Simon Stead makes his debut as Sheffield boss at Ipswich tonight – and reckons it will be one of the toughest tests of the season.
Tigers launch their SGB Championship campaign against one of the sides strongly backed for a title challenge.
Stead, who retired as a rider in the winter and immediately took the job as manager, admits it will be a big night but he’s got confidence in his side.
He said: “When you look down the league going into this season, Ipswich are easily one of the stand-out sides.
“They’ve got such an experienced, big hitting top five and two young guys down at reserve with a lot going for them.
“I don’t think we could have been handed a tougher start to the year but we’ve got to go there at some point and who knows, going there for their first meeting of the season might prove to be a good thing.
“They’ve had some alterations done to their track over the winter, so it might level things out a little on opening night. Hopefully that’s the case anyway and if it does take them a little time to adapt, then we need to make sure we’re up to speed to take advantage of that.
“I think on paper we’re pretty balanced and we match them rider for rider so it could be a very close meeting.
“Both clubs are strongly fancied to do well this year and who knows, the points picked up from this one could prove to be some sort of difference come the final standings.
“We’ve just got to focus on ourselves though; the lads have spent a couple of days together now. They’ve all gelled instantly, there’s a great atmosphere, everyone’s been walking around with a smile on their faces and hopefully that’s still the case after tonight too!”
Tigers hand debuts to new signings Josh Grajczonek, Lasse Bjerre, Todd Kurtz, Rob Branford and Jack Parkinson-Blackburn.
IPSWICH: Danny King, Cameron Heeps, Nico Covatti, Kyle Newman, Rory Schlein, Connor Mountain, Danyon Hume.
SHEFFIELD: Josh Grajczonek, Josh Bates, Lasse Bjerre, Todd Kurtz, Kyle Howarth, Rob Branford, Jack Parkinson-Blackburn.