The Eastbourne Eagles will observe a minutes silence before their meet with Swindon Robins at the Arlington Arena tomorrow in memory of rider Lee Richardson.
Richardson, who captained the Sussex club to their last major honour, the Elite League Knockout cup in 2008 and who also represented Eagles opponents Swindon during a magnificent career, tragically lost his life in a track crash in Poland last weekend.
While the sport continues to observe a period of mourning at his passing, the two clubs, both of whom Richardson served with such style and distinction shall endeavour to serve up a classic speedway spectacle as a fitting tribute and testament to his memory.
With Eastbourne number one Joonas Kylmakorpi still not fit and able to make his long awaited return to the Eagles side, the club’s management has moved swiftly to secure the services of Team G.B. and Coventry star Scott Nicholls as a guest replacement.
Nicholls demonstrated only too well that he still knows the fastest way around the Sussex circuit a fortnight ago with a top scoring performance for the Bees in their narrow 48-45 defeat by the Eagles at the venue and it is in many ways fitting that Nicholls should be involved on Saturday as people remember the life and career of Lee Richardson.
Like Lee, Nicholls has also represented both Eastbourne and Swindon in recent seasons, but poignantly the latter was also a fully paid up member of the Eagles 2008 collective and one who shared top scoring duties in that wholly memorable Cup Final success over the Pirates, an occasion the undoubtedly proved Eastbourne’s finest hour in recent times.
As for Kylmakorpi, the news isn’t quite so bright, the Finn, who had hoped to make a comeback in either of the clubs away fixtures at Belle Vue or Swindon, it would appear is still some weeks away from full fitness. Though both of the aforementioned fixtures were destined to fall victim to the weather, Kylmakorpi’s non-involvement had already been established following a bad to a practice session in Poland, one that subsequently saw him undergo a further MRI scan, this revealing that the Finn’s injuries hadn’t recovered suitably.
Though behind the scenes the Eastbourne hierarchy continues to work feverishly to engage a short term replacement to cover his absence, on track, the Eagles shall carry on regardless and continue to work with the personnel available to them and should that methodology proffer further victories as recently witnessed against a strong looking Coventry side then this surely meet with the approval of the club’s supporters.
It remains an open secret however that they shall have their work cut out against Swindon on Saturday. The Robins, following a troubled campaign in season 2011, seem reborn following the managerial return of Alun Rossiter and possess a powerful line up, one that includes the likes of Arlington track specialists Hans Andersen and Troy Batchelor, red hot Australian prospect Nick Morris, whose undoubted potential around the circuit was showcased during two visits with Coventry (his senior league club of the time) last term, as well as free scoring reserve Peter Kildemand.
The Robins demonstrated their mettle in no small way in front of the SKY Sports cameras recently as they looked to have the measure of current Elite League title favourites, Poole, around their home track before rain called a halt to proceedings and the Eagles will surely expect little quarter to be given this weekend as the Wiltshire outfit strive to augment their Play Off charge.
The Sussex side know that have the tools in place, especially with Nicholls temporarily at the helm to fend off the challenge posed by the Blunsdon boys and it those qualities they shall be looking to demonstrate as they rekindle their own quest for honours.
Co-Promoter Mike Bellerby summed up the mood ahead of the clash with the Robins “Certainly we are expecting the toughest test from Swindon but it is a challenge that we are sure we can meet head on and overcome, however Saturday night will be about much much more than that. We here at Arlington and of course the Speedway family as a whole remain shocked and saddened by the recent tragic events in Poland and the passing of Lee Richardson, a much loved member of our family.”
“Lee was a joy to work with and a fantastic Captain during his time here with the Eagles and certainly a much respected opponent during his frequent visits in whichever teams colours he happened to be sporting. This weekend we intent to pay our own tribute to one of the finest young riders that this Country has produced and hope that the entertainment served up will stand both as a fitting testament to Lee’s memory as well as accentuating all the good points that this great Sport of ours has to offer”.
Eagles : 1. Scott Nicholls (Guest for Joonas Kylmakorpi), 2. Lukas Dryml, 3. Simon Gustafsson, 4. Cameron Woodward (Captain), 5. Lewis Bridger, 6. Denis Gizatullin, 7. Timo Lahti.
Robins : 1. Hans Andersen, 2. Simon Stead, 3. Nick Morris, 4. Jason Doyle, 5. Troy Batchelor, 6. Peter Kildemand, 7. To be announced.