SPEEDWAY: STOKE Speedway will stage a Press and practice session at Loomer Road today before the Easy Rider Potters kick-start their 2005 season by facing Newcastle home and away at the weekend.
'The time for talking is over and the two challenge meetings against Newcastle will give the riders a chance to ease their way into racing before we start the Premier Trophy competition,' insisted promoter Dave Tattum.
'Even though it is only a challenge meeting we want to start with a win in front of our own supporters. We're obviously hoping for a good crowd and plenty of noise.
'The most important thing is that the riders test the bikes and sort any niggles out. We will be looking for determination but hoping that noone gets carried away by doing something silly.
'There's no doubt that Newcastle will give us a very com- petitive opening fixture. They have strengthened up by bringing in Phil Morris, James Grieves and Christian Henry to a side that looks quite solid.
'But that's exactly the sort of opposition we need to blow the cobwebs away.'
Stoke will run with Paul Pickering, Paul Clews, Robbie Kessler, Alan Mogridge, Jan Staechmann, Rob Grant and
Barrie Evans. Pickering has been reinstated as captain after Staechmann took the role briefly last year.
Pickering, who is starting his eighth season at Loomer Road, said: 'To be honest I wanted the job back. I stood down last season while I sorted a few things out, but I definitely wanted it again.
'My feeling is that Stoke are a capable side and, given a bit of luck with injuries, one that can give most teams a run for their money. Whether it pans out that way remains to be seen, but everyone is certainly keen to do well.
'The winter seems to have flown by somehow and all we want to do now is get the show on the road.' * The Press and practice day commences at around 12.30pm. Stoke host Newcastle at Loomer Road on Saturday at 7.30pm, with the return on Tyneside the following day at 5.30pm.