Now is the time to say goodbye insists Rathbone

Panthers owner Ged Rathbone (left) and team manager Carl Johnson. Both are stepping down.
Panthers owner Ged Rathbone (left) and team manager Carl Johnson. Both are stepping down.
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Outgoing Panthers owner Ged Rathbone insists he can’t let his heart rule his head.

The Middlesbrough-based businessman recently placed the city club up for sale and is currently considering a couple of serious offers.

Rathbone admits the temptation to stay on at the East of England Arena is high following Panthers’ miserable end to a season which promised to deliver much success, but he remains adamant that stepping away is the correct course of action.

An injury-riddled Panthers suffered exits at the semi-finals stage of the SGB Championship play-offs, KO Cup and Shield with their season finally coming to a cruel end last week. They could only watch on as Workington lifted all three pieces of silverware.

“What could potentially have been the best season in the club’s history has turned into a disaster,” said Rathbone.

“We give huge congratulations to Workington for doing the treble, but it was only a few weeks ago that we hoped we might be able to achieve a feat like that.

“Given we were hit so hard by injuries and were down to two of our own riders, we simply couldn’t compete in the end. We’re thankful to all the guests who helped us out, but it is nothing like having your own one-to-seven with the fantastic team spirit we created.

“We built a team to take us right through the season but injuries made that impossible and the fact that only one of our riders was actually hurt while riding for us makes it even more galling.”

Original team member Nike Lunna and number one Scott Nicholls both suffered broken ankles while guesting for other SGB Championship clubs. Reserve star Tom Bacon and Danish racer Michael Palm Toft saw their campaigns ended by spills riding for their other British sides.

Emil Grondal missed a chunk of the season when badly hurt in his native Denmark and Bradley Wilson-Dean bowed out early to undergo pre-planned collar-bone surgery. Only Ulrich Ostergaard, who missed two months with broken ribs, actually crashed while racing for Panthers.

“It is immensely frustrating after working so hard to put the team together, keep the club on a strong footing financially and get ourselves to the top of the table,” continued Rathbone.

“I’m sure the disappointing crowds for the home meetings in the play-offs, the KO Cup and the Shield were also down to the fact we didn’t have our own team.

“With a full Peterborough side I feel sure the attendances and the results would have been very different.

“We can still be proud of what we’ve achieved this season and throughout our promotion, but the last four years have massively taken their toll.

“I’ve not had a week off in that time, let alone a holiday, and I’m very tired. My heart would love to carry on, but my head is telling me that would not be the right thing to do.

“I don’t think I could continue to increase the high standards we’ve set, but I do emphasise again that if the right deal can’t be done to sell the club, then I will stay as Peterborough will be definitely be on track next year.”

Rathbone and co-promoter Neil Watson will represent Panthers at the sport’s annual meeting over the weekend of November 12-14.