Picture courtesy of Steve Dixon
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By Derek Barclay
National Trophy and Pairs Champions; taking individual positions first and second in the National League Riders Championship; and finishing runners-up in the National League title race itself - there's no doubt that 2019 was the best season yet in the seven seasons of Speedway for the Kent Kings club.
Team Boss Chris Hunt, talking to the SFM SPorts Team, reflected that with so much silverware gained it was eventually just one step too far for the ultimate prize of the NL title: "we won basically everything else and that has to make it a very good season. The future looks very bright and to have had such a brilliant bunch of riders to manage this term has been a huge pleasure".
Team captain Rob Ledwith had a superb comeback season after twenty years out of the saddle - though injury frustration knocked him back before getting back into action for an Indian Summer finish to proceedings: "As something of an old school leg trailer, I have to say I've enjoyed putting my body on the line for the cause. The end of the season saw some real weather difficulties not experienced earlier in the campaign and huge credit is due to the brilliant track staff at Central Park."
News that the Maidstone-based racer is doing extensive work to strengthen his shoulder after that debilitating injury mid-season by fencing shows how much he intends to foil the opponents in 2020!
Top man unexpectedly perhaps for the TouchTec Kings was to be third year King, Anders Rowe - combining with Drew Kemp for the Pairs title and pipping his much-vaunted team mate to the NLRC title before a spectacular GB senior debut. Whether he faces pastures new or not next term, the very popular teen commented: "I wasn't expecting to have a year like I've had if I'm honest - things really couldn't have gone any better for me."
For Kemp, a second GB title along the route to the top via the U19 crown (and a World Semi-Final win at that age level) was further progress and he reflected on this,
"Individually this year has overall gone well for me and I think all round I'd say it's been a season of consolidation". If Kemp had been the huge new NL star of 2018, then that accolade this time around went to division newcomer Dan Gilkes.
A hugely mature 16-year-old he won fans across the sport for everything he achieved and is typically articulate in how he sums it all up: "I've enjoyed my first NL season and couldn't have had a better place to spend it than at Kent. I've been made so welcome and had huge support from the management and the fans. I intend to come back stronger in 2020"
It's a fact that the Kings had the teen brigade of all the talents in 2019 and Jordan Jenkins certainly fully fits that description. Another rider who shows maturity way beyond his tender years, it's not been easy to put behind him the serious injuries he has sustained but if there's ever a rider destined for the very top it's this young man from Norfolk: "I took that late season spell away to recharge and reflect and after finishing the season on an absolute high I completely know that I intend to aim to get right to the top of this sport I love. I need a season injury free in 2020 - something I've not had in the past two campaigns."
There's no question that injuries were a blight on a number of the talented TouchTec Kings' squad in 2019 and none more so than Alex Spooner as he reflects: "It's not been an ideal season and I will be spending the winter building up strength from my troublesome shoulder injury. As ever the fans the Kent fans have been brilliant and to ride at this club for such supporters is just a pleasure". And Alex has repaid that in spades by all his appearances supporting the club at sponsorship and promotional events during his long injury lay-offs - a total credit to the club and the sport.
And then there's the total rookie newcomer in the ranks, former Cadet Grasstracking champion Jake Mulford - who came from nowhere to make a sensational impact: "I couldn't be more pleased by how it's gone with the Kings in my time at the club. I'm working now to look forward for a second - and first full - campaign in the senior sport. I want to thank all for making me so welcome at Central Park".
And that leaves the last word going into Saturday's celebrations to the veteran promoter who is Mr. Kent Kings Speedway, Len Silver: "For seven years I have been in charge of things Speedway-wise at Central Park with the blessing of our owner, Roger Cearns. He gave me the task of building, presenting & running Speedway at this place - one of the finest stadiums in British Speedway with the only proviso that I should show a profit and I can tell you that for the seventh year in a row we have shown a profit. With a difficult environment out there nationally for those running Speedway and indeed venues in the vast majority of sports, it's seventh heaven for Kent's professional Speedway club and Silver was clear why they'd been such success: "The reason for that profit is our fantastic followers - they come here in great numbers every week with great enthusiasm". And the former England World Cup winning manager who has promoted in the sport since the mid 1960s concluded: "This makes this the best club I have EVER been involved in over all those years. I'm looking forward to a hugely positive future to come!"
The season celebration party takes place at Central Park Stadium this Saturday (16th November) at 7:00pm - Midnight in the main Function Room/Bar. Tickets are priced: £12 adults, £6 Children (aged 5-15) and this year they are doing a family ticket (2 adults and 2 children) for just £30. Under 5's go FREE.