Arguably the hottest property in British Speedway, world U21 champion Darcy Ward, found himself Wimborne Road-bound from Premier league club King’s Lynn, a move that allowed the young teenager to team up with his off-track pal Chris Holder.
Those two bright young prospects formed just 50% of the Australian contingent as talisman Davey Watt found himself returning to his local track, just a few miles from his Upton base, together with the captain’s title, whilst Jason Doyle had persuaded Matt Ford that he had fully recovered from his rotunda cuff injury sustained at the start of the previous season to bag a place in the Pirates side once again.
With a brace of Danes - Bjarne Pedersen and Leon Madsen - being joined by young Artur Mroczka, the Pole having been an end of season trialist in 2009, the blend and potential of the side had the Pirates installed as title favourites from the very off.
Living up to that tag seemed no big deal and although their early season challenges fell victim to the weather the Pirates won six of their first seven matches, the one loss being a narrow four point defeat at Peterborough. Big scores around Wimborne Road were becoming an expectation and just 7 days after skipper Watt joked that he was looking for a 70 plus score the Pirates demolished a Lakeside team by 70-24.
That came just 48 hours after their second defeat of the season, beaten at stronghold Wolverhampton by a mere 10 points. Two more big home wins followed and then a form of revenge for Lakeside as they claimed a 13 point win in Essex, a night which Watt will not wish to recall as he endured a personal nightmare.
Pirates entered July with a cup defeat at Belle Vue but the following weekend Chris Holder produced a memorable night in Cardiff as he won his debut British Grand Prix. That ensured the second visit of Lakeside attracted a large crowd and whilst the Pirates dominated once again the scoreline was considerably closer at 56-33, the meeting being abandoned after 14 heats due to torrential rain. The victory restored the Pirates 7 point lead at the top of the table but the following evening suffered their 700th all-time league defeat when Eastbourne beat them 49-41 in Sussex.
A close encounter at Peterborough ended in a 5 point defeat, enough to gain the Pirates an away league point and then back at Pirate headquarters they did more than enough to recover from their first leg cup deficit to oust Belle Vue from the Knockout competition.
August began with Poole’s 5th away win of the season - winning at Lakeside and then claimed another 30 point margin home win, this time against Eastbourne. The month continued positively enough. as on their second visit to Eastbourne they secured another away point despite a 48-42 loss. Pushed all the way by Swindon Poole kept their fine form running and then underlined why they were title favourites by hammering the Robins by 13 points the very next evening. A close run affair at Belle Vue saw the home side scrape home by four points, so another league point went into the Pirates coffers as they extended their advantage at the top to a staggering 17 points. The month concluded with a home win over Wolverhampton followed by a 10 point defeat at Monmore.
Their home league programme was completed, with a 100% record fully intact despite the concerted efforts of Peterborough to try and blemish the record, but Poole were brought down to earth with a heavy defeat at the resurgent Coventry side that had propped up the league for much of the campaign but through this win saw themselves scrape into the play-offs.
Many expected Poole to choose 4th placed Coventry in the semi-finals but at the eleventh hour they sprang a huge shock by opting to contest their semi-final against second placed Wolverhampton, leaving 3rd place Peterborough to wrestle with the Bees.
A score-line rarely seen in British Speedway - 44.5 v 44.5 - headlined the Pirates’ semi final first leg, the talking point of the draw at Wolverhampton being the heat 13 dead-heat between Fredrick Lindgren and Dave Watt. Realistically it ensured Poole a rightful place in the final and their 53-41 home triumph 7 days later proved just that. Their opponents were confirmed as Coventry.
Play-off sneak-ins Coventry put themselves in the driving seat to destroy Poole's season-long dreams of the Sky Sports Elite League title with a 12 point lead from the first leg. Running up an early 12 point lead on a track that presented more than its fair share of problems the Bees looked as though they might respond to team manager's Alun Rossiter pre-meeting request for a 20 point lead to take to Wimborne Road on October 4th with only Bjarne Pedersen showing any true consistency for the Castle Cover Pirates. But those 12 points proved more than a good enough cushion for the Midlanders who stunned the speedway world becoming the only side to upset the incredibly strong Pirates on Dorset soil all season.
The heartache was painful for everyone associated with what, this play-off aside, had been a near perfect season. That evening soured what should have been a great homecoming for the recently crowned World U21 champion Darcy Ward, following a dramatic run-off to successfully defend the title.
The top team trophy having slipped the Pirates by, attentions turned to the KO Cup and a comprehensive double over Peterborough placed Poole in the final against Sussex rivals Eastbourne. But there was no talk of it being a formality, event after restricting the Eagles to a slender 8 point win in the first leg, and that caution was justified as the destiny of the KO Cup was not finally decided until heat 30 of this cup final, the Pirates claiming a Holder/Pedersen 5-1 in the very last race, to close out what will go on record as being one of the most remarkable seasons ever by a Poole side and the one in which Bjarne Pedersen moved into second place in the all-time Pirates scoring charts.
A winter of discontent left the Elite League in early turmoil and shrouded in doubt following Coventry and Peterborough threatening to seek an injunction against the BSPA, after conference talks broke down.
At later than the 11th hour common sense seemed to prevail and the Elite league was increased to 10 clubs, Birmingham and King's Lynn joining, whilst Ipswich were dropping down to the Premier league. The fixture list was tweaked which meant that each team would ride four teams just once home and away, and five sides twice home and away.
Amidst all this uncertainty the start of the season dawned for the Poole Pirates with other issues: Darcy Ward had been side-lined due to a broken collarbone and wrist following a Moto-X training session, and their was uncertainty in Poland regarding the new regulation silencers which led to newly snapped up Pirate Rafael Dobrucki, making the decision to stand down as he campaigned on behalf of the Polish riders as their spokesman.
Matt Ford turned to Wimborne Road favourite Jason Doyle, who incidentally paid for his own ticket back to the UK knowing that he had not signed to a UK club over the winter, to replace Rafael Dobrucki.
The first meeting of the season was a trip down the South Coast to Eastbourne for the Challenge and the Pirates struggled without the injured Ward and skipper Davey Watt being forced to the sidelines as he damaged his ankle on his opening lap attempting to avoid the fallen Eagle Dawid Lampart. Had the scene been set for 2011?
