Sheffield Tigers speedway: Tigers hoping to go one better on eve of new season, says Simon Stead

They may have been Sheffield’s most successful professional sports team in 2022.
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But Sheffield Tigers speedway boss SImon Stead is hoping to improve on that when he takes his new look team onto the track for the first time this week.

In 2022 the club won the league cup, but fell agonisingly short in the sport’s Premier League grand final, losing by two points after close decisions did not go their way.

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Thursday sees the new season begin, with Belle Vue, the club they lost to in that grand final, the opposition for a Tigers side including new faces David Bellego and Dan Gilkes, alongside five of last season’s line up, in a Premiership looking its strongest for many years, and which has increased to seven teams with Leicester back in the top flight.

Sheffield Tigers hoping to go one better by winning the  Speedway Premiership, says Simon SteadSheffield Tigers hoping to go one better by winning the  Speedway Premiership, says Simon Stead
Sheffield Tigers hoping to go one better by winning the Speedway Premiership, says Simon Stead

Team boss Simon Stead said: “I’m excited. I think we’re smarting after the back end of last year, but I’m really excited, I think we’ve got a great team together, a great group of lads, who are all hungry for success. It will be a great test for Sheffield, if we can replicate what we did last year and finish it by going one better.

"Our strengthening. because we’ve managed to keep the core of riders, will be our riders’ improvement. I see when I look at each individual rider, I see improvement on their starting average, and that will be the difference. Obviously there have been some enforced changes, with Connor (Mountain) coming off the rising star programme. We’ve replaced him with Dan Gilkes, who I’ve worked closely with in the GB set up. He’s a great asset for Sheffield speedway. He’s one of the best youngsters around at the moment. I’m looking forward to helping him with his progression through the ranks.

“And then obviously bringing David Bellego back, who we’ve seen ride for Sheffield before. We’ve seen how good he is at Owlerton. He’ll be really important, because aggregate scores are going to be important, and he will give us that extra strength in depth.”

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The Premiership has seen a number of big names return to British speedway, including three time world champion Nikki Pederson, and grand prix star Dan Bewley. Stead feels Sheffield have strengthened as a team, and that has been necessary.

Sheffield Tigers speedway rider Tobiasz MusielakSheffield Tigers speedway rider Tobiasz Musielak
Sheffield Tigers speedway rider Tobiasz Musielak

He said: "The league is probably the strongest it has ever been. It’s great that we’re now welcoming the likes of Nikki Pederson, back in, Emil Sayfutdinov, Dan Bewley – it’s great that these guys are returning to our shores and I think that gives us a really strong looking premiership. and that will be all the better for the supporters, and for the riders to test themselves. It’s going to be tough but I’m really excited about the prospect of going up against these guys and showing we’re the best.”

Stead admitted he was surprised Connor Mountain, one of last season’s successes, who could not fit in the Tigers side because of averages, had not got a ride in the top division, and was disappointed Tigers could accommodate him.

He suspects that could change as the season progresses, adding: “The way speedway is, accidents happen, injuries happen, so I don’t think he will be out of premiership sides for too long. He deserves a place.”

"The biggest problem is finding the ride to go with him. If you’ve got 10 points to play with when you’re building to an average it’s easier to find two five point riders than a seven and a three. I’m sure he will get fixed up. He gave everything last season and I was disappointed I couldn’t accommodate him.”