SIMON Stead has revealed how he turned down interest from other Premier League clubs as he prepares to make an emotional return to Tigers’ colours tomorrow.
Stead, 30, is the most high-profile signing of any team in the league after lifting the Elite title with Swindon last season.
And he’s relishing the prospect of taking on Birmingham in the Owlerton opener tomorrow which is due to go ahead as planned despite the wintry weather.
He said: “There were other clubs who asked about me but once there was a place available at Sheffield there was only one club I wanted to be at. I could have got a better deal elsewhere, but it’s not about money for me. This is about coming back to my home town club, where I have a lot of friends and enjoying my speedway again.
“I only have to travel 10 minutes down the road for home meetings and it’s all about looking after my sponsors as well.
“I’m hoping a lot of friends will start coming down to watch. I’ve not had much chance in recent seasons because I’ve been at Swindon who also ride on a Thursday so I haven’t even been able to come and watch. It just feels right for me and the major factor is enjoying my racing. There were times last season when I’d go a month without a meeting because of the weather, but it will be different this season.
“There are plenty of fixtures in the Premier League and I also have my Elite League fixtures with King’s Lynn so that’s great. The more I can be in competitive action the better. Riding for Sheffield will help me achieve that and I’m on a track which I know I like.”
And Stead is hoping to play his part in a Tigers’ revival after a tough season for the club, last year.
“I want to help the younger lads in the team,” he said. “I remember what it was like for me as a youngster and any help from more experienced riders was most welcome. It’s an important season for Sheffield and I’m hoping we can start with a good display against Birmingham.
“They are a good side and in riders like Ricky Ashworth and Josh Auty they have lads who know this track inside out.”
Tigers owner Neil Machin says the cancellation of a Stock Car meeting at Owlerton over the weekend has helped his track staff prepare for tomorrow. He said: “We’ve the best track staff in the business and they have had to work round the clock to get everything ready.
“In a way it’s a good thing the stock cars meeting was off because we didn’t have to deal with the aftermath, but providing the bad weather stays away then we will be good to go.
“A lot of people have asked why we’re opening against such a powerful side, but we want to make sure we are sharp for this Saturday’s trip to Leicester.”
Tigers face back-to-back meetings with rivals Scunthorpe in League Cup action next week. Machin said: “It’s a tough start to the season and there are only three teams in our group so there will be no margin for error. Then we look ahead to the Premier League programme itself which is the bread and butter.”