MATT Ford is keen to include James Shanes in his Pirates septet for next season after watching the Puddletown racer bounce back from the brink to become his rider of the year.

Top-flight rookie Shanes joined Poole on a 2.00 average last winter in a move Ford freely admitted had been made to give him more points to play with elsewhere.

Although the 20-year-old found it tough going in the SGB Premiership, a number of solid scores towards the end of the campaign – including five points in the home leg of the play-off semi-final against Swindon – reflected a discernible improvement.

And Ford admitted Shanes had been forced to dig deep after the youngster questioned earlier in the season whether he could continue.

Ford told the Daily Echo: "I know there were points in James's year where he found it very hard and was on the verge of looking to step down.

"I think he was questioning if it was all worth it. It's hard when you are going out and running lasts. But he persevered, he learned, he listened to advice from management and to advice from riders in terms of his set-up.

"As soon as he did that and changed things, he became a much better rider from June onwards.

"He finished the campaign on a 2.95 average when he started on 2.00. I would have been more than happy with a 2.00 average from him but to put nearly a point on is something else.

"If I were giving a rider-of-the-year award to anybody, it would definitely be to James Shanes.

"I would imagine, barring any unforeseen circumstances, that I would definitely include him again next year. I think he's done a very good job.

"At this point in time, we can't say for sure because we don't know the rules but he is certainly someone who has had the right attitude, has endeared himself to the fans and if he progresses in the same manner year in, year out, he will be a very competent rider.

"He has been a breath of fresh air in a very average campaign."

Ford wants to see Shanes push his career to the next level in 2018 and says it is important the Dorchester-born ace remains grounded.

The Wimborne Road chief, who also plans to sign Polish youngster Kacper Woryna for next year's team, added: "James's next goal has to be to put another point on his average.

"Sadly these things don't just happen, you have to invest but I'm sure there are people in the area who can help James should he come back to the Pirates.

"At this point in time I want him to keep his feet on the ground because he is a distance from being a good rider and that's not meant to be a criticism, it's just that he's young and learning.

"I look forward to the days when I can say he's a good rider and then a great rider."