Barker left ‘disappointed and ‘gutted’ after Louis tells him he is not part of Witches plans for 2017

A dejected Ben Barker waves to the crowd following the Ipswich v Somerset (Premier League Play-off s

A dejected Ben Barker waves to the crowd following the Ipswich v Somerset (Premier League Play-off semi final second leg) meeting at Foxhall Stadium, Ipswich, UK on 13 October 2016. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ben Barker has admitted to being “disappointed and gutted” after being told he doesn’t have a Witches team place at Foxhall Heath in 2017.

The 28-year-old made an instant impression when joining an ailing Witches side midway through 2016 – his riding and infectious enthusiasm helping turn the Suffolk side’s season around.

His all-action style and never-say-die attitude has always made him a fans’ favourite wherever he has ridden – Foxhall Heath being no exception.

But Witches fans won’t be seeing him riding in Ipswich colours next year.

“I had a feeling it would be me to go,” Barker said.

“I just had that feeling and I was proved right. I’m disappointed and gutted because I really enjoyed my time at Ipswich.

“I think I did a good job and I thought I did enough to get a team spot next year.”

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Barker continued: “Everyone knows I love Ipswich. The track, the fans, it suits me and I’d go back anytime.”

Witches director of speedway Chris Louis, who has a juggling act on his hands to get his starting septet below the 40-point limit for the start of next season, sympathised with Barker.

“I feel 100% sorry for Ben, of course I do,” Louis said.

“He is the last of a dying breed of true team riders, who are prepared to put his own points on the line to help his team-mates during a race.

“But it’s a points game, putting a team together and I had a decision to make.”

Louis added: “We ended the season strong and we have about six points to get rid of to get below the 40-point limit.

“I think only Somerset had a higher finishing team average – and they won the league title.”

So, how close is Louis to announcing his 1-7 for next season?

“Hopefully the whole team can be announced in about two or three weeks,” he said.

Already without Barker, and Morten Risager, who announced he is taking a season out of speedway in 2017, the Witches will therefore have at least two new faces from the team that ended 2016, in their starting line-up next season.

The Championship, as last season’s old Premier League will now be called, was given a boost after it was confirmed Workington will come to the tapes in 2017, meaning 10 clubs will contest the league title, racing each other home and away twice.

The Witches have been drawn against Berwick Bandits in the KO Cup, first round.

Meanwhile, Ipswich-based Scott Nicholls, has joined Rye House in the Premiership for 2017.

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