Belief flourished when the Pirates travelled to Birmingham for their opening league fixture against Elite League debutants Birmingham and a brilliant showing from Denis Andersson and Jason Doyle racking up 22 plus 4 between them, steered Poole to a 4 point haul to kick start their league drive.
League points continued to flow when they stunned British speedway by becoming the first visiting team to win a league match at Monmore Green, Wolverhampton since 2008, a fixture originally designated as an Elite Shield contest but being switched at the request of Sky TV who wanted to feature it as their live broadcast.
After winning the home tie of the Elite Shield by 9 points the Pirates were back on the road again with a second visit to Eastbourne, but Ward was back for this one marking his return with a paid 11 score, but the strongly fancied Eagles came out winners by 18 points. An Easter Sunday revenge win over Eastbourne added more league points to Poole's account and the month concluded with a consolation away point at Swindon, and fans now began to believe that they were on the verge of watching a very special team.
May proved to be quite fruitful for the Pirates league point-wise - 7 from a possible 9, but the Elite Shield slipped them by as Wolverhampton ran out 55-38 victors in the second leg and Christian Hefenbrock was being battered and bruised with two heavy falls in the space of a fortnight.
June promised to be a busy month and it was with 4 home meetings and 2 away. A win over Wolverhampton on the 8th June , by which time Poole were second in the table on 24 pts, six behind early pace-setters Eastbourne. Everything the Pirates touched this month turned to gold with winning all home and away fixtures. Also two wins over Swindon for the KO Cup saw the Pirates through to the Semi Finals, the away cup leg finishing in an unbelievable 34 point win, the biggest every away triumph by a Poole side under Matt Ford's reign as promoter. The one downside to the month was that Christian Heffenbrock was side-lined for most of it.
July was a quieter month for Poole and started with an away fixture at Peterborough, Kyle Newman deputising for the injured Christian Hefenbrock. A 5 point defeat banked another away point and that ws followed with a win over Kings Lynn to take the Pirates to the top of the Elite table by 2 points.
Another away loss at Lakeside by only 2 pts saw another point in the bag for the Pirates. There was however no return from the away loss at Coventry, Poole going down by 7 points on a night when they lost no fewer than 3 riders through injury - Newman, Ward and Doyle all unfortunate victims in this no-love lost clash.
That left a makeshift side to do duty for the home visit of Lakeside, Dave Watt and Chris Holder saving the day with a match concluding 5-1 that protected Poole's unbeaten home record.
August action came thick and fast with Poole first seeing off the challenge of Wolverhampton before entering a spell of 4 matches in the space of 6 days. The first two ended in defeats, Eastbourne again showing their championship contending colours although Poole did come away from Wolverhampton with a league point after a narrow 44-45 defeat, although at a cost as Chris Holder sustained an injury after 2 falls that side-lined him for the Swindon home and away fixtures. Rory Schlein stepped into the fore scoring 22 plus 1 from both meetings as the Pirates delivered back to back defeats against the Robins.
The 50-43 win in Wiltshire proved to be the last time that Christian Hefenbrock rode in Pirates colours as his season was wrecked when injury struck again whilst riding for his Premier league outfit Somerset. Also Renat Gafurov suffered a bad crash that left him side-lined and ultimately, at his own request, was replaced, citing the reason that "I do not want to be the rider to deny Poole the chance of success now that I have lost form".
Two new signings were made - Thomas H Jonasson and Mateusz Szczepaniak, but the injury jinx haunted Poole further as Mateusz fell in his first race and had to pull up in his second race on his debut against Birmingham on 17th August, withdrawing from the remainder of the meeting and it was later confirmed that his season was over due to knee ligament damage. Thomas H Jonasson made his debut in front of the Sky Sports cameras on Monday 22nd August at Belle Vue, scoring 11 plus 2. With 14 from Chris Holder and 11 plus 1 by Darcy Ward the Pirates won the meeting confirming themselves as play-off favourites.
September dawned 9 points clear at the top of the table, but the first home loss of the season was about to happen, as Belle Vue raided on 5th September. The two fancied title chasing clubs - Poole and Eastbourne - met in the semi-final of the KO Cup and Poole's chances looked slender as they went into the second leg with just a 2 point advantage, and had Dave Watt damaging his shoulder, an injury that several weeks later proved to be far worse than initially diagnosed. But spectacularly and with just two familiar faces - Holder and Ward - the Pirates travelled to Sussex and stunned the speedway world with 51-39 triumph , Kevin Wolbert, signed as a double-upper with Jason Doyle, starring with a debut 10 point haul.
As top finishers in the league Poole chose their play-off semi final opponents in Kings Lynn and again with Wolbert headlining the Pirates went down by just 3 points which made the second leg a night to remember for Poole with superb performances throughout the team. Simultaneously Eastbourne were denying Lakeside a place in the final and so the two south coast sides would go head to head for the league title, the league and cup double still very much in Poole's sights.A crucial heat 14 race win from Wolbert, on a night when Jonasson failed to score after a first ride fall and Watt aggravating his shoulder injury in the same incident - although that still didn't deter the skipper from scoring 9 points - left the Pirates facing a single figure deficit to overcome for the Grand Final at Wimborne Road that attracted a huge crowd and for the second successive season people had to be turned away, due to capacity limits, those unfortunate ones missing out on a memorable night for all. Superb riding from Chris Holder and Darcy Ward dubbed the "Turbo Twins" scoring 25 plus 3 between them, being well supported by the five other Pirates - including guest Ricky Wells.
The first part of the 'Double' was in the locker and by holding Belle Vue to just two points in Manchester in the first leg of the final the job was rounded off in an emotional end of season curtain faller at Wimborne Road on October 20th, with the night and the season closing on the words of Darcy Ward who admitted "it was an important race for us that last one, because the rules could be that me and Chris won't be able to ride in the same team next year".
That will depend on the outcome of the winter conference, which hopefully will bring less turmoil this time around.
It transpired that the Pirates were able to retain both Holder and Ward and whilst that consumed a fair amount of the points limit, Matt Ford cleverly pulled together a side with immense potential.
Capturing Adrian Miedzinski fom Swindon was an inspired move, even though the Pole harboured a want to agree a temporary deal.
