Scunthorpe Scorpions excited by rookie speedway rider Josh Bates
SCUNTHORPE Scorpions promoter Rob Godfrey will put his faith in another rookie reserve as his team begin their title defence.
Sixteen-year-old Josh Bates has today been revealed as the man to take on the role vacated by Gary Irving, in what will be his first year at Premier League level.
The Sheffield-based teenager was a key part of Mildenhall's grand slam-winning National League side in 2012, overcoming a broken arm to finish the campaign in style.
And Godfrey is confident he can replicate that form in speedway's second tier.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
"We're quite excited really," the Scunthorpe promoter told the Telegraph.
"He's going to go a long way.
"He's nervous but confident he can do a job for us.
"It's an opportunity he didn't expect.
"I only watched him a few weeks ago at Scunthorpe and said then, if things were different I'd give him a team spot. Then Gary Irving dropped his (retirement) bombshell and he was the first one we contacted.
"We did have other options, like Tom Young, but we felt we would get the most out of Josh.
"With his age, his commitment and the people around him he's going to go on to bigger and better things.
"That's what you always look for in someone you sign, whether it be in football or speedway or whatever.
"He's entertaining, that's for sure. He'll be a great crowd pleaser and I hope the crowd take to him.
"He's 16, that's what building a winning team is about – getting them young, putting them in and watching them grow.
"We've done that a lot with the National League, now we're prepared to take a chance at Premier League level.
"He will definitely surprise people."
Bates joins young Australian Ryan Douglas at the bottom of the Scorpions' order.
Neither have any experience of this level and for the latter it will be the first time he has competed in Britain.
Strong reserves can often make a difference to a team's success, but Godfrey insists Scunthorpe will not suffer for fielding two relative unknowns.
"It is important that your reserves are strong, but having said that, I don't believe we've got weak reserves," he said.
"Ryan Douglas will be very good. He's going to be the man, and Josh is only going to get better.
"As I keep saying, it isn't what happens at the start, it's what happens at the end.
"There's a little bit more pressure on Ryan Douglas, but Ryan, in my mind, was always going to be the lead reserve.
"When you look at our 1-5, it's very good.
"It's not as if we've got any weak links in our 1-5. We haven't got any lame ducks, it's pretty solid.
"Anyone in that 1-5 can top score on any one day. That's what you always want."
Bates is well accustomed to the Eddie Wright Raceway, having started out on the mini track and often making the trip to Scunthorpe to practice.
Had things worked out differently, he could have found himself part of the National League Saints line-up last term.
"It was the first track he ever rode and the track he's rode most in his life," Godfrey explained.
"He really wanted to be here, but somehow, for whatever reason, maybe we didn't think he was ready or whatever, it didn't happen.
"He went to Mildenhall and blew us all away.
"At home, I'm sure he'll do the three or four points we expect from him.
"Away, it's going to be a little bit more difficult, but if the rest of the team live up to expectations we'll just carry him through.
"He's the type of rider who goes somewhere new and after his first race, once he's weighed it up, he's away.
"It will be a big learning curve for him, but he's well up for it.
"We watched what Richie Worrall did in his first year when he'd hardly rode before.
"Josh has had a year at National League level. He's had ups and downs, had a few crashes and learned a lot.
"Hopefully, in his first year in the Premier League he can emulate what Richie did."