So, a slow day at work....:
I think the side has a much better look to it than last year, even if not quite so strong in the big heats. Whilst I would prefer a Brit to be named @ 7, I think Etheridge is a decent capture and I expect he will surprise a fair few people, and should take some of the pressure away from Bewley. Bewley is the key man; if he can kick on, they are strong. If not, it does look like they have a long tail away from home on some tracks. Bewley struggled on some away tracks, Etheridge going to many places for the first time, Tungate not always being a great traveller, Drozdz will likely find some tracks a challenge, etc. Will also be interesting to see how Cook deals with being in the GPs too. The side should be terrific at home, but question marks over the away form.
Prediction: Play-Offs + a change mid-season to increase away potency.
Key Man: Dan Bewley
Despite the Whingeathon on the KL thread, I think the side looks okay. I don't think Iversen will be quite the force as he has been, but if Lambert gets his head down and stops whinging they have a top 2 as strong as any - on their day, at least! Kerr/Rose/Proctor will also ensure there's plenty of strength at reserve allowing Andersen time to settle. It'll be most interesting to see how Andersen settles in, reports I have heard from Denmark suggest he is even more forceful than Nicki used to be - can't wait to see what Trees will make of him! For me, it's Jørgensen who will make or break their play-off aspirations. They need him to make the next step up to make the third heat leader position his, and if he can do that, they may sneak into the Top 4, if not, I reckon about 6th is likely.
Key Man: Thomas Jørgensen
It's great to see Leicester put together an attractive side, but they do often appear to be one of those clubs who struggle to convert good sides into points.
Not entirely sure what to expect. They have the sort of side that I think could go to Poole and nearly pull off a shock win, but at the same time go to Somerset a few nights later and struggle to get over 30. May well be part of their charm. Vaculik is a great addition to the league, but @ 1, there's a fair bit of pressure on him to hit the ground running. If he performs well, and if KP takes to British Speedway, they look very strong and will probably be Poole's biggest challenges. If they struggle for whatever reason, they could struggle to make the play-offs.
Prediction: Scrape into the play-offs.
Key Man: Martin Vaculik
Ford has put together bit of a surprising side, but a very, very strong side nonetheless. The 2 new Poles may not replicate their contentional form, but have no doubt they will still make a mockery over their dubious starting averages. A well-balanced side with no major weak links. Will probably become stronger as the season goes on; think Holder being @ 1 would give the side a more natural look. As things stand, can only see injuries standing in the way, unless another side has a major improver in their ranks.
Prediction: Top by about 18 points!
Key Man: Chris Holder
I liked the Rye side of '17, they didn't really shine as I expected, but am going to back them again!
KK will make or break their season. If he can get anywhere close to his best, KK @ 1 with Harris and Nicholls the other heat-leaders look a bloody potent spearhead. They're also guaranteed pretty much to have an awesome option at reserve all year too.
But they're a bit like Leicester. If everything goes well for them, I expect they will be right up there, but can also see them struggling if things don't quite work out.
Prediction: Sneaking the final play-off spot
Key Man: KK
Top #1 and solid at reserve all year long. Will be very tough to beat at home, although far from less impossible as most riders tend to take to the track quite well. Away form could be a struggle though. They are very similar to KL in many ways, and like KL they will require someone to make the next step up (to support Doyle). My gut feeling is that Holder is the best bet, but any of the "Others" could potentially do it.
Think they'll be in the mix with KL and Rye House for the final play-off spot, but ultimately finishing just short.
Key Man: Jack Holder
I like Mitchell, but there is no way in hell he is a Premiership rider.
Waj should be, and would be a decent #7, but will find it tough @ 6. They are going to struggle in the reserve heats.
Nor do I think they are anywhere near as strong at the top end. Batchelor can be hit and miss (last I heard he was without a mechanic for the year, as last year's is helping Hans Andersen), Bellego struggled badly towards the end of last season so quite what to expect of him is anyone's guess, Musielak was excellent last year but see limited improvement from him, and think Morris overperformed for Swindon last year.
If, and it's a big if, they change the track mid-season, any HTA will be gone too, although like many I am not convinced it will ever happen.
That being said, you just know that 7 won't last the season. When Morris' average takes a dive, and they can get a better reserve in for Davey, they will be a completly different side. One change can completly turn a side's fortunes - like last year.
Key Man: David Bellego - he needs to bring the Frenchman that started the season, not the one at the end of the season.
Wolves are in much the same boat as Swindon, but are a bit stronger. I can't see that side lasting too long. Wolves have made changes in recent seasons to change their fortunes around, and am expecting much the same this year.
Good to see Morris back in the Premiership, where he needs to be but think either himself or Heeps could be in a vulnerable position if they don't score well early on.
Key Man: Jacob Thorsell - he's excellent round Monmore but returning from a big injury & @ #1 is a tough ask.
Poole, aside, I think this year could be one of the closest yet for the play-off places. Heck, if Swindon and Wolves make the odd change here and there, I can imagine a scenario where there's not a lot between 2nd and 8th place. Should be a good year. Hopefully.