Tai Woffinden and Chris Holder returning for British speedway champions Sheffield Tigers
Having announced at the weekend the signing of 2012 world champion Chris Holder for the defence of their title next year, alongisde younger brother Jack and three time world champion Tai Woffinden, Tigers have now secured the return of a pair of British youngsters.
Jason Edwards and Dan Gilkes are back as the Tru Plant Tigers’ reserve duo having both been the club’s Rising Star in 2023.Gilkes made significant progress in the role during his maiden top-flight campaign before sustaining a broken wrist in the away trip to Peterborough in August.
He was replaced by Edwards who settled into his new surroundings quickly before scoring some vital points in the Grand Final as Sheffield won the Sports Insure Premiership.
Tigers’ team manager Simon Stead said: “Both Dan and Jason are two cracking young lads and they both became an instant hit with the Sheffield supporters this season. Dan hit the ground running and I was very impressed with how well he adapted to racing at that level.
“He did a sterling job before he got injured - but his attitude and his focus is absolutely wonderful and both on and off track he is consistently doing the right things to better his all-round game.
“There was never any doubt in my mind that he would be back as our Rising Star next season and I’m really excited to see how he can kick on.
“As for Jason I thought he did superbly under the circumstances and he proved to be a great replacement for Dan. Sheffield was new to him when he signed for us but he really enjoyed himself at the club and was riding with a smile on his face. He deserves his place next year because he was fantastic at the sharp end of the year and he scored some really important points in the play-offs.
“I think Dan and Jason will enjoy a healthy rivalry riding alongside each other at No.6 and No.7 for Sheffield and with what they’ll learn from the rest of the team as well as what they’ve already got in their own lockers, I really do think they can help push each other on.
“I’m really pleased to include two young Brits at reserve and I’m sure everyone else will feel the same as me when I say I’m really looking forward to watching them continue to improve.“
Kyle Howarth and Josh Pickering are also returning to complete the team’s initial seven-man line-up.
On the way his squad is shaping up for their title defence, Stead added: “I’m absolutely over the moon with how our whole team is shaping up for next season but this is one signing that really does excite me.
“Because he signed right at the end of August this year, we didn’t see too much of Chris (Holder).
“But the bits that we did see were really, really encouraging if you ask me when you consider the fact he came to us with only a handful of meetings under his belt and was on the comeback from some serious injuries.
“The other thing that did impress me, yet not surprise me, was how he made his experience and class count when it mattered most.
“We asked him to go out there and help get the job done in that last heat decider against Ipswich and for him to race at that level and finish on a real high note when under immense pressure deserves so much credit.
“So if he can do things like that after only a couple of months then I really am excited to see just how he can perform if he’s racing competitively consistently and he could prove to be an absolute bargain on a 7.16 starting average.”