The perfect blend
Somerset's mix of youth and experience should be too much for Sheffield to cope with, says Kelvin Tatum.
Last Updated: 30/05/11 4:48pm
Somerset had an underwhelming season in 2010 when they finished 11th in the Premier League. Fast forward to now, though, and they are sitting pretty in second place.
They did some positive team-building at the start of the year and looking at their line-up of riders, it's not surprising that they are so high in the table. They have a really attractive team.
The Rebels' German star, Christian Hefenbrock, has plenty of Elite League experience and is showing his class in the division below.
Travis McGowan also rode in the Elite League for a long time. He has had his fair share of injury problems but is a reliable old hand and, along with Hefenbrock, provides a very solid backbone.
When riders drop down from the top division to the Premier League, you can often see their class. They manage to nick races that perhaps more unproven competitors won't. Hefenbrock and McGowan's adaptability and nous have been invaluable for Somerset so far this season.
In addition, the Rebels have a clutch of exciting young Australian riders, like Sam Masters and Cory Gathercole, who have huge potential.
It's the same story as with most other sports; their success is based on a great blend of youth and experience.
It's a super track at Oak Tree Arena and one that is very fast flowing. Whenever I've been there I've witnessed some superb speedway.
Visitors Sheffield won't be too inconvenienced by it, though, because their track is probably the fastest in the Premier League. However, they have not had a great season thus far.
The Tigers were excellent in 2010, getting all the way to the play-off final before they were toppled by the Newcastle Diamonds, but they are only in sixth place this time around.
There may be a bit of a hangover from the fact they went so close in the last campaign and ultimately failed, but mainly I think their riders have not been in good enough form.
Sometimes you get a few injuries and have a slow start to the season but, on paper, they don't look to bad. Josh Auty looks quite useful, Ricky Ashworth has been around for some time and, of course, their main signing of the winter was Shane Parker, who rode for Somerset last year. With those three, I think Sheffield will do alright this season.
All these Premier League riders will be looking to perform because places in Elite League sides are always for up grabs. It's not so common now, but Elite League teams do look to prise the most talented riders away.
Darcy Ward at Poole was signed from King's Lynn a few seasons ago, while Wolverhampton's Tai Woffinden was also plucked from the Premier League.
And last year's Cardiff Grand Prix winner, Chris Holder, was snapped up from Isle of Wight by Poole. I suspect that quite often there is a squabble between Elite League teams over the best of the Premier division riders.
Somerset, along with Workington and Ipswich, are a stand-out team in this league; their second-placed position is not a false one. I think they will have too much for Sheffield on Tuesday night.
The fact that Shane Parker is riding against Somerset having previously ridden for them gives it an added spice and he should go well - but I'll go for a narrow Rebels victory.