All smiles for Mildenhall Fen Tigers as two-year wait is nearly over

Mildenhall Fen Tigers 2021

Mildenhall Fen Tigers' class of 2021 as they look ahead to the National Development League season. - Credit: Daniel Mason/Archant

For nearly two years, Mildenhall Fen Tigers have been itching to take to the track in a bid for national glory. 

A 46-44 win against Plymouth in the National League was the last time the Fen Tigers were in competitive action, and with the Covid-19 pandemic arriving a few months later, the Mildenhall Stadium would fall silent. 

But, barring any late changes to government guidelines, that should not be the case this year for the class of 2021 that is: Jason Edwards, Jordan Jenkins, Sam Hagon, Sam Bebee, Luke Ruddick, Arran Butcher and Elliot Kelly.

The excitement amongst co-owners, managers and riders was evident at the club’s annual press day today (Friday), knowing a return this summer is all but imminent. 

Just by seeing the expressions on the riders’ faces, you knew they were happy just to be wearing their kevlars once again, posing for the cameras with their personally-designed bikes. 

Mildenhall Fen Tigers class of 2021

The class of 2021 for Mildenhall Fen Tigers. From left: Jason Edwards, Sam Bebee, Luke Ruddick, Jordan Jenkins, Arran Butcher and Sam Hagon. Elliot Kelly is not pictured. - Credit: Daniel Mason/Archant

Six of the seven riders to ride for Mildenhall this year were present as they spoke to the media ahead of their National Development League campaign, due to start at Leicester on June 16. 

Smiles all round on a cloudy day in west Suffolk, a sign of what’s to come whatever the end result. 

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While sharing their thoughts on the season ahead, there was a youthful exuberance that suggested whatever happens, they will be pleased to get back racing again, competing in the sport they love. 

One of those excited to be back is Malcolm Vasey, who was “head-hunted” by the club to become their team manager in 2019. 

Mildenhall Fen Tigers 2021

The class of 2021 for Mildenhall Fen Tigers posing for the camera with their bikes as they look ahead to the new season. - Credit: Daniel Mason/Archant

“I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else; I’m really pleased to be here,” he said. 

“Because they’ve been absent for a year, it seems to have rebuilt the enthusiasm in some of them, perhaps all of them. 

“This place is somewhere with a good reputation for looking after riders and helping them to develop and move on in the sport.” 

Mildenhall are the only third-tier side to compete in the eight-team league, their eldest rider being just 23-years-old. 

Another bonus is the lift from supporters, despite preparing for a first season without fan favourite Danny Ayres

“It will hit us when we start riding and he’s not around as this is where he belonged,” Phil Kirk, co-owner of Mildenhall Fen Tigers, said. 

“We’ve got an exciting team of young lads who are ready to go; it’s a case of getting them racing, the crowds back in and people enjoying the speedway.”