Answering The Questions That Nobody Asked

Published on 9th February 2024
Author Mythman

Hello Bandits, my old friends, it’s time to talk with you again…

Been a while, right? Far too long in fact and for that I apologise as I probably did on my last foray on here and the time before that and the time before that ad infinitum. Anyway, I’ve not been ignoring you all, I’ve just been a busy boy and my speedway season hasn’t really stopped throughout the winter months, not that I’m complaining, I love it obviously.

But life being what it is and having a full-time job outside all my external speedway extra-curricular activities means time is at a premium more often than not and I like to think I’ve never been one for putting content out there without it having a little backbone. So, with all that being said, I’m back again to give you a little insight as to what my thoughts are on all things Bandits related in 2024.

Because let’s be honest, you couldn’t give a monkeys how busy I’ve been or any of that nonsense!

There seems to be an air of positivity around Shielfield Park as we head into the 2024 season and for me that started with the appointment of our new team manager Stewart Dickson, a man who needs little to no introduction and a man whose speedway pedigree well and truly speaks for itself.

If you’ve followed speedway for any length of time, you’ll know that Stewart hasn’t ever put together a team with the intention of making up the numbers, no team manager does of course but more often than not a Stewart Dickson team tends to be a team challenging for honours. Not only that, but he seems to have a knack of bringing the best out of riders who maybe haven’t necessarily been fancied by others.

Now this isn’t me trying to blow smoke up anyone here, I’m just spitting straight facts although rumour has it that Stewart used to own an XR3i, so he’s alright with me!

So what of the team? Well I think it would be safe to say that it’s perhaps a surprising team, but one that even a few of our rivals feel will do well, which hasn’t often been the case. Now, when it comes to the Bandits, I generally always look at things from a glass half full perspective, and yes, there have been times when I’ve thought “this is our year” only for it all to capitulate due to injuries or whatever it may be.

But that air of positivity that I mentioned earlier, generally continued with the announcement of every signing as far as I could largely see anyway. Whenever a team endures a season like we had in 2023, there is often the call for changes to be made, fresh faces, a fresh approach if you will and for me, I think those who wanted exactly that have no reason to complain.

Lewis Kerr comes in at number one, coming off the back of his best season ever and I know there will be those who say he achieved that average riding at number three or whatever, but to be fair he still achieved it. He still had to go out, win races and beat other riders to do that so why shouldn’t that continue in 2024? It isn’t like the lad isn’t capable, and beating anyone on his day is sort of what he does, sure he maybe hasn’t ridden at number one a whole lot in his career that I can recall but surely that shouldn’t matter, at one time every number one hadn’t ridden there before so what difference does it make really? Progress is progress and for me, I see no reason why Lewis Kerr can’t remain number one for the entirety of the season and at least maintain his average.

That isn’t to say he won’t have his work cut out mind you, Rory Schlein ended 2023 as our number one and he’ll be doing all he can to do the same in 2024. Now, I’ll admit that he was one rider who exceeded my expectations last season, and he was solid and dependable virtually all year and had it not been for injury, he may well have been even better. With Rory Schlein as captain, you have the type of rider that every team needs, an experienced head who can remain cool under pressure as well as having a wealth of knowledge that can be passed on to the younger riders in the team.

Speaking of which, where should I start? We have a plethora of young riders in the Bandits class of 2024, but before I do, I should really mention Jye Etheridge. Not that Jye is old of course, but he is one of the more experienced riders in the side. Perhaps there were those among us who thought Jye would maybe be moving to pastures new, but it’s destination Shielfield for Reggie once more. For me, I think Jye will be the one rider with the most eyes on him and perhaps the most pressure on him because he will be looked upon to fill the third heat leader slot.

But with the team building points limit being lowered, riders like Jye are going to be all important. Jye is on an average around six, but we all know he is capable of more and not so long ago he was closer to seven and a half. At that point in time, he was all but unbeatable around Shielfield Park and with home meetings being the bread and butter, it seems a no brainer to me. Of course, it’s all ifs and buts and ultimately, it’s up to Jye to get back to his best and steer clear of injuries but those who doubt anything I’ve said, tell me who better?

Now the remainder of the side just so happens to be made up of young, hungry riders who are more than capable of improvement, something that just so happens to win championships. Again, there are many variables, but should that happen, we will be there or thereabouts. Of those young riders, Drew Kemp was probably the most surprising for me and I’ll admit I’ve always felt that he is a rider who hasn’t ever reached his full potential. Drew is still young enough to hit the heights his very early career promised of course and 2023 was probably his best season to date where he well and truly blossomed from a fringe rider to a full blown second string challenging for a heat leader role. For me it’s no coincidence that he just so happened to be riding under a certain Stewart Dickson at Premiership level and he started to improve as a rider, in 2024 he’s riding under him in two leagues so look out for further improvement. Drew Kemp could well prove to be the key man who unlocks the potential success for the Bandits in 2024.

The other second string in the side was another surprising name in Danyon Hume, a rider who has certainly had his moments around Shielfield Park in the past. From memory he put in a spectacular guest performance for us a couple of seasons ago and he is a rider who always gives 100% in every race, we like those here at Shielfield Park! An all out trier, still young enough to improve, riding on a track he clearly likes every week and riding under a team manager who seems to have a Midas touch with riders of his ilk, what is there not to like?

Our reserve pairing is as surprising as it is intriguing in the sense that I don’t think anyone would have predicted it. Again, with the team building average being lowered it serves to blood young riders at reserve coming in on two-point averages and in Freddy Hodder I believe we have one of the best available. A rider who always impressed and stood out on his visits to Shielfield as a visitor at National League level, the highlight being a faultless 15-point maximum on his last visit. Obviously, the step up to Championship is a different kettle of fish, but Freddy Hodder won’t be put off, and I guarantee that we’ll see him improve on his average and I’d be willing to bet he’ll take some sizeable scalps along the way.

Last, but by no means least he will be joined at reserve by Danish rider Bastian Borke, someone who many thought would be a lock on for Edinburgh, the team he inspired to a win on his very first visit to Shielfield Park. On his very first visit he scored nine points from memory, and he was absolutely tremendous that night, riding the track like someone who’d been here for years and better than many who have. So, with that in mind, how good could he be if he was riding every week on a track he likes, a track he clearly seems comfortable with and as a reserve, capable of heat leader level scores? It seems clear to me that he probably won’t be at reserve too long and whoever happens to drop down will almost always ensure we have a strong reserve to take the pressure off young Freddy so he can blossom at his own pace.

Seems like a winning formula to me!

Am I saying that the Bandits will be all conquering and go through the season unbeaten? Of course not, that’s completely unrealistic. But do I believe that a side has been built that can be competitive at the right end of the table? Yes, I do.

So, there you have it, the long answer to a question that none of you asked me but I answered anyway!

It’s good to be back and I sincerely hope I’m back here soon, back in the programme and back behind the mic again in 2024!

If you wish to agree, or disagree with the Mythman, have an idea for a feature, or you simply wish to chew the fat over all things speedway, you can email me or get in touch via the JB Speedway Media Facebook page. If your compliments, or indeed gripes can be contained to limited characters you can tweet @Mythman666.

Until next time…and there will be a next time.

Right, I’ll hae’tae gan.



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