George Dodds's picture

Nothing says Christmas like a picture of Razor freezing his extremities off, standing next to a tractor as the Shielfield track begins its New Year makeover.
It’s a sure sign that we are over the close season hump and thundering along the downslope towards a season which, in 2019 will see the mighty Bandits do battle with, among others, a Dynasty, a Convocation, a couple of Ambushes, a Sleuth, a Bed and a Pride as speedway roars into its 52nd season in our fair town.
When God chose Berwick as the centre of the universe She chose well.
Congratulations to those with whom I obviously share a grammatical – possibly even Grammar School – led education for recognising the collective nouns for Monarchs, Eagles, Tigers, Bears, Scorpions and Lions.
On one level I have to admit feeling bereft that if called to serve again in The Michelin-starred Ducket Tea Bar, Grill and Bistro I am unlikely to come face-to-face with a group of Sussex-based speedway super fans marching under the banner of The Convocation Army. More likely they will stand behind a hastily Sharpied bed sheet proclaiming they are indeed The Eagles oop Norf 2019.
As long as it’s spelled correctly and doesn’t include any randomly placed apostrophes, an unparalleled, heinous crime which in any truly civilised society would be punishable by death without trial – although that may just be me – they can be forgiven. We might even be able to shift some of the left over John Smith's by branding it as a "Northern Heritage Bitter".
But a trawl though the fount of all knowledge – how did we survive before Google and Wikipedia? – shows that there is no universally accepted collective noun for a group of Bandits. Incidentally there is a similar grammatical gap for a group of Comets, based upon the perfectly sensible conclusion that Comets are rarely seen in groups big enough to bother with.
During the seventies and eighties I spent many a winter trawling the underbelly that was then English football’s second division in search of something as rare as Painite, Astatine or a music disc on Minecraft – a competent away performance by Newcastle United.
In those days we were the not so Mighty Magpies as the footballing superpowers of Grimsby Town, Rotherham United, Notts County and even Carlisle proved too hot to handle for a succession of black and white disasters.
Perhaps it was destiny as – and I’m sure my loyal reader is ahead of the game here – a group of Magpies is known collectively as a Murder, and there were certainly a huge number of criminal signings during that spell.
At one point it seemed like the netherworld of Division three beckoned but fortunately Sunderland and Middlesbrough beat us to it and felt enough at home that they choose to return every so often to renew old acquaintances.
While our nearest and cheapest dipped closer to Hades, Newcastle went in the opposite direction due to those plucky chaps from Sky who decided that Magpies sucked and a collection of barcoded superfans whose knowledge of the beautiful game and sense of sporting fair play is second to none should henceforth be known as The Toon Army.
Not for the first – or last – time an organisation owned by Rupert Murdoch decided that if something didn’t actually exist they could just go ahead and invent it.
Which brings me rather neatly to the Berwick Speedway Supporters' Club which was launched this week.
If it hasn’t been shared to you by a friend yet then I seriously suggest that you get new friends. After checking out the BSSC’s Facebook page of course.
Rather like the medium which hosts the new club’s presence it often turns out that the simplest ideas are the best.
The BSSC’s stated aims are to raise funds solely to help secure the future of Berwick speedway, spread the word about the Bandits throughout north Northumberland and the Borders, have fun and cheer on the Bandits – noble sentiments indeed.
Now when I was young the nearest you got to a hashtag was secondary smoking a hippie at a party but the BSSC invite those that know how to do these things to contact #weareoneclub #showyoursupport or #keepthebanditsontrack
Rather like Bedrocks the BSSC is not the only party in town but the people behind it seem to believe that after two uncomfortably near misses with closure in three years it is more important than ever to make sure that Summer Saturdays mean Shielfield at Seven.
The reasons that the existing supporter’s organisation continues to concentrate on coaches to away meetings and Grand Prix, money for rider’s equipment, sponsoring races and giving the odd donation to the promotion is of concern only to those that choose to be its members and set its agenda.
Most of those who part with their cash at the turnstiles on a Saturday night want entertainment on the track, to enjoy the crack with fellow Bandits and visiting fans safe in the knowledge that they will be able to do it next season and many more to come. They now have a supporters' club which shares those aims.
Now all they need is a collective noun to storm the strongholds of the SCB Championship behind.
Music has its Brosettes and Beliebers, ice hockey’s Braehead its Clan, Arsenal are The Gooners, English cricket The Barmy Army.
What fits the bill for Berwick speedway fans?
The BSSC Facebook page includes the option to “send a message”.
Why not use it?