SIMON Stead is already trying to shift his focus away from an up-and-down 2012 and towards next season – which he is desperate to begin in Robins kevlars.
In a year which ended on the ultimate high of Elite League glory, the popular Yorkshireman also experienced his fair share of lows as mechanical issues and a severe lack of meetings saw him struggle for long spells, and almost led to him losing his team place.
But having slipped from a heat leader to a reserve, Stead turned it on in time for the play-offs as he contributed 16 points in the grand final victory over Poole, having already scored a maximum in the semi-final second-leg win over Birmingham.
Robins’ thoughts have already turned to the defence of the league title, and although next week’s AGM will make things clearer regarding team building rules, Stead is in no doubt he wants to stay at the Abbey Stadium and right the wrongs of 2012.
“We will never forget this year because it has been unbelievable, and we deserved everything we got because of what we did all year,” he said.
“But you always have an eye on next year, and what you want to do, and first and foremost we need to know what points limit we are playing to and if you fit in.
“As nice as it would be, the way the sport works means we are not going to have the same seven guys who won it this year, and that is a shame because the team spirit was great.
“But it goes without saying that I would love to be back, and even though it has been a tough year there have been some highlights with my testimonial, finishing fifth in the British Final and some decent performances before the end if the play-offs.
“Hopefully I have done enough to justify a return, and maybe on my new average I may look attractive, but I am fully confident I can increase it having worked through all the problems I have had.
“If one club is going to benefit from that I would love it to be Swindon, because they stood by me through a difficult year and I am very happy at a club which has been a big part of my life for four years now.
“I have no intention of going anywhere else, but the final word is not mine.
“Rosco (team manager Alun Rossiter) and Patch (co-promoter Gary Patchett) will have lists of about 10 different teams written down at the moment, and if I feature in some of them then that is a bonus, and hopefully I will be back on track again as a Robin next year.”
Stead was perilously close to being replaced by Pole Robert Miskowiak in August in an issue which split the Robins’ fans and, while the Yorkshireman accepts he deserved his critics, he rejects accusations that he has lost his hunger for the sport he loves and has given his life to.
“I don’t think speedway is something you can do half-hearted, because you go out there and you put your life on the line every time you go out to race,” he said.
“There is no point doing it and I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t have that hunger, but people always have a lot to say when you are struggling and it is easy to kick people when they are down.
“I am lucky to have people who believe in me and I have the backing of the majority of the fans who supported me and helped me turn things around, because I wanted to do that for them and to thank them.
“If people say I am not committed they are welcome to because they pay to watch, but I will continue to try and let my riding on track do the talking like I did in the play-offs.”
Stead’s major problem in 2012 was the lack of time he spent on a bike due to him only riding in the Elite League while his teammates competed in up to five different countries each week. The 30-year-old is keen to double up in the Premier League next season to rectify the problem, but will not know whether that is a genuine possibility until after the sport’s AGM which begins next Friday.
“You just have to look at the guys who were riding at a better level to what I have managed to achieve this year, and they are all on the bike a lot more and racing more,” he said.
“Riding in the Premier League and doubling up into the Elite League would offer me that opportunity too, and it would also help me score more points which is what it is all about.
“More track time and a better understanding of things will be perfect for me, and I hope I can do it.
“Everyone is in the same boat and it is hard for the clubs and riders because the costs involved are spiralling.
“I am lucky enough to have sponsors and friends in Swindon who help me massively on that side of things, but if I can get more time on the track and score more points I will earn more money, and although it is a not always all about money, it is how we earn a living.”