Simon Stead's Sheffield Tigers Speedway aiming to go one better in British Premiership

The smell of methanol was in the air at Owlerton Stadium on Wednesday, that and the distinct whiff of revenge.

From the mechanics working on the bikes in the pitlane to the riders in the blue and yellow kevlars of the TruPlant Sheffield Tigers looking out over what they proudly describe as the fastest speedway circuit in Britain, the season ahead is all about righting wrongs.

Simon Stead, the team manager, has assembled a team that consists of the bulk of the riders that were denied a Premiership Grand Final title in controversial circumstances last October.

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That they responded two weeks later by winning the League Cup final in front of a bumper crowd gave them long overdue silverware, but the sense of satisfaction was tempered by the nagging feeling that they should have been celebrating winning the sport’s biggest prize.

Sheffield Tigers Speedway team for the 2023 season with Simon Stead, right.Sheffield Tigers Speedway team for the 2023 season with Simon Stead, right.
Sheffield Tigers Speedway team for the 2023 season with Simon Stead, right.

That the fixture schedulers have paired them with Belle Vue Aces, the team that beat them in the play-off final, in tonight’s season opener at Owlerton, offers an immediate shot at redemption.

”For them to come out on top they were happy, and we had to play the role of the sore losers,” Jack Holder, Sheffield’s star Australian rider told The Yorkshire Post. "But we’re going to come back bigger and stronger.”

Stead was planning for this year in the final throes of last season, knowing he had something special at his disposal even then.

Now that something special has an incentive.

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Sheffield Tigers' magnificent seven for the 2023 season.Sheffield Tigers' magnificent seven for the 2023 season.
Sheffield Tigers' magnificent seven for the 2023 season.

"When you’ve got lads that are invested into the club like we have they don’t want to go anywhere else,” says Stead, whose team will again be led by Kyle Howarth. “That’s testament to the job we do and testament to our fans as well, because they’re what make this club.

"The fact these riders wanted to be at Sheffield meant we could get a lot of our recruitment work done early. It’s nice we have so many familiar faces because, other than the disappointment of not winning the grand final, second place was a good result, albeit not the right one, and we want to go one better.

"It was important to have continuity because that’s what the fans like. As much as they like success they also have their favourite riders, whether it’s Jack Holder, Kyle Howarth, whoever that might be, so it’s nice that we’ve been able to incorporate so many of last season’s team that was so successful.

"We’ve had two enforced changes, and I think arguably we’re in a stronger position than last year, but the league is stronger, so we need to be.”

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The level of rider drawn to British speedway’s elite seven-team tier for the 2023 season underlines Stead’s belief.

Three-time world champion Nicki Pedersen of Denmark is back riding for Peterborough Panthers, Emil Sayfutdinov of Russia has been recruited by Ipswich after 12 years out of the British scene and homegrown star Dan Bewley rides for tonight’s opponents Belle Vue.

"This year’s Premiership is going to be harder than ever to win,” says Stead, a Sheffield man through and through who has led the team since 2017.

"We’ve got a fabulous balance with our heat leaders, I think we’ll see them all progress and progression from within is what will win you the league.

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"The disappointment we all shared, and still feel in coming so close last year, makes us hungry for success.

"We all made mistakes, we had some bad luck.

"Whether we deserved more is irrelevant now because we get to right our wrong.”