SHOCKED Pirates chief Matt Ford has led the tributes to former Wimborne Road star Matej Ferjan.

Ferjan was reportedly found dead in Gorzow, Poland early yesterday morning. He was 34.

A former Grand Prix rider and multiple national champion in both Slovenia and Hungary, Ferjan first joined Pirates in 1999 before returning for a second spell between 2004 and 2005, during which he helped the club to a league and cup double in 2004.

Ferjan, who had recently signed for Newcastle in the Premier League, made 101 Poole appearances, scoring 616 points plus 83 bonus points from 428 rides.

Ford labelled the news “incredibly sad”. He said: “I was actually keeping an eye on Matej’s results this year to see if there was a chance that we might have been able to use him at some point.

“Our hearts go out to everyone connected with Matej, his immediate family and his friends. It is a dreadful shock for Newcastle as well who he was on loan to this year.

“It is just a dreadful shame.”

Ford added: “He was one of my first signings, initially on loan from Belle Vue in 1999.

“His first meeting for the club was at Exeter and then we brought him back here and I can remember him popping out of the start to win his first race at Wimborne Road.

“Matej did very well for us and was a good rider. Everybody is in total shock at the moment.”

Pirates, meanwhile, will be hoping to collect more silverware when they bid to defend a nine-point lead in the second leg of the Elite Shield at Wolverhampton tonight.

Poole, who have already won at Monmore Green in the league this term, are aiming to add to the Elite League Pairs crown won by Chris Holder and Darcy Ward.

Kyle Newman replaces injured Christian Hefenbrock at reserve.

Wolves (probable): Freddie Lindgren, Ty Proctor, Ludwig Lindgren, Tai Woffinden, Peter Karlsson, Tyson Burmeister, Ricky Wells.

Pirates: Chris Holder, Dennis Andersson, Davey Watt, Jason Doyle, Darcy Ward, Renat Gafurov, Kyle Newman.