When you get everything coming together in the way it did on Saturday night, I love speedway!
It was so good in so many ways.
The weather, for a start. For once, the sun shone on a special Shielfield promotion.
The attendance, which fully justified the (considerable) additional expense of staging a double-header.
The atmosphere, right from the get-go, with banter bouncing in three directions. I love speedway!
With Mr McGregor constantly putting his gin bottle down on top of the two-minute button in jig-time after each race, it became clear we were running ahead of the clock and should make a nonsense of the doubters who said it couldn’t be done…..
In the first match, the poor Monarchs must hardly have known what was hitting them, with their infamous reject storming to his five-ride maximum, our Banditos recording only two last places, our chubby wee guest proving (not least in Heat 6) that missing the start is no handicap to talent and our reserves outscoring the Edinburgh duo by 17-1.
It’s called strength-in-depth, Mr Harkess. I love speedway!
The dancing mascots were great fun, too, competing with each other to show off their moves – in short, as we moved into the second match I could feel the happy vibe all around the ground. People were being entertained and having fun!
But the Tigers were stiffer opposition, and knew full well that just one league point would suffice their quest to guarantee a play-off place. They just needed to score 42 points……..
With a couple of crashes – great lay-down by THJ, by the way – their league point was always on the cards as we moved ever-closer to a climax and nerves began to really tingle. Ooooh, I love speedway!
That Berwick won the match, by the way, was directly due to the old mantra..... Getting your result from Heats 2, 8 and 14.
Had these three races ended 3-3, the final score would have been 43-46! It’s called strength in depth, Roary.
So down to the wire we went. Nerves going jingle-jangle. A glance at the clock – as the four riders approached the tapes at the first time of asking for the last heat, my watch told me it was 9.29pm. Thirty races, including nine re-runs (meaning a total of thirty-nine starts) inside the curfew. We’d done it! Or so I thought……
More drama. Another re-run – at exactly nine-thirty. We’d still done it! Or so I thought……..
If you were there, you saw everything unfold as the terraces, grandstand and ducket vibrated with noise. If you weren’t there (but could have been) well hell mend you, you were missing a classic climax.
Did I tell you that I love speedway?
OK, no need to re-hash the next half-minute. Jye gated, with Dany also ahead of Cookie for a couple of vital seconds. But the Monster was flying, passing the Gapp and setting off to chase down Reggie…..
Did I mention there was a bit of noise in the public areas at this point?
One lap, two laps – but at the start of lap three, having come off the fourth bend at track-record speed, Craig came screaming down the home straight inside Jye, aiming to head him into the turnstile bend – but Jye wasn’t giving up and was going in just as fast.
It was over in a second. As I saw it – standing on the grass, nearer to the pit bend – I thought Cookie got through, but had given Jye just a wee nudge to ease open the gap.
Just a brush-past nudge, but enough to knock our Bandit off his line and launch him on a collision course with the shale, and a nano-second later, the foam-fence.
It never crossed my mind it was ‘dirty’ in any way. This was full-on speedway, racing on -- maybe just over -- the absolute edge. Never in any way 'dirty'.
The noise was intense. The red lights were on instantly. My first thought was for Jye’s well-being, but as I sprinted – OK, lumbered – up the pitch my eye was still on the exclusion lights.
Experience was telling me that instant red lights often mean an exclusion for the rider who hasn’t fallen, but for the few seconds until the white light did flicker on, I had no real opinion or expectation of which light it was going to be.
Well, if I thought it was noisy before, that was nothing! Man, I love speedway!
Then came the pantomime villainy. For once, the Cookie Monster wasn’t front and centre. You might say that, having lit the blue touch paper, he retired immediately. (As a side-bar, I should say he was -- as Scott Courtney put it -- a class act in the pits, apologising to Jye and behaving very properly).
Right decision? Well, they’re still arguing nearly forty years later about Carter and Penhall and in these parts about Close and Wilcock – I’m guessing this one could join them. We all have our opinions, but the ref’s is the one that mattered.
Meanwhile, back on the track…..
Was Jye hurt? It seemed not, as he was on his feet and absolutely rampaging over the grass, intent on “having a wee word” with Mister C and having to be grabbed very firmly by his manager, promoter and a couple of fellow-Bandits.
The next bit was even better. Well aware that Jye was still as likely as to explode as an Arab rucksack, referee Jim McGregor took the unusual but sensible step of coming down from his box and onto the grass to join with the group surrounding – OK, still hanging onto – Jye, assuring him that Cookie was excluded and imploring him to cool it, and avoid any fines or worse. Good refereeing.
Now this seemed to work, and the risk of any ongoing explosion was in the process of being downgraded from critical to moderate when Tigers’ manager Cami Brown – presumably having had his phone calls to the empty box going unanswered – decided it would be a good idea to stomp onto the infield and start arguing the decision with Mr McGregor, fingers pointing and voices raised to high level, in full view of the crowd! If you thought there had been a lot of noise coming out of the grandstand up until this point, you hadn’t heard anything yet!
Ooooooh, how I love speedway!
At this point, despite privately thinking I had behaved very well and said very little, I found myself confronted by a very passionate and somewhat overwrought Roary the Tiger, who accused me in very assertive terms of “stirring the shit” (moi?) and to complete the pantomime comedy I found myself -- as the riders arrived at the tapes for the final re-run -- having to argue my case with an irate, furry, six-foot, paw-pointing stripey animal. All part of the show, folks!
Was it a good night? Nope, it was a GREAT night, even the many Tigs (and indeed Monarchs) I spoke with afterwards made clear how much they had enjoyed our show.
By ten o’clock, I was slumped in the Black and Gold, very tired but very happy, sipping a cool drink bought for me by a Glasgow fan and reflecting how my step-counter (and my sore knee) were telling me I had walked 17,563 steps since arriving at the stadium five hours earlier.
Let me say it again – I love speedway. More than coffee, more than wine and more than sex.
OK, two out of three ain’t bad……….
Want to disagree with Dick (as so many do?). He is always happy to hear from interesting people at firstname.lastname@example.org