Backing up his inclusion was a strategic decision to bring in Sam Masters still on an assessed average but just a single home meeting short of a sub 4 point average that would have seen him assured of a reserve berth and thus allowing the Pirates the opportunity to call back Mateusz Szczepaniak to further bolster the bottom end of the side.
A string of circumstances conspired to prevent that option, but unperturbed, things began superbly for the Pirates.
After winning the Elite Shield with a double victory over holders Wolverhampton, skipper Chris Holder jetted back Down Under for the inaugural New Zealand Grand Prix which coincided with the birth, back in England, of his first child Max.
Occurring on the eve of the meeting it was small wonder that he endured a slow start to the championship, but things were destined to get better for Holder as the season progressed.
He missed the Pirates home challenge against Belle Vue but returned to the UK in time for the opening league fixture which was a two-in-a-day contest against Coventry. With victories in both recorded the Pirates had begun their title defence in the best possible fashion. This was only the start of things as the Pirates went on to establish a club record run of 18 unbeaten meetings, despite losing the services of Darcy Ward after he broke his hand mid-June whilst racing in Poland.
The run eventually came to an end at King's Lynn in a close run affair on June 29th, when still without Ward and with Miedzinski under pressure from his Polish club Torun, the Pirates took the meeting to a last heat decider.
Such tense finishes had been proving common-place for the Pirates with a number of last gasp 5-1 scores being hard earned by Holder and Ward, but this time around it was the season-long consistent performer Niels-Kristian Iversen and his partner Maciej Janowski turning the tables to inflict that first defeat.
By this time Holder had given his world title hopes a boost by winning round 2 in Leszno and registering a semi-final exit in round 3 in Prague, to rise to 6th in the standings. A rostrum finish in Gothenburg maintained the momentum but then a harsh semi-final disqualificaton in Copenhagen could easily have proved costly for Holder in the fifth round. But the Aussie bounced back with a splendid runners-up performance in Gorzow to bank 17 more points and move joint second in the championship with fellow compatriot Jason Crump, both 9 points adrift of defending champion Greg Hancock.
Miedzinski had made a mockery of his 5.57 average and by the time he reluctantly conceeded to the demands of Torun to quit Britain he was riding off a 8.21 figure. That widened the scope for Poole boss Matt Ford to find a replacement and he felt he had a ready made stand in with Krzysztof Kasprzak.
'Special K' rejoined the Pirates taking his first ride on July 18th and played an immense role in Poole going through the month unbeaten again.
It was a reunion that worked for both club and rider. Kasprzak rediscovered the form that had hitherto deserted him and the Pirates maintained their push for league honours.
A second defeat of the campaign came at Swindon on August 6th and the third loss was conceeded at Peterborough three days later. Earlier in the season Poole had secured a convincing win at the newly branded Peterborough Arena, but that result was amended after it was discovered the Pirates use of guest Ty Proctor as a replacement for injured Dennis Andersson had been in contravention of the rules as Proctor's average was in excess of Andersson's figure. Proctor's 10 points were deducted turning the 51-39 win into one of just 41-39.
The GP's resumed after their mid-season break but it was Croatian agony for Holder as a broken chain in heat 14 brought his evening to a premature end. He was back in the mix at Terenzano a fortnight later but his 10 points still left him, now back in fourth, 17 behind Hancock. But arguably the defining moment of his season came at Cardiff on August 25th. Twenty three massive points and being flanked by Poole team-mate Krysztof Kasprzak (runner up) on the rostrum really shook up the championship standings. That one performance, immaculate as it was, closed the gap massively on Hancock, just one point separating the two of them and Holder now second overall, five clear of Pedersen in third.
A fourth defeat was inflicted on the Pirates at Swindon just two weeks after their first Wiltshire visit, but at home the Pirates kept generating the victories. They closed out August with a double over Lakeside, who were still reeling from the tragic loss back in May of skipper Lee Richardson in what was surely the darkest moment of British speedway for many years.
With the euphoria of the Cardiff meeting still ringing in their eyes Poole fans were brought down to earth with the news that Dennis Andersson's season was over following a crash in Poland in which he sustained a broken femur. Needing a quick solution Poole boss Matt Ford enticed 17 year old Piotr Pawlicki into the side, revealing that he had been a target earlier in the season but ideally to fulfill a reserve position had the numbers fallen into place. But his assessed 4.00 point average precluded that as both Ricky Kling and Sam Masters were dipping below that mark.
Pawlicki though became an instant hint in his debut meeting on September 5th dropping his only point to Scott Nicholls and still showed enough in his second meeting despite two falls to begin his night with, eventually finishing with paid 6 from 4.
Had Ford's shrewdness struck again, with Pawlicki offering immense support to a strong top trio of Holder, Ward and Kasprzak could anything stand in their way?
By this time Poole had virtually secured their place in the play-offs but seeking that top spot to claim choice of play-off opponents was becoming a head-to-head challenge with Swindon. Victories over Eastbourne and then Swindon meant a win at Birmingham would ensure that outcome.
Just days before the visit new boy Pawlicki was ruled out with a damaged shoulder whilst racing in Poland, but the gallant Pirates still managed to pull off a win at Perry Barr, a venue where they have remained unbeaten since the Brummies joined the Elite League in 2011.
They had to wait a couple of days to learn the full make-up of the play-offs and with Lakeside just edging it after Peterborough went down at Coventry, the Pirates opted to take on the Hammers and leave Swindon and Birmingham to contest the other semi-final.
Pawlicki was back for the semi finals and the Pirates won both legs to cruise into the final, by which time Holder was leading the Grand Prix championship following good performances in Malilla (2nd) and Vojens (11 points) outscoring Hancock in both rounds. That left him with a two point advantage over his nearest rival Nicki Pedersen as the title was to go down to the wire in Torun.
It proved a night of intense drama as the two title contenders literally clashed in the semi-finals, with Pedersen going down. A re-run without disqualification was decreed and Holder grabbed the opportunity to win the heat which was enough to earn him the world championship laurels.
Now to try and complete a great year by seeing off Swindon for the league title. But the injury jinx was about to hit, and hit hard.
