Poole are the team that every other Cab Direct Championship team fear. They are the most successful club of the modern era and never fail to assemble a side that can challenge for honours.
2024 presented more of a challenge to Poole than most when building a team to the new 38 point limit, as they finished the 2023 campaign with a total team average of over 45 points.
Matt and Danny Ford have opted to build a side with a very strong top 4, with a comparatively inexperienced bottom end. Richard Lawson, Ben Cook and Zach Cook are the only 3 riders to return to the Pirates ranks after a 2023 campaign that fell agonisingly short of their own expectations.
Lawson is a proven number 1 at this level and can be expected to score double figures consistently home and away. He is always an excellent signing and his return is no surprise to anyone.
Ben and Zach Cook's progress in British Speedway over the last 2 seasons has been rapid and they are now very capable heat leaders at Championship level. They have become a dominant partnership for the Pirates and are both very, very quick riders! There is no reason to believe that they will not continue to improve quickly and will also benefit from regular racing in the Sports Insure Premiership with Belle Vue and Birmingham.
The announcement of Tom Brennan joining the Pirates was unexpected. Brennan makes the switch from 2023 league champions Glasgow and like the Cook brothers, is a big performer at this level that is going the right way in his career. Brennan's performance at Poole Stadium in the 2023 Play Off Final was a big reason that Glasgow took the league title from Poole and his signature gives Poole the strongest top 4 in the league.
The biggest shock comes from the signing of Dane Tobias Thomsen. Thomsen raced for Birmingham in 2019, but his performances that year were underwhelming and he hasn't raced in the UK since. He completes the Pirates top 5 on a 4.00 point average and although there is a question mark as to whether he will be able to maintain or improve upon that, the Pirates promotion don't often get things wrong.
The Pirates reserves for 2024, Max Perry and Sam Hagon, are newcomers to Championship racing. 16-year-old Max Perry is a 5 times British Grasstrack Champion and enjoyed a successful debut season in the National Development League with Leicester. Perry raced for Plymouth in last year's Championship Pairs and took the scalp of Edinburgh's Josh Pickering in one of his rides, highlighting the young Brit's potential. Perry suffered bad injuries at the end of the 2023 season and his ability to overcome that quickly will be a test.
Hagon spent 2023 racing for Belle Vue in the NDL where he achieved an impressive average of 8.24. The 19-year-old put in a very impressive display when racing against Poole for a Swindon Robins select team last year, scoring 5 points and beating the likes of Kyle Newman and Zach Cook. His performance that day will have raised the Pirates promotion's heads and was surely a factor in his recruitment this year.
Poole have built a side with a very strong top 4, but this leaves them with an inexperienced tail-end. There is no doubt that the Pirates have assembled a very good team, but there may be too much reliance on their top 4 scoring heavily every meeting which leaves one or two doubts over their prospects for 2024.
PIRATES LINE UP FOR 2024: