I’LL be honest, deep down I thought we had big problems – I am of course talking about our track.

The day after we lost at Wolverhampton, James Shanes, Zach Wajtknecht, Adam Ellis and Troy Batchelor came to the Abbey to test the new surface.

Adam fell off after a couple of laps, and Troy didn’t ride at all. I can’t print what I really thought, but I will say I was devastated and didn’t think Poole’s visit in the Supporters’ Cup on Thursday of that week was going to happen.

Terry (Russell, chairman) cracked the whip and that first meeting had everything – the turnaround was incredible.

Swindon Advertiser: Former Robin James Shanes starts the first ever lap of the new and improved Abbey Stadium circuit.Former Robin James Shanes starts the first ever lap of the new and improved Abbey Stadium circuit.

We won at Poole the next day – again in the Supporters’ Cup – but the track was as hard as a road at the end of the meeting.

It was bumpy, slick and dusty – we had the same problem when we raced there a month later. We did really well to win that day, we adapted better. It always has that effect, if a track is rubbish then the home team always struggles.

You expect a good track every week, and riders suffer from reverse psychology when they don’t get what they expect.

You could say the same for Wolverhampton in the semi-final of the league – they struggled at home though conditions were the same for both teams.

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I WAS and wasn’t surprised when Zach Wajtknecht made the decision to take a step away from speedway.

I’ve watched him ride on the grass and he will race with both wheels off the floor, bouncing around, while going flat out.

There was clearly a mental block, but he was honest to me by saying he wasn’t comfortable going into the corners.

I still struggle to get my head around how he can get two wheels off the ground on the grass but worry in speedway. I respect his decision, though.

Swindon Advertiser: James Shanes and Zach Wajtknecht departed the Robins in May after struggling to find form.James Shanes and Zach Wajtknecht departed the Robins in May after struggling to find form.

May was a massive month of change – we also lost Jason Doyle and Tobiasz Musielak to injury while Dawid Lampart was pulled by Lublin.


Those key moments turned the club’s fortunes, May was a defining month. Everyone liked Ellis Perks when we signed him, he has this never-say-die attitude where he just doesn’t know when he is beaten.

Rasmus (Jensen) arrived too. I expected him to improve his average, but I don’t think anyone predicted his impact on the club.


JUNE was a month where I learnt a lot as a speedway manager – every day is a school day.

We signed David Bellego to cover for Tobiasz (Musielak) after he picked up a knee injury in Poland. When Tobiasz told me about his knock, I genuinely didn’t think we’d see him again that season.

I had every intention of keeping David, and he was disappointed when we didn’t extend his short-term deal. I saw him in France last month, he’s a great lad and we’re good mates.

David’s ‘debut’ was at Peterborough, and we got caught out big time that night – I partly take responsibility for it.

I blame myself for not keeping an eye on the track. They went out with a water sprayer and we held the inside when we gated well. Because of the clay content, the surface was like ice.

We made great starts, but Peterborough were wise to conditions and outwitted us. That was a lesson learnt for me – we went from 10 points up to losing 50-40. That meeting really sticks in my mind, I should’ve been more on the ball.

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WE had another injury situation to deal with in July after losing Stefan Nielsen at King’s Lynn following a horrible heat two spill.

Stefan (Nielsen) was riding well, and I would’ve been happy to keep him in the team – but he is known to pick up regular injuries.

If he could stay injury free, I believe he could do a fantastic job. It was a great shame when he crashed at King’s Lynn, that was a nasty spill.

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Three days after, we were pushed close at home by Ipswich in a meeting that sticks in my mind for more than one reason.

Some people say Jason Doyle doesn’t give his all on the week of a Grand Prix. But I invite people to watch heat 15 of the meeting where we beat Ipswich 46-44 – he rounded Krystian Pieszczek on the final turn to poach victory from what would’ve been a draw.

It was great entertainment, and he was thrilled afterwards before he quickly jetted off to Sweden for the Grand Prix in Hallstavik.

Swindon Advertiser: Jason Doyle rounds Search Results Web results Krystian Pieszczek to win heat 15 of Robins' clash with Ipswich in July - the move earned Swindon a 46-44 win.Jason Doyle rounds Search Results Web results Krystian Pieszczek to win heat 15 of Robins' clash with Ipswich in July - the move earned Swindon a 46-44 win.


SIMILAR to our win over Ipswich, we beat Wolverhampton by the finest of margins a month later.

It was our worst home performance of the year – we didn’t lead the meeting at any stage, only that remarkable last race 5-1 turned around our fortunes.

Sometimes in speedway, you don’t mind seeing your team lose or win narrowly providing that the racing is entertaining.

That night wasn’t good for my heart. But you don’t want to see teams winning by 30 plus points like we did against Ipswich and Peterborough at the end of the month.

It’s costly for us, and the evening should be packed with close racing. But it was then when I knew we had a real crack of winning the title.

Everyone thought Ipswich was going to walk the league, but we pulverised them at the Abbey – and Belle Vue was the same in the Supporters’ Cup.

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ONLY a month or two left, and we had the Supporters’ Cup final to deal with. I liked that this meeting didn’t wait until October – it didn’t lose its momentum.

We worked with Mark Lemon who is a similar character to me. We wanted to ensure the final meant something and it wasn’t just an end-of-season finale. I’ll be honest, everyone says it’s a rubbish trophy.

These days, people only want meaningful meetings. And the final of the cup is the only one some care about. But last year, with the league qualification format, I enjoyed the competition.

Rasmus impressed me most towards the end and the season as a whole to be fair – Poole and Belle Vue both tried to sign him, fortunately they didn’t. Rasmus’ mechanic is from Newcastle, so joining us over Poole made sense.

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I WAS nervous going to Wolverhampton, we hadn’t won there – and I thought Nick (Morris) was going to come back to haunt me.

Privately, I never admitted it, I was a bit edgy. But to go and win at Monmore was brilliant – the weather wasn’t great, but it is the same for everyone.

We got dialled in on the home track, Troy Batchelor was riding at a different level and he never gave up.

For the final, Ipswich had a lot of rain – and Chris Louis did a cracking job on the track. None of our riders were phased by the track.

We had a lead, and privately I was confident we’d beaten them. But I will never admit that – you don’t want to tempt fate.

I was still mindful we’d beaten them before, and our boys went to another level. It’s easy to say Ipswich were poor, but I think we stepped up another level.

Reflecting, it was a truly incredible year and we’re already looking forward to our attempt to retain the trophy come spring.

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