Pawlicki aggravated that shoulder injury and his season was cut short, whilst the league play-offs were going the way of much of the season - affected by the good old British weather. The first leg, at Swindon, was delayed until 15th October and the Robins hit Poole hard from the off. The Pirates though worked their way back to finish just 7 points adrift setting up a mouth-watering Grand Final second leg.
The weather seemed the only thing not interested in seeing it. Twice the home leg was put back and by the time it eventually was staged Holder had added the title of Elite League Riders Champion to his expanding roll of honour, but cruelly the Pirates had lost the services of Darcy Ward, hospitalised after an off-track assault that had left him with a bleed on the brain.
For the second time in three years the Pirates suffered the agony of seeing the league championship slip through their grasp as Swindon defended their first leg advantage with vigour and led for most of the second leg. They clinched the title - one that had evaded them for 45 years- in the 12th heat, although Poole eventually protected their unbeaten home record with a late recovery.
Even this late in the season the Pirates still had hopes of more silverware as they were KO cup semi-finalists. They bounced back from the league disappointment to build up a 12 point first leg lead but then looked set to be eliminated as world champion Holder crashed out heavily in his opening ride, unable to avoid the fallen Mads Korneliussen, and sustaining serious knee injury.
Somehow the depleted Poole side was able to march into the final, a contest against Coventry with both Holder and Ward ruled out.
Ironic really that after having relied considerably on their brilliant exploits to pull them through meetings throughout the league title race, the Pirates then scooped the KO cup without either of their Awesome Aussies.
As season's go there could be few more turbulent than 2013 as the Pirates were hard hit with injuries for much of the campaign. Only three members of the original declared seven found their names still in the final septet, and one of those (Rohan Tungate) missed the glory of an amazing fifth Elite league title for the Pirates.
Promoter Matt Ford was building and re-building his side relentlessly, and whilst some lesser spirited promoters may well have thrown in the towel, Ford still managed to pull off one of British Speedway's major coups as he enticed two-times world champion Greg Hancock back to regular UK racing.
That was the only positive from a sickening Friday night at the beginning of July when reigning world champion Chris Holder, only recently re-united his with fellow box office showman Darcy Ward, had his season ended.
Ward himself had been side-lined after damaging his shoulder in the Swedish GP at Ullevi at the beginning of May, coming just a short while after recovering from a crash that had left him with a hand injury.
By that time, the Pirates had regularly been operating rider replacement for Robert Miskowiak who suffered a home debut to forget, a tapes offence first time out then a fall that left him with a heavily bruised leg and out of the equation until mid-May.
A thrashing at Peterborough on May 9th after being in close touch for the first half of the meeting was a bitter pill to swallow for the Poole faithful who a day earlier had seen their club fall to their second home league defeat of a season, all of which was a far cry from the club record unbeaten run established in 2012.
Bizarrely though the Pirates made the trip to Norfolk on May 15th, to take on unbeaten King's Lynn. Miskowiak was back from injury and although he failed to trouble the scorers somehow struggling Poole were able to overturn the form guide and collect their first four point haul of the season.
Celebrations however were somewhat mooted as it became apparent that the decision had already been made to introduce new personnel and it was to be young Kyle Howarth and Dawid Stachyra who controversially were to make way to allow Tomas H
Jonasson, a member of the 2011 championship winning side, Przemyslaw Pawlicki and Latvian Alexsander Lebedevs to slot into the new look Pirates.
But this was no straightforward season and the Lebedev option was to fall through, offering up a reprieve for Stachyra. Then before either Jonasson or Pawlicki were able to turn a wheel for the Pirates they were both struck by injuries.
What followed was a controversial move to cancel the Pirates scheduled home match on 22nd May as they couldn't fulfil a side without reverting to their earlier one-to-seven. Had they gone down that route then one or other of the two riders which Ford had invested five figure money in would not be able to slot into a revised side as, newboy Rohan Tungate's increased official average would have had made that mathematically impossible.
And so, the first opponents to face the reshuffled Pirates were a seriously weakened King's Lynn side but still Poole shed league points at Wimborne Road, only managing a 47-43 triumph to complete their May fixtures languishing third from bottom
with just 12 points to their credit from 10 matches.
June began no better for the beleaguered Pirates, a heavy defeat at Lakeside saw Pawlicki pull out after just one ride and then high flying Birmingham visited Wimborne Road and left with a draw, which had it not been for a late recovery by the Pirates might well have been all the points.
Poole finished their next fixure - the return at Birmingham - with just four men standing as Stachyra (foot) and Jonasson (ribs) both withdrew during the course of the meeting which ended with the Brummies running out 54-40.
Could things get any worse for the Dorset side?
Traffic problems in Poland delayed Maciej Janowski from making his flight on Saturday June 22nd which meant Poole went into their league match at Eastbourne with just two regulars - Chris Holder and Rohan Tungate. Incredibly though a 55-35 away win
resulted and when that was immediately backed up by another four point haul at Belle Vue, the Pirates were projected up the table and by the time they had beaten the Aces in the return at Wimborne Road two days on, Poole were just three points shy
of a play-off place.
In those matches against Belle Vue Poole had used a couple of hugely impressive guests in Micky Dyer and Josh Grajczonek, the former being quickly awarded with a doubling up role as a permanent replacement for Dawid Stachyra whose form had dipped noticeably.
The month was ending positively and even Darcy Ward was back racing by the time the calendar was being turned. He proved that with a victory in the Danish GP on June 29th, his Pirate team-mate Chris Holder making it a proud rostrum for Poole fans as he finished third in the final.
To accommodate Ward back in the Pirates seven Matt Ford opted to release Pawlicki, a tough decision but made slightly easier by the very fact that 'Shamek' was far from fully fit himself. At the same time Miskowiak had revealed his lack of confidence
and wanted to call a halt to racing in Britain and so Australian Kozza Smith was drafted in on a short-term contract.
Short-term indeed, just one meeting to be precise, but one meeting that was to prove heartbreaking for all Poole (and indeed many outside of the Dorset environs) fans. It was July 5th, the box office draw combination of Holder and Ward were in the same Poole side for only the 8th time of the season and the pairing needed to just avoid a heat 15 defeat for the Pirates to hail another memorable away win.
