Cradley Heathens are starting from the summit

The Cradley Heathens return ‘home’ tonight – and they’re starting from the top.

Cradley, one of speedway’s most illustrious names from the past, are revived at their Monmore Green base in Wolverhampton this evening when they host Coventry (7.30pm).

This year marks Cradley’s return to full-time league racing for the first time since 1995 after being known as Cradley and Stoke in 1996 and Dudley Heathens from 2010-14.

And after last year’s National League grand slam, the Heathens look to carry on the good work in the first leg of the Travel Plus Trophy against Coventry Storm with debuts for Steve Worrall, Matt Williamson and Danny Phillips.

Club partner Gary Patchett said: “We start 2014 with our rightful name and not before time. We are the Cradley Heathens.

“Has any club with a new name ever started a speedway season as defending champions?

“The best part of all of this as far as I’m concerned? Never having to read another press release which refers to us as the ‘former Cradley club’. We are the ‘former’ club no more and we are here to stay.

“I’m sure there will be a big crowd to see this historic night against Coventry.

“Hopefully Will Pottinger (team manager) and the boys can build up a good home win to take to Brandon for the return.”

What should have been the first leg at Coventry was abandoned after six races following rain with the scores level.

But Pottinger’s men will keep a wary eye on the talented Stefan Nielsen, an ace for Mildenhall in the ill-starred 2012 National League play-off final which saw Dudley beaten by a point, as well as Heathens old-boys Darryl Ritchings, Dan Greenwood and James Sarjeant.

Meeting sponsors Travel Plus Tours specialise in speedway tours and are running to all Grand Prix rounds this season as well as the Speedway World Cup.

Cradley Heath: Ashley Morris, Nathan Greaves, Tom Perry, Max Clegg, Steve Worrall, Matt Williamson, Danny Phillips.

Coventry: Stefan Nielsen, Luke Crang, Darryl Ritchings, Dan Greenwood, James Sarjeant, Ryan Terry-Daley, Martin Knuckey.