George Dodds's picture

British speedway is desperate for a new hero – a young gun who can take the speedway world by the scruff of the neck and deliver the goods in the shape of GP and SWC gold medals.
There are encouraging signs that the current crop of up and coming riders could develop into a golden generation unseen since the early 80s.
Our own Gary Havelock, Mark Loram, Kelvin Tatum, Chris Louis and more intermittently Chris Harris, Martin Dugard, Joe Screen and Andy Smith were able to hold their own at the top level but we have lacked strength in depth for a couple of decades – not least because of the short-sighted approach of filling the British League with foreign riders at the expense of the local lads.
Gone are the days when the likes of Collins (times four), Lee, Jessup, Kennett, Simmons, Carter, Morton, Davis, Betts and John Louis led their teams but with Poland and Sweden waving the big pay cheques to hoover up the majority of the GP riders, promoters were forced to look on their own doorstep again.
There is much that is flawed with the Fast Track Draft System but it cannot be coincidence that the arrival of the current crop of talent has coincided with forcing all teams to field a British number seven.
Again while there is much wrong with riders doubling, even trebling, up in the wider context of sport, a system which has allowed the likes of Craig Cook, the Worralls and Robert Lambert to test themselves at Britain’s highest level with the financial safety net of a Championship pay packet to fall back onto cannot be all bad.
While the recent debacles involving the Championship Fours and the trials and tribulations of Chris Holder and Troy Batchelor at Kings Lynn show that the sport still has too many guns with the safety catch off pointed in the direction of feet, where it has got it right is the shift of focus towards encouraging British youth.
Neil Vatcher has had a tough first season at the helm of the SCB but he planted seeds at youth level over the previous few years which are beginning to bear fruit.
The cream of that crop will be on show at Shielfield on Saturday night in what is, without doubt, one of the most competitive and varied fields assembled in the 40-odd year history of the Stars of Tomorrow.
Any field with Dan Bewley, Nathan Greaves, Max Clegg and Ellis Perks in it is a mouth-watering prospect.
Kyle Bickley, Joe Jacobs, Connor Coles and Kelsey Dugard – the latest in an unrivalled production line of riders from both family and the Eastbourne club – along with Berwick’s own Luke Ruddick all have their eyes on the prize while Alfie Bowtell will be hoping to use the knowledge gained guesting for the Bandits to good use.
Sprinkle in the all-action Tobias Thomsen, Jacob Bukhave and Emil Engstrom from Denmark, Bandits’ Argentinean asset Coty Garcia and the French dark horses of Jean Bernard and Xavier Muratet and you have a field which would not be out of place in an official FIM event.
Over almost 50 seasons now whoever has been promoting speedway at Berwick has recognised the importance of the Starza.
Fittingly, bearing in mind what else has been going on behind the scenes, the current custodians of the club’s history have added a unique and innovative twist.
They’ve also dropped admission to a very reasonable £12 while keeping it free for those who are under-16.
As always tapes rise at 7pm for a night when the future of British and European speedway will be on show in the Borders.
It’s one not to miss.