Sadly in that heat 15, the season for world champion Chris Holder was about to end there and then. Trapped under the lifted airfence Holder had sustained heal, hip and shoulder breaks. It was a sickening crash and to all intents and purposes, despite having been granted the league win, the 2013 looked all over too for the Pirates. The message though from the shocked top-line management was clear - "Do not give up hope".
Another team declaration was processed, this time Josh Grajczonek joining the Poole seven in place of the short-term fix of Smith. Grajczonek, doubling up for Somerset, was to become a firm favourite with the Poole faithful, the Australian grabbing as many headlines with his solid and at times outstanding performances.
A 7 point defeat at Wolverhampton was frustrating, yielding as it does no league points whilst back at Wimborne Road Holder's guest Troy Batchelor saved any blushes with a last heat victory that settled the meeting 46-44 in Poole's favour against those table topping Wolves.
With the SWC consuming a week of the irregular calendar and Maciej Janowski collecting a gold medal with Poland, the Pirates as a team were not in action again until July 24th when they registered a comprehensive home win over Belle Vue and 48 hours later Matt Ford released the news that he had persuaded two-times world champion Greg Hancock to end his British league racing exile and provide permanent cover for Chris Holder.
It was an announcement that sent shockwaves throughout the sport. Poole were serious of maintaining a late challenge for the play-offs even after everything that had been thrown their way. For Hancock himself there was the temptation that if he could provide the boost to waning team spirits and lift the Pirates into those play-offs then that elusive British league championship could fall his way.
But again, this was no ordinary season and even the signing of Hancock was fraught with difficulties. Delays in processing his immigration papers meant Poole had to race against Coventry on July 31st without him, but the mere knowledge that he would be joining the team real soon was enough to inspire the Pirates to a convincing home win.
That debut appearance of "The Grin" came on August 5th and he kicked his Pirates' career off with a 10 point return and the three league points gained against Eastbourne elevated Poole into 4th place, albeit on points difference and with more matches ridden.
A home defeat nine days later at the hands of Peterborough however highlighted the tough task that the Pirates still faced to realise Hancock's dream. Another of those annoying 7 point away defeats was experienced at Lakeside and although they beat title favourites Swindon at home on a bright August Bank Holiday Monday Poole still faced a gulf of 3 points between them and that cherished final play-off place.
A third successive away loss by just 7 points made it look likely it would be the 'nearly' year for Poole in 2013. Inflicting a crushing 62-28 defeat on Lakeside though in their home league fixture left the Pirates needing something from their final away fixture - a trip to Belle Vue. That occurred on September 9th. Bluntly speaking the conditions were farcical with rain having lashed down in Manchester just two hours before scheduled start time but remarkably the meeting went ahead. Poole needed some points from it and their resolve was more emphatic than that of the Aces and Poole held a 7 point lead by the time 10 heats had been completed.
Whilst conditions had not actually deteriorated the fear that the dropping temperatures would make the track more treacherous so an early result was, controversially, called.
The Pirates had done all they could now to make the top four, only an unlikely away win at Swindon by Lakeside stood in the way of a the play-offs for the fourth successive season and although the rumour mill was awash with speculation that the Robins would favour the Lakeside in the last four over the Pirates, the Wiltshire side did a thoroughly professional job, with a 54-36 victory that ensured Poole would be in the mix.
Swindon, second in the table, chose to stage their home leg first, no doubt hoping for a larger lead than the 10 points they managed. The Pirates rose to the challenge and in the second leg at Wimborne Road managed to wipe out that deficit after 9 heats and although the Robins built up a further 5 point aggregate advantage an exhilarating finish to the meeting saw Poole run out 55-38 winners on the night, 97-90 overall to go into the final against Birmingham who had won both legs of their semi-final against Midland neighbours Wolverhampton.
When the Brummies arrived at Poole for the first leg of the final they were brimming with confidence but Poole, who had not entirely seen off the injury jinx, losing Rohan Tungate and Micky Dyer from the final, quickly took control of the meeting and established a very handy 21 point lead and so headed to Perry Barr as title favourites, the status many pundits had placed on them way back in March.
The job was completed with a win on the night, those 21 points preciously protected, and Poole had pulled off one of the most remarkable title smash and grabs from a rollercoaster season.
The 2014 championship was predicted to be a two-horse race between the King's Lynn Stars and the Pirates - who were boasting their youngest ever team. As things turned out, the pundits weren't too far wrong as the two sides dominated in a year that saw Birmingham close it's doors mid-season and Eastbourne confirm that it would be their last in the top-flight for the foreseeable future.
Both the front-runners were to lose their respective number ones, the Stars having Niels-Kristian Iversen ruled out through a GP injury sustained in Gorzow just days after Poole captain Darcy Ward had been dealt an indefinite ban by the FIM from all speedway having provided a positive breathalyzer on the day of the deferred Latvian meeting, which was dramatically switched from Riga to Daugavpils due to safety issues.
Ward had been solid since returning from an injury in the New Zealand Grand Prix an incident that deferred Chris Holder's wish to take a British sebattical, and the ban looked as though it could be the undoing of the Pirates who had been in the mix throughout the season, despite struggling to find suitable back-up to Fast Track reserve Kyle Newman.
The new system of reserves looked to be the Pirates achilles heel at times although once Newman discovered a prolonged period of excellent form it certainly mitigated the risk and the young local lad went on to be voted the Rider of The Year such was the value of his performances.
Poole boss Matt Ford had revealed another new star in Vaclav Milik. A little raw at times, Milik had the ability to quickly weigh up the British tracks and his all-out attacking style certainly left fans of any denomination spell-bound with many of his rides.
When the Pirates lost at Eastbourne on July 19th they were joint second with Lakeside on 34 points, both sides trailing the Stars by a massive 17 points (Lynn had ridden just two more matches than their closest rivals) and Eastbourne were hot on the heels just a point behind.
After that date though Poole were to suffer just one more defeat - that at Lakeside in a rain-affected meeting in front of the Sky TV cameras - a match that was called to an early close with the Pirates trailing by 9 points. By this time Ward was serving his ban and the Pirates management had been heading back from a postponed trip to Zielona Gora where they were due, albeit it with a makeshift side, to have ridden in the inaugural World Speedway League.
