BERWICK manager Ian Rae has described how the chance to sign former riders’ champion Ricky Ashworth was ‘too good an opportunity to miss.’
Ashworth, who won the PLRC in 2009, was snapped up by the Bandits last week as a replacement for the injured Kozza Smith, who broke his thigh whilst competing in the Australian National Championships last month.
The former Sheffield man, who is 24, had expressed a wish to try his hand at the Elite League, but with no takers it looked likely that he was going to join Premier League rivals Plymouth, who named him in their starting 1-7.
But as Rae explains, it was an unexpected telephone call from Sheffield promoter David Hoggart which set the ball rolling on the deal.
“We looked at several riders, and even spoke to some of them,” said Rae, “but we weren’t really getting the right results from these discussions. Some riders wanted too much money or warned us they would miss some of our meetings. Or both!
“We were facing a brick wall. but, out of the blue on Sunday we took a call from (his parent club) Sheffield’s promoter David Hoggart to say that Ricky Ashworth -- who everyone thought would be joining Plymouth -- hadn’t been able to come to terms with the Devils. Would we be interested?
“Yes we were!
“I obviously questioned the validity but was assured it was true. A rider of Ricky’s ability is too good to overlook bearing in mind our current circumstances and we commenced negotiations on Monday to bring him to Shielfield Park.
“With Sheffield’s full permission we touched base with Ricky, our director George Hepburn and I met him at Wetherby Services on the A1 and today we are holding the signed contracts.
“Whatever the problem was in Devon – and that would be none of our business – I can state that Ricky was very understanding of our situation and of our budgets, and we had no trouble in coming to terms.
“He will actually take over our number one race-jacket for the opening fixtures, as he has a higher CMA (calculated match average) than Seb Alden – and with his known abilities around Shielfield Park, we are confident our squad will be every bit as solid as we had expected it to be, had Kozza not been injured.”
Hoggart stated: “When Ricky called me on Sunday to say he had failed to agree terms with Plymouth and had declined their offer of a team place for 2012, I had to think on my feet.
“I had already tried several clubs when we were unable to accommodate him this year and I didn’t want to see the lad out of work”
Promoter John Anderson has been quick to praise Ian Rae for his part in pulling off such a coup.
“Ian seems to bring out the best in people when he’s talking to them about terms. Certainly our board of directors is really impressed by the way he has recruited this winter - David Bellago was another example of this -- and delighted to hear who we’ve now got coming in to wear our colours.
“What I like about Ricky Ashworth is that he wins things. He won the PLRC, he won the PL Pairs (with Josh Auty) in 2010 – and further back, I remember his being part of the Sheffield squad that won the Premier League and KO Cup double. We like winners here – and I reckon we’ve got another one!
“He is also a battler on the track. I think everyone who saw them will remember a couple of titanic tussles he had here with Michal Makovsky a few years ago – if he’s bringing that kind of commitment to the black-and-gold of our A & J Scott Bandits, that’ll do for me!”