SWINDON Robins team manager Alun Rossiter said he was ‘absolutely devastated’ to hear former Swindon Sprocket Danny Ayres had passed away on Sunday after losing his battle with depression.

Ayres, who was due to line up for SGB Premiership finalists Ipswich Witches in the 2020 season, had guest ridden for the Robins during the previous season – away at Wolverhampton Wolves in an eight-point defeat for Rossiter’s septet.

The 33-year-old was a late bloomer in speedway and didn’t step into the sport until his early-twenties, riding for Swindon Sprockets before making his way in the sport with teams like Kent Kings and Mildenhall Tigers.

However, after a lengthy battle with depression, Ayres was reported to have died suddenly on Sunday.

Recalling his emotions when he heard the news, Rossiter said: “I was absolutely devastated - really upset when I found out on Sunday night.

“Danny was as kind and well liked as all the tributes said.

“The mental health awareness initiatives are extremely poignant now – especially given that when you saw Danny around, he was an outward-looking person who seemed to suggest everything was wonderful.”

Rossiter said while it was not his place to tell British Speedway what to do next, the Robins team manager is sure the sport’s governing body will put plans in place to ensure every rider has the necessary support to deal with any potential mental health issues in the future.

Remembering Ayres as an ‘unassuming, happy young man’, Rossiter revealed he and owner Terry Russell had almost brought the 33-year-old to the Abbey Stadium on a couple of occasions as a permanent asset due to his infectious personality and no-nonsense attitude on the bike.

Rossiter said: “We’ve all seen the outpouring and the lovely messages that were sent in about how much of a wonderful guy he was.

“Someone like Danny probably wouldn’t have realised how well-liked he was, which is quite sad really.

“I know Terry Russell (owner) said many a time that he wanted to bring Danny to the club permanently because Terry loved the way Danny went about his business and his outlook on things.

“I would ring Danny up and say: “hello Danny”, and he’d say: “Oh Rosco, Rosco. You’re music to my ears. Just tell me where, when and what time.”

“He was that way – he was just an infectious guy, and it’s heart-breaking to see what’s happened.”