Maciej Janowski, with the added responsibilities of captain had come into his own and just four days after that defeat the Pirates again journeyed to Lakeside, secured a draw and were now just two points shy of the Stars.
Away wins at both Coventry on September 15th and Leicester two days later edged the Pirates, who had now completed their league programme, one point ahead of King's Lynn who still had to visit Belle Vue and whilst the Norfolk side managed to salvage a consolation point, losing by just 6 points, it was not sufficient to reclaim the top spot they had held for so long, due to race points differential being in favour of the Pirates.
Thus it was the Poole management who had the right to choose their play-off opponents and it was no major suprise that they selected the Stars, weakened through injuries, in preference to in-form sides Coventry and Swindon.
In the away leg against Lynn the Pirates had the audacity to win, albeit it by a single point, and then no fewer than 17 days later they completed their right to play-off final passage with a 47-43 triumph at a very rain sodden Wimborne Road on October 16th.
With barely time to 'dry out' the Pirates headed to Coventry the following evening for the first leg of the Grand Final and again the weather intervened but at the time of the abandonment the visiting Poole side were leading 37-34 with the result standing.
24 hours later the Pirates claimed runners-up in the re-scheduled World Speedway League, losing out to the Swedish Pirates (Piraterna) with a quintet of Janowski, Przemyslaw Pawlicki (both 2014 regulars) Grzegorz Walasek, Leon Madsen and Thomas H Jonasson.
A further two days later they were placing their hands firmly on their second successive Elite league title with a convincing 16 point win over the Bees.
The 2015 season was to be a bitter sweet year the central character being Darcy Ward despite the fact he never pulled on the Pirates' colours due to the extensive FIM ban. In the knowledge that Ward was unavailable for the start of the season, Ford turned to Maciej Janowski, patiently waiting in the wings and keen to become a hat-trick title winner. Once confirmed, not just as a returnee but as full-time captain, Ford also unveiled Kacper Gomolski to join Aussie trio Chris Holder, talisman Dave Watt and new recruit Dakota North. The Poole guvnor was also hoping he had repaired the Achilles Heel of a reliable second reserve by snatching up Paul Starke in the draft scheme to combine with Kyle Newman.
Retention of the Elite Shield came at the cost of a wrist injury for Holder, but it was a foot injury sustained by Watt whilst riding in Poland that forced a short-term replacement with Josh Grajczonek sapped up as emergency cover. The league title defence began emphatically with a convincing away win at beleaguered Swindon and backed that up with a home win over Lakeside but then two clashes with Coventry ended in victories for the respective away sides.
Skipper Janowski sustained a broken knee cap during the home match against Coventry victory forcing him out of the return at Brandon and the Pirates first away league defeat of the season at Wolverhampton, a meeting in which Kyle Newman sustained an elbow injury. Poole's response was an even more convincing home win over the Wolves headlined with Dakota North boasting his maiden Elite league maximum. Another 48 hours on and the Pirates were dominant again crushing Lakeside in Essex.
Janowski marked his return to the Poole side days after finishing third in the Czech GP and celebrated it with an imperious 15 point maximum at Leicester and two days later Poole completed their league double over the Lions. They were only denied yet another league win the following night in a last heat decider at King's Lynn.
Controversy reigned at Coventry at the end of May with a truncated meeting, enforced when the Bees management refused to track riders in the tenth heat, Poole claiming a 36-22 away win, upheld in a subsequent appeal by Coventry.
Another Janowski maximum at home to Lynn, steered the Pirates to joint top and once the mid-season SWC interlude had been exhausted the top two clubs met at Wimborne Road and the Pirates broke the sequence of away wins in Poole v Coventry ties, thus moving them three points clear of the Bees.
It was to be a further 12 days before the Pirates rode again and they looked to be on course for another away victory following an intense start at Belle Vue, but an 8-1 reversal gave the Aces the impetus they needed leaving Poole having to settle for the away bonus.
A narrow one point defeat at King's Lynn opened July and two further on-the-road deficits were recorded that month including one masterminded by the "free to ride" Ward who marked his home debut for Swindon. The month also saw Janowski crowned Polish champion and win the Latvian Grand Prix and with three solid home wins recorded the Pirates went into August five points and a match in hand behind renewed league leaders Coventry.
A home win over Belle Vue on August 12th shot the Pirates back to top and they were in that position when less than fortnight news came through that rocked the club to its core.
A track crash in Poland had left Darcy Ward facing life-changing injuries. News which left Poole team manager Neil Middleditch, famed for his "surrogate father" title for the way he had looked after Ward's British career, distraught and Ford seriously contemplating withdrawing his club from competition.
Holder and Watt rallied to be by Ward's Polish bedside and Poole cancelled their scheduled Monday meeting against Ward's current club Swindon out of respect.
It was to be September 2nd before the team rode again, comprehensively beating King's Lynn and 24 hours later emphatically won at Leicester. An emotional home match against Swindon ended in a draw, the Pirates already assured of choice of semi-final play-off opponents.
Ford confounded some by plumping for Coventry and although they were pegged back over the concluding heats of the first leg had effectively done enough to seal a place in the final, seeking a third successive title, something no club had done since their fellow finalists Belle Vue had achieved it 43 years previously.
Poole headed for Belle Vue on the back of an unbeaten 8 match spell sensationally making that 9 with a third draw in four. Unlike the semi-final second leg though the Pirates were made to sweat before being declared winners and getting their hands on a 7th all-time league championship, their third straight triumph.
A night that normally dreams are made of but in essence only tempered a nightmare season for the Poole club.
It was a year when the Poole club also bade farewell to former riders Cyril Roger, Arne Pander, Ken James and former co-promoter Pete Ansell.
Targetting a fourth straight league title the Pirates retained just Chris Holder, Dave Watt and Kyle Newman from their 2015 side, but it was to be a short spell for Watt who suffered a run of indifferent early form and by the end of April wasreleased, in favour of another Poole stalwart, Bjarne Pedersen.
Fixture clashes and postponements led to the frequency of Pedersen's appearances being somewhat erratic although he soon found himself down at reserve where he absolutely revelled. His low rolling average largely prevented Elite league debutant Brady Kurtz from a sustained run in the lower echelons, the Australian champion occupying the number six berth for just a handful of matches during May through to the start of June.
