Poole Pirates boss Matt Ford admitted he still rued the title that got away, after Neil Middleditch convinced him not to sign Nicki Pedersen.
Ford had been close to sealing a deal for the Danish international ahead of the 2002 season but brought back Gary Havelock instead following discussions with team manager Middleditch.
Pirates ended up reaching the play-off quarter-finals, where they were beaten by Coventry. Pedersen, meanwhile, joined King’s Lynn and won the first of his three world titles the following year.
Ford told the Daily Echo: “In the early days I used to put the team through Neil more than I have done in the past 15 years or so.
“I remember Neil convincing me to keep Gary Havelock when I was on the verge of signing Nicki Pedersen. And that was the year Nicki broke through and became world class.
“To this day, I still feel that while Gary was an admirable captain and did a great job, I believe we would have won if I had done what my head told me to do at the start of the year.
Pedersen’s speedway career in the United Kingdom began with him racing for Newcastle before Elite League side Wolverhampton bought him for the 1999 season. He was at Wolverhampton for two years before he was loaned out to King’s Lynn, Oxford and Eastbourne. Pedersen spent four years at Eastbourne but left at the end of the 2007 season due to a change in ownership of the club and a reduction of the points limit for team building purposes by the . A much sought after rider, Nicki still remains a Wolverhampton asset, although he has ruled out a return to the Elite League for the time being.