Peterborough after a winter of discontent.
Andersen was once again imperious as he made it 10 wins from 10 home heats at the start of the Elite League season in the eventual 54-38 victory, while win number four came two days later as Kildemand proved the match winner at favoured track Birmingham yet again with 13+1.
While Andersen and Batchelor were given a hot reception on their return to Peterborough it was another on loan Panthers asset, Gomolski, who proved the difference as the Robins won 50-40 at the Showground, before the opening month of the season was rounded off with victory number six at home to Eastbourne.
After such a fast start the first chink in the Robins’ armour came at King’s Lynn where they had to do without captain Andersen in controversial circumstances.
The Dane was due to be with the Robins while home club Fjelsted also had a meeting, but he rode in neither and instead opted to compete in a qualifier for the new look European Championship.
Due to the fact the new competition didn’t feature in the agreement between the British and Danish federations Andersen was deemed to be withholding his services, and the Robins were forced to track National League rider Lewis Blackbird as a guest at number one.
The youngster inevitably failed to score, and without a key part of their vital top five the Robins fell to their first defeat of the season.
Andersen returned to score 14 the following night in the return meeting with the Stars which the Robins narrowly won by three points, but that was the last time they would taste success in the second month of the season.
HANS ANDERSEN WAS MISSING ON A NUMBER OF OCCASIONS IN MAY
The Swindon captain was missing again as he and compatriot Kildemand were at practice for the first round of their national championship, and with Schlein and Davey Watt in as guests the patched up Robins crashed at home to eventual table toppers Birmingham as Blunsdon fell flat.
While Robins fans’ views were split on Andersen’s previous absences nobody disputed his non-appearance at Eastbourne due to the birth of his first child, but without their captain the Robins again tasted defeat as they went down 48-42 in Sussex.
While the three defeats dented the Robins on the track, the biggest disappointment came on May 30 when the club’s lucrative pre-Cardiff clash with Poole was washed out with hoards of fans queuing outside. With the state of the club’s finances set to come to light later in the season, the loss of such a good earning opportunity was a real blow.
June proved to be another ugly month for the men from the Abbey Stadium, but it started in style as a paid maximum from Andersen helped them dismantle a poor Coventry side.
By this stage of the season the money owed to the club’s riders was stacking up, and after a heat 15 loss away at Belle Vue, with Andersen again missing due to an injury suffered in Poland, the remaining riders found it hard to be down about the 46-44 defeat due to the fact they were not being paid.
A bizarre night of speedway was on offer at Brandon as a Robins team including only two regular riders faced Coventry, due to the fact Andersen, Kildemand, Kennett and Batchelor were involved in GP qualifying and Birks was on Premier League duty. Swindon tried to get the meeting postponed, but the Bees refused to budge and the inevitable defeat soon followed.
Robins club bosses and national federations became embroiled in another row surrounding the availability of captain Andersen for the second visit to King’s Lynn.
The Dane was convinced he should have been riding for Fjelsted in his homeland while Robins promoter Patchett pointed to an agreement between the BSPA and the DMU which he believed meant Andersen was required in Norfolk. Stubborn Andersen stood firm and stayed in Denmark.
The days before and after the meeting were filled with claim and counter claim, but the end result was a spectacular 51-38 victory as the remaining Robins stepped up to cover for their captain’s absence. In the lead up to the match the riders were paid a significant amount of the money they were owed, with three revealing privately afterwards the payment had been a major motivation for the riders.
KACPER GOMOLSKI LOST HIS TEAM PLACE IN JUNE
June proved to be the end of the road for Gomolski following a series of up-and-down displays topped off by a score of zero at Belle Vue and only 1+1 at Coventry, which forced Rossiter to admit his place was under serious threat.
After suffering a dubious foot injury the Pole missed the meeting at Lynn and was replaced by club asset Cory Gathercole, and although the Aussie had been promised the team place full-time he was quickly replaced by Kyle Howarth after only managing two points from his two guest bookings.
After Gathercole was cast aside following the 52-44 loss at Birmingham, Howarth’s Swindon career began at Belle Vue. Things couldn’t have started any better as the young reserve, discarded by Poole earlier in the season, stormed to 12 points which made up for Batchelor, Kildemand and Kennett’s off nights to lead his new team to a 47-42 win.