In contrast to Watt's loss of form, the returning Hans Andersen was in scintillating form, particularly in the early months but the Pirates were to lose out on his influence during the business end of the season when he became the innocent victim of a crash at Leicester on August Bank Holiday when the Pirates were racing the second meeting of the day having earlier been making their long-awaited first visit to the new National Stadium, Manchester.
Two defeats that day saw the Pirates drop out of the top two, where they had stood for the previous 19 days and it took a similar period before they could regain that previous position again courtesy of a victory at King's Lynn in their final regular league match.
To cover for Andersen Poole boss Matt Ford enticed Antonio Lindback back for the final run-in but the Swede managed just one meeting before illness ruled him out of the Pirates play-off semi-final second leg at Wolverhampton.
The Pirates had taken a 12 point first leg lead to Monmore but the eventual league winners proved just too strong for the reigning champions who were heavily dependant on the night on draft riders Kyle Newman and Adam Ellis and so for the first time since 2009 a Poole side did not feature in the play-off final.
A difficult 2017 campaign again resulted without the Pirates reaching the play-off final, beaten again by the champions-elect, Swindon in the semi-finals. Principally Poole had nothing reliable coming from the number one berth, a position offered to Krzysztof Kasprzak based mainly on the fact that his start of season average was lower than that of Chris Holder, who had endured a difficult time at King's Lynn in 2016.
But the Pole struggled. His only double figure score coming from the Pirates trip to Leicester on 8th April. Eventually boss Matt Ford called time on him, releasing him in August and Edward Kennett being drafted in. It was ironic that Kennett had been released by Rye House, the club that snatched Kasprzak up immediately. Somewhat bizarrely the move came just prior to the Rockets visit to Wimborne Road and their new number one whacked in a paid 12 score leaving Poole fans bewildered as to why he couldnt have shown that class when wearing the skull and crossbones.
A bright spot was the strength of Nicolai Klindt at reserve to kick the season off, but the Pirates were not offered the chance to see too much of Klindt in the main body of the side, for once he had made the step up he suffered a knee injury that was to ultimately curtail his season much earlier than wanted. Also in reserve James Shanes was showing good development, largely thrown in at the deep-end but always giving a good account of himself. A home defeat by Belle Vue on June 26th triggered a bad Wimborne Road run for the Pirates who were not to win their again until 16th August, a sequence of five home losses in succession left the Pirate faithul quite downbeat.
But, over the course of their final 7 league matches Poole won 6 of them including victories at King's Lynn and at Somerset in the space of two nights. That Somerset win scraped Poole into the top four, edging Rye House out of the play-offs. A home defeat in the first leg of the semi-finals left Poole on the back foot and Swindon finished the job with a convincing second leg triumph, leaving Poole fans reflecting on a tough season.
Celebrating their Platinum Season, all at Poole were hoping that the drought of trophies would be ended and the club were determined to make it a memorable campaign, opening with a very special star-studded individual meeting and holding a grand Gala dinner to commemorate 70 years of the Pirates.
In addition Poole fans were hoping for greater success and most were bouyed by the news in January that Chris Holder would return this time around, but that was before the problems with resolving a work permit reared its head. With little progress made with the Home Office Authorities, places still to fill and the season rapidly approaching Ford was left having to make alternative arrangements.
Dane Peter Kildemand agreed to come in for the early weeks with all parties fully expecting the necessary green light would be given to Holder imminently, but that was not to be and Holder was frozen out of British Speedway.
It wasn't freezing that made it a tough start but flooding as the UK underwent a miserable prolonged period of rain and storms, which not only washed-out that prestigious individual meeting but wiped out the Pirates first five scheduled team meetings. Eventually on 11th April the season got underway, Poole seeing off Belle Vue by 10 points but it was to be 16th May, by which time James Shanes had been released in preference to Stefan Nielsen and Kildemand had seen out his temporary contract and couldn't commit any further, before they were to win another meeting - home to Rye House. However, those three points plus the consolation away point they had collected at Hoddesdon two days earlier, were soon to be wiped from the records as financial problems forced Rye to fold. By 28th May the Pirates were sat on the bottom of the table.
Poole drew their next home meeting (against Wolverhampton) but the Wimborne Road public had to wait until June 13th and the visit of King's Lynn before they were able to celebrate another home victory. That night saw a return to Poole colours for Nicolai Klindt with the Pirates needing a replacement for the impressive Nielsen after he had cruelly broken a leg. A fortnight later Poole were eliminated from the KO Cup by Somerset and this special season looked to be heading towards an early close. Mateusz Szczepaniak's second spell as a Pirate ended with Ford persuading young Dane Frederik Jakobsen to join the club half a season earlier than originally planned, as his studies had been completed.
Than came July 4th and a win over Belle Vue, swiftly followed by victory at Leicester. Two postponements ensued and by the time the Poole side regrouped Linus Sundstrom had handed in his notice, Matt Ford quickly responding by offering Chris Harris, scuppered by Rye House's closure, a contract. Somehow it gave the Pirates a boost and they came within a heat of winning at King's Lynn but then had two victories over Leicester.
Slowly their climb up the league was maintained, hampered by a big defeat at Somerset but they were at least in the play-off zone despite a huge thrashing by King's Lynn who went on to top their regular table.
As has been the case since 2002, titles are decided by those play-offs and Poole headed into their semi-final labelled as underdogs against Somerset but managed to limit the damage of defeat in the first leg to just two points. The tie was delicately poised as the Rebels were brimming with confidence on Wimborne Road shale and it was clear to see why as they extended their lead in the early exchanges in Dorset, although both sides had lost key riders when Brady Kurtz ran into Jack Holder , both being picked out of the airfence with shoulder injuries that ended their respective nights as early as heat 4, particularly bad news for the Rebels who were already operating rider replacement.
Poole fired in four maximum heat scores on the bounce to take control of the tie, before Somerset responded with one of their own in heat 12. The tie was heading for Golden Heats and that remained the case until the very last half a lap when Chris Harris went for broke against the current world champion Jason Doyle. Into the inside, switching to the outide and hunting in territory not previously traversed, Harris showed true character and squeezed by Doyle to take the flag and send the stadium into delirium. A tenth play-off final appearance had been secured, the high-flying King's Lynn standing in the Pirates way of an 8th play-off title gold.
