It’s all about Glasgow and Craig Cook

A near thousand miles road trip faces Eastbourne Speedway as they take on Glasgow Tigers home and away this weekend.

Tonight (May 17) the Fineprint Eagles are racing the Glasgow Tigers at the Scottish club’s Ashfield Stadium.

Twenty-four hours later they will do it all over again at the Eagles’ Arlington Stadium.

Both clashes are for Championship league points.

For the away match, we are planning heat by heat coverage on this website.

So come back on Friday evening at around 7pm when Kevin Ling will be setting the scene and bringing news of the track action.

Here are Kevin’s thoughts on this weekend’s clashes.

Not only do the Eastbourne ‘Fineprint’ Eagles face another home and away battle with big cats this weekend, they will also embark on their furthest speedway excursion for more than two decades.

Life with the Lions certainly proved the toughest of tests as their battles with Leicester a fortnight ago stands testament, this time around however they will be looking to indulge in a spot of Tiger taming.

Lewi Kerr at Leicester in unusual Kevlar’s, having forgotten to take his own to the match.

Friday evening will see the Sussex battlers head north of the border for the first time since the 1990s when they visit the Peugeot Ashfield Stadium, home of the Glasgow Tigers.

That of course can only mean one thing – we are gong wheel-to-wheel with Team GB’s Craig Cook following from match up’s against leading lights Chris Harris and Scott Nicholls in recent weeks.

Cook is currently top of the Championship average table which merely points out that he is incredibly difficult to beat. 

Indeed only last weekend he was competing on the world stage and in successful fashion. He was alongside World Champion Tai Woffinden and King’s Lynn’s Robert Lambert as Britiain topped the rostrum at the National Speedway Stadium (Manchester) in the Speedway of Nations Round 2, propelling the side through to a final in Russia.

On the domestic stage his strong presence is confined to the Championship stage; an early season move to Premiership side Peterborough having been thwarted.

This weekend offers the Sussex fans a chance to view one of Britain’s true greats.

Of six meetings so far contested at this level, Cook has romped to no fewer than five 15-point maximums, three of them around his home circuit and one each at Newcastle and Sheffield. 

Richard Lawson, a former Glasgow Tiger – like Kerr – talks to Will Pottinger

His other outing saw him chalk up a 16-point return from six outings, this match witnessing his only defeat in 31 races, a third place behind Berwick’s Dany Gappmaier and Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen in heat nine of their Championship Shield match at the home of the Bandits.

Indeed that engagement, a 52-38 win for Berwick also spelled the Tigers only defeat of the campaign so far, their other contests ending in a clean sweep of home victories in the Shield, 56-34 against the Bandits, 53-37 against the Edinburgh Monarchs and 51-39 against the Diamonds of Newcastle. 

This run of results in the competition has been augmented by a 46-44 success at Newcastle’s Brough Park and most recently they’ve put themselves in a strong position in the Knockout Cup, a 45-45 draw at Sheffield marking them down as favourites to progress to the Quarter Final stage.

A favourable result in their own local derby at the home of the Monarchs would also see them through to a potential semi-final slot, alongside Eagles and the Leicester Lions in the Championship Shield. 

All this just goes to show how fierce the standard of competition is at this level, a fact that will not be lost on the Sussex side or indeed their supporters.

Friday’s fixture in Glasgow (7.30 pm start time) and Saturday’s return at Arlington (also 7.30 pm) will prove to be the Tigers first league engagements of the campaign. 

At the same time the Eagles will be looking to bounce back from the disappointment of double defeat against the Lions, 53-37 away and them, agonisingly, that 1-point 45-44 reverse in Sussex the following afternoon.

Cook will be looking to apply the hand brake to Eastbourne’s ambition and aspirations but the Tigers are by no means are Glasgow a one-man band.

Cook is sure to receive solid back up from fellow heat leaders at Arlington, Danish duo Claus Vissing and Rasmus Jensen.

Forming the engine room of the side are two young men who both have experience at the domestic sports top tier, Paul Starke and James Sarjeant.

In the reserve berth, the Tigers can claim to have a bona fide former World Champion, Kyle Bickley, long time nemesis of Eagles own Tom Brennan, was a two-time World number one at under-16 level.

Tom Brennan

Their line up is set to be completed by guest replacements for Luke Chessell, the Tigers have moved swiftly to engage the services of Nathan Stoneman in that role at Arlington, the Welshman having showed a degree of dash in the colours of the Kent King’s at the venue last term.

Needless to say there will be no easy contests at Championship level, Eagles matches against Leicester hammered that point home but you can be sure they will be looking to atone for that disappointment both North and South of the border this weekend.

With both Richard Lawson and Lewi Kerr having previously ridden for the Tigers that will surely stand them in good stead for the visit to Glasgow and just 24 hours later they will be looking to make local knowledge count with a solid display and an uplifting result once back on familiar Arlington shale.       

Teams: (in alphabetical order)

Eagles: Alfie Bowtell, Tom Brennan, Edward Kennett, Lewis Kerr, Richard Lawson, Ben Morley, Georgie Wood.

Tigers tonight: Craig Cook (c) 10.51, James Sarjeant 4.54, Ben Barker (G) 6.76, Paul Starke 6.30, Aaron Summers (G) 6.79, Connor Coles (G) 2.00, Kyle Bickley 2.06

Tigers at Arlington: Kyle Bickley, (Facility for) Luke Chessell (Guest Nathan Stoneman at Arlington), Craig Cook, Rasmus Jensen, Claus Vissing, James Sarjeant, Paul Starke.