SCOTT Nicholls says his vast experience will not prevent a few nerves as he leads Oxford Cheetahs into their long-awaited return to action tonight.

A sell-out crowd of 2,000 people will pour through the gates of the revamped Oxford Stadium for the first competitive speedway meeting in the city for 15 years.

Cheetahs host Scunthorpe Scorpions in their opening SGB Championship fixture on what promises to be an emotional night at the Sandy Lane venue.

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Nicholls has been racing for more than a quarter of a century, but the seven-time British champion admits there are still butterflies going into an historic night for the club.

He said: “It’s a mix of excitement and nerves.

“I’ve been around a while but the nerves are a good thing, they keep you sharp.

“It’s a track that has such a strong history with some outstanding riders and I always enjoyed going there as a visitor.

“I’m sure it’ll be a great atmosphere and hopefully we can come away with a win.”

Cheetahs fans have been waiting for tonight’s meeting ever since the club folded in 2007.

There were several false dawns in the years that followed, before businessman Kevin Boothby secured a ten-year lease for the Cowley venue last June to raise hopes of speedway’s return.

Cheetahs announced they would be back for 2022 last November, with Nicholls unveiled as captain a week later.

Banbury Cake: Scott Nicholls Picture: Steve Edmunds

Scott Nicholls Picture: Steve Edmunds

The 43-year-old knows this evening will be special for the fans who flocked to Sandy Lane during the club’s heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, but also cannot wait to introduce a new generation to the sport.

He said: “It’s great to see so many familiar faces that you only associate with Oxford.

“15 years is a big gap and you’re going to see children who have never seen speedway in Oxford.

“I’m excited to attract those new fans.”

Four-time world champion Hans Nielsen, who spent eight years with the club, is set to attend tonight’s meeting in a link between Cheetahs’ past and present.

The class of 2022 will hope to create a legacy of their own as Troy Batchelor, Cameron Heeps, Kyle Newman, Jack Thomas, Josh MacDonald and Dillon Ruml join Nicholls in the line-up.

The Cheetahs riders enjoyed a two-day team bonding exercise before their pre-season test, with activities including clay-pigeon shooting, go-karting and an escape room.

Nicholls said: “The team-building exercise was brilliant.

“Some of us have raced together before but when we had the seven riders together it’s nice to have that chemistry.

“It was a bit of fun and a great way to open people up, so there were a few in-jokes and a bit of banter when we arrived at the track.”