On the eve of the first leg, King's Lynn lost the services of Niels-Kristian Iversen, so both needed guests (Poole for Kurtz) and matchday build-up focussed around the Stars' decision to use Adam Ellis, whom the Pirates had already booked for the second leg. Commonsense prevailed and at Stars' behest it was agreed that the Pirates could use Nick Morris (who was eligible under the 5% home uplift rule but not for the trip to Norfolk) and Lynn use Ellis in both legs.
Crucially, once tapes went up, Poole were able to get off to a great start, another four in a row maximum flurry and whilst the Stars fought back to within 8 points the tie swung in Poole's favour when Michael Palm-Toft crashed out after being clipped by Pirates' mid-term acquisition Frederik Jakobsen. By the conclusion of the first meeting Poole were back to 16 points ahead but still plenty of work to do to be crowned champions.
Ultimately it took them 14 heats of the second leg to finally put themselves out of grasp of King's Lynn, the scenes of celebration though soon tempered when club owner Matt Ford confirmed his intention of putting the Pirates up for sale as he wanted to explore another business opportunity.
An announcement that might well signal the end of a magnificent era that began in 1999, has seen EIGHT league titles won, 10 Play-off finals ridden and 25 trophies claimed. The winter awaits.
As well as constructing the on-track team, which included Brady Kurtz,Josh Grajczonek, Richie Worrall and Nicolai Klindt from the Platinum Premiership success, two new promoters - Dan Ford and Anthony Tilley - were appointed, replacing Giles Hartwell and Gordon Pairman who had departed the club either end of the 2018 season. In addition, No,1 Carpet Cleaning Services came aboard as new title sponsors.
A 10 point away win at King's Lynn in the Premiership Shield set the Pirates on their way to more silverware, although they did slip up in the return second leg at Wimborne Road, holding on however to an eight-point aggregate victory.
Their first league points were put on the board through a narrow defeat at Peterborough, a match staged before the newly introduced Premiership Supporters Cup competition got underway for the Pirates. A draw in that competition, at Swindon, again was a good sign, but a heavy sixteen points Easter defeat at Wimborne Road did expose some vulnerability.
They put that meeting behind them though, next time out at Wimborne Road, winning 55-35 against Belle Vue Aces but weaknesses were again apparent in the early stages of their noon-start Bank Holiday Monday visit to Belle Vue, but somehow the Pirates managed to turn their fortunes round and salvage a draw thanks to a Brady Kurtz paid 16 score that included a match-levelling 5-1 with Jack Holder in the final heat, immediately after having produced a similar heat score in the preceding race with skipper Josh Grajczonek.
Three PSC fixtures followed, scraping home 46-44 against Ipswich before a heavy loss at Foxhall Heath, then a resounding win at King's Lynn. As things panned out that victory in Norfolk (49-41) was to be Poole's last fixture in that competition as weather intervened denying the opportunity for the corresponding fixture against the Stars to be staged.
By the end of June the Pirates were comfortably holding a play-off position having secured 21 points from 10 league matches and faced a July opener with a trip to Manchester, this time without the services of Richie Worrall whose season had come to an end through an ankle injury sustained in the Poole v Belle Vue Wimborne Road fixture on June 28th, a night which also saw Nico Covatti sidelined. Nevertheless the Pirates went one better up North and claimed a win in a terrific encounter, although only returning with three points was something of a disappointment given that they had been ten points to the good after 12 heats.
Following that up with a home win over King's Lynn, achieved without Brady Kurtz who had been ruled out following a head injury whilst riding in Sweden earlier in the week, the league table suddenly had three sides all on 27 points, Poole, Belle Vue and Ipswich, by the time the Pirates were due to visit Foxhall Heath on July 18th. But would the Pirates injury crisis take it's toll?
Not apparently so. A winning 48-42 performance in Suffolk was matched a week later with a similar score favouring the Pirates when the two sides met in Dorset. Suddenly, Poole were pulling clear at the top of the table. Kurtz was back at the beginning of August, a week after Covatti's resumation of racing. Home wins over Peterborough and Swindon had given Poole a three point lead (2 matches in hand) over second placed Ipswich, and a four point advantage (four matches in hand) over Belle Vue, by the time the Pirates were again on their travels.
However, heavy defeats at Swindon and Wolverhampton had a bearing on the league status, the Robins having come into form, so heading into Poole's end of August visit to Ipswich, there was just one point separating the top four clubs, Poole one of three on 39 points.
A valuable 47-43 win over the Witches saw out the month of August, but chances of having pick of play-off opponents were dealt a body blow when Wolverhampton staging their last gasp assault on those play-offs, collected a 41-49 win at Wimborne Road, four crucial league points that secured their top four finish at the expense of Belle Vue.
Poole completed their league programme with three 50-plus scores and found themselves pitched against Ipswich in those semi-finals, with the Pirates hosting the first leg. Delayed three days due to inclement weather, an incredible meeting unfolded on September 26th. Ipswich built up a 12-point lead within the first eight heats in a meeting that was "one of two halves."
Incredibly Poole fired in five-one after five-one. Indeed, they outscored the Witches 32-10 in the period of heats nine to fifteen, a sequence of five maximum heat scores between heats 11 and 15 to give themselves a 10 point first leg advantage to defend.
Sadly, and inexplicably on a rare Saturday night the Pirates just did not compete at Foxhall Heath. Those ten points were wiped out after 9 heats, with again 5-1's the predominant score of the meeting - all of the first ten heats being a 5-1 variant, six in favour of Ipswich and four for the Pirates.
It proved a very disappointing end to what had been a tough season financially for the club. Riding Thursday nights was having an impact on crowd sizes and with a trading disaster besetting the main sponsors denying the Pirates payment of the full sponsorship deal, it left the club owners in a dilemna. What did the future hold for the Poole Pirates?
The answer was in the thoughts of the fans. A survey was pushed out to determine the supporters' priorities. Overwhelmingly, a return to Wednesday night racing was the response, even if it meant stepping down to the second tier, and that's where the Pirates will be for the start of the Twenties.