MATT Ford put the finishing touches to his Pirates septet before warning James Shanes he would have his work cut out to impress in a "stronger" SGB Premiership.

Puddletown-based Shanes completes a mouthwatering line-up for the forthcoming campaign and will take his place at reserve alongside Mateusz Szczepaniak.

The 20-year-old made his top-flight debut last year and put nearly a point on his 2.00 starting average, endearing himself to fans with his battling style and extravagant celebrations.

Poole boss Ford believes Shanes – who has also signed for Sheffield – faces plenty of hard graft in the forthcoming campaign. But he backed the youngster to play a key role in Pirates' bid to reach the play-offs.

Ford told the Daily Echo: "It's going to be a tough year for him and I think he knows that. I'm very pleased he's riding in the Championship because I think extra track time will help him immensely.

"It is unquestionably a stronger league. In particular at reserve, the league is stronger and that does make it harder.

"Last year was a baptism of fire and it will be a real test for James to step up, and if he does that in any shape or form, that would be wonderful.

"I wish him well and I'm sure he will play a vital role. If he ends up with a three-point average, he will have more than done his job.

"He has kept his team place on merit and now the tough work starts and, hopefully, he can play a part in helping the club move forward."

Shanes's team place was up in the air while Pirates attempted to seal a deal for Swedish star Linus Sundstrom, a process which took months due to complexities surrounding Polish speedway's three-league rule, which has since been lifted.

Ford added: "James has had to wait patiently for the rest of the team to be built but there was never any question that I wanted him to join the team.

"He is a pleasure to deal with and my thanks go to him for being patient.

"I've had countless people asking me if James would be back and it caps the team nicely to include someone who is very popular with the fans.

"I never thought for one second that there would be a problem in securing a contract with him but had there been any last-minute hitches, one or two names would have fitted the bill.

"In particular, Josh Pickering is a rider who has moved forward in the past 12 months, as his performance in the Australian Championship showed.

"But it makes absolute sense that James joins us and I'm pleased to give the supporters someone they would like to see."

Pirates 2018: Brady Kurtz 8.08, Josh Grajczonek 7.34, Linus Sundstrom 7.22, Chris Holder 7.16, Kacper Woryna 4.65, Mateusz Szczepaniak 4.54, James Shanes 2.88.