FEATURE: An exciting season for Mildenhall Fen Tigers
While silverware may have eluded the Mildenhall Fen Tigers for the second season in succession the 2016 campaign was anything but one filled with disappointment.
Although suffering early exits in the National Trophy and the Knock Out Cup coupled with a sixth place finish in the National League were statistics the management team at the West Row outfit would not have hoped for those bare facts only tell half the story.
Had the club not suffered mid-season injuries to Connor Mountain, his replacement Kyle Hughes and reserve Sam Bebee, then a place in the end of season play-offs could well have been achieved, given the momentum that the team had begun to gather after a slow start.
Despite those set-backs, there was as club promoter Kevin Jolly points out, plenty of positives to take out of the season to give hope that the 2017 campaign can be the one to end the trophy drought and bring back those glory days once enjoyed on a frequent basis.
“It was an improvement on last year as I think the team was competitive both home and away. In my opinion we were 50 per cent better than the season before,” said Jolly.
“There was the atmosphere of the team and the way they held and worked together.
“Obviously we lost a couple of home meetings which went against the grain but I think it was a vast improvement and hopefully we can build on that and step forward again.
“Finding Jordan Jenkins, Sam Bebee and Taylor Hampshire to me was what it was all about.
“ When we lost Sam at Coventry it really did hurt me.
“For someone that has been in speedway for 40 years it really made it for me, it was a pleasure working with them all.
“I personally believe that had Connor Mountain not got injured against Birmingham we would have made the play-offs.”
In every season there is often one fixture that stands out for both fans and riders alike and for Jolly there is only one that fulfils that criteria, the 60-29 hammering dished out to the Cradley Heathens in a meeting which had more twists in it than an episode of Eastenders.
“We got our away win at Buxton which was pleasing while we just lost out at both Kent and the Isle of Wight,” said Jolly.
“Obviously though, the Cradley Heathens’ performance when they came to us was quite pleasing.
“We absolutely annihilated them, I look upon that as the team personally standing up for me.
“I had this thing in my head before the initial meeting that I could change the direction of speedway by stamping my feet, but I was put in my place.”
While Jolly has wasted no time in re-signing fans’ favourite Jon Armstrong for another season, he is hopeful he can construct a side over the winter months that is capable of building on the promise shown by the 2016 team and fighting on every front.
“Jon brings so much to Mildenhall speedway both on and off the track,” said Jolly.
“Whatever he scores on the track you can add a couple more points for the impact he has in the pits and the vast knowledge he so freely shares with less experienced riders.
“My ideal aim would be to have Jordan (Jenkins) and Taylor (Hampshire) in the team while it is probably a step too far for Sam (Bebee) at the moment given the severity of his accident, but he has our full backing.
“The aim once again will be to try to make the play-offs should they be voted in again at the AGM and we will do our best to achieve that.”