Tomorrow night (Friday) is a very big night for Falkirk’s speedway star Derek Sneddon.
He celebrates his testimonial at Armadale, awarded by the Edinburgh Monarchs speedway team.
The unassuming 31-year-old would not claim to be amongst the superstars of the worldwide sport of speedway - he isn’t part of the Grand Prix circus which draws massive crowds all over Europe as the top names battle for the title of World Champion. But he is is team captain, and first rode for the club in 2000, so is over-due his honour with the team.
As captain he is the man who welds his teams together. For proof you need look no further than the list of honours for teams Derek has been part of – nine national team championships won, a record few riders can boast of.
It’s been a long journey since he first became part of the organisation at the much-missed Linlithgow training circuit, assisting owner Alan Robertson. At that time Derek admitted he didn’t know anything about speedway, he just liked motorbikes, and he worked for Robertson to earn his track time.
At first he thought speedway might be boring – riding round in circles – but as he became involved he changed his mind. He rode for the Linlithgow Lightning in their final year in 1990, then for a junior team in Glasgow, and he was having fun. A single match for the Edinburgh Monarchs at Armadale in 2000 was followed by earning a team place in 2001, and he switched for a while to Glasgow.
In 2002 he was with Newcastle where he formed a bond with the club there which he still feels strongly.
After a spell at Newcastle, he returned to the Monarchs in 2003, now feeling he was ready to make a real go of the speedway game. It can be a cruel sport though, and just three meetings into the season he smashed his leg in a crash at Workington. He missed the next seven months in a season when the Monarchs won their first-ever league title. That really hurt and gave him a burning desire to get back and be part of similar successes.
It took him two further seasons of riding at Division Three level with the Armadale Dale Devils before he regained that Monarchs’ place – the sport’s complex rules did him no favours.
But he was a Monarch again in 2006, and the following year, the club’s promoters recognised his part in their organisation, and asked him to be Monarchs’ team captain. That paid off in a big way as Monarchs won the league in 2008, a fantastic season for what was a young team under Sneddon’s control.
In spite of what he achieved, and again because of the sport’s complex rules, Derek had to move to Newcastle for the next three seasons.In 2012 Derek became a Monarch again, and many of the club’s supporters believe he should never have been left out, rules or no rules. Although he should have been due a Testimonial then, he stepped aside and let another rider, Matthew Wethers, have his.
For 2013, Derek agreed to take on the club captaincy and the big meeting is tomorrow at Armadale Stadium and many of his colleagues are coming together for the meeting, including Grand Prix riders Kenneth Bjerre and Tomas H Jonasson, both former team mates, plus Monarchs’ legends Ryan Fisher and Frede Schott.