Andersen was banned for two home meetings for withholding his services at King’s Lynn, and with 2012 championship winner Jason Doyle in as a guest on both occasions the Robins enjoyed a double success first over Wolverhampton and then Belle Vue.
In between the two meetings the reigning champions battled superbly while Australian champion Batchelor was away on World Cup duty to win at Lakeside for the second time, but after going toe-to-toe with league leaders Wolverhampton in the battle of the top two the Robins fell just short as Andersen suffered a disastrous heat 15 engine failure.
EDWARD KENNETT'S FORM WAS A CONCERN
Kennett’s early season form had long since faded as he began to struggle with off track issues, and after a roasting by Rossiter during the last heat loss at Monmore Green he bounced back with a bang later in the week as he hit double figures for the first time since the end of May as the Robins took the Aces apart to return to the top of the table.
Andersen returned to Blunsdon following his ban for the home clash with Peterborough, but he couldn’t lead his team to the expected victory over the side bottom of the table.
The Robins were well in control as they were 12 up going into heat 11, but after Batchelor’s chain snapped while leading Bjerre on a tactical the wheels came off and the Panthers won after a heat 14 5-1.
Rossiter’s side were soon back to winning ways at home as they beat Birmingham 52-40 and King’s Lynn 56-37, but in between came a disappointing loss to Peterborough as both Andersen and Batchelor failed to make a significant contribution.
The next home meeting saw the club’s financial problems revealed, as Andersen, Kennett, Kildemand and Batchelor only had one bike in the pits for the meeting with Belle Vue to highlight the fact they had not been paid.
The Robins lost 48-42, but all the drama came off the track as the extent of the problem was revealed.
ANDERSEN AND KILDEMAND TALK THINGS THROUGH AS THE STATE OF THE ROBINS FINANCES IS REVEALED
The four riders were owed more than £50,000, dating back some eight weeks, with the remaining three also owed a significant amount of money.
“Sometimes we get criticised for having a bad meeting, but sometimes it’s due to some of us not being paid. Some of the riders can’t afford new clutch plates because they’re skint, and can’t service engines when they want to because they are not being paid,” captain Andersen said on behalf of his team.
The riders were paid a proportion of the outstanding money the following morning which was good enough to convince them to carry on riding, but with Kildemand missing following heavy crashes against the Aces and in the GP Challenge the Robins went down 49-41 at Poole.
Another difficult month ended with a morale boosting 50-43 victory over Poole, with Andersen and Kildemand both scoring 12 and Darcy Ward claiming a maximum for the Pirates.
After all the negative headlines in August, September began on a high as sponsors Excalibur and Pebley Beach stepped in to secure the future of the club and put a plan in place to pay the riders in full as quickly as possible.
“The worst case scenario could have been no speedway in Swindon next season, but thankfully that has been secured thanks to our brilliant sponsors,” Rossiter said.
SPONSORS EXCALIBUR AND PEBLEY BEACH STEPPED IN TO HELP THE ROBINS
There was more controversy as captain Andersen suggested it might be beneficial if the Robins intentionally lost to Lakeside to allow the Hammers into the play-offs at Poole’s expense, but after receiving the wrath of the speedway public Rossiter scoffed at the suggestion and his side won the match comfortably at the second attempt after the original staging was abandoned.
The win set up another two legged battle with Poole, but before the play-offs got underway the Robins suffered a blow as reserve Birks suffered a serious back injury riding in an individual meeting in Plymouth which ruled him out for the season.
The Robins perhaps surprisingly chose to ride at home first, but the tactic looked to have paid off as the champions took a 10 point lead to Wimborne Road following a gutsy dive from Batchelor on the final corner of heat 15 which saw him barge past Janowski to stretch the lead.
The second leg started disastrously as Ward and Tomas H Jonasson scored a heat one 5-1 to reduce the deficit to six, and by the end of heat six the lead was only two.
The Robins scrapped to stay in front and succeeded until heat 13, where Janowski and Ward gave their side their first advantage of the tie with a 5-1.
ANDERSEN'S HAND INJURY PLAYED AN IMPORTANT PART IN THE ROBINS' LOSS TO POOLE
Comments are closed on this article.