What a couple of weeks of treats!
While – obviously — missing my regular Saturday nights at Shielfield since season’s end, I’ve been able to relax, kick back and enjoy just watching speedway with my mates as an uninvolved neutral, both on TV and at live meetings – and these last ten days or so, well, wow!
Last week on TV we had that zinger of a play-off at Belle Vue and the return at Peterborough. Great racing and massive attendances at both tracks — plus a short trip to Armadale in between the televisual treats to watch Edinburgh clinically despatching Redcar from the play-offs before an unexpectedly-large Tuesday-night crowd — showing again the value of being involved in the end-of-term squeaky bits.
On Friday I was back at Armadale for their KO Cup semi-final with Glasgow. This match was as tight as a promoter’s purse, and went into the thirtieth heat all square. Now that was drama! The Monarchs had reeled in a 16-point reverse from the first leg and the place was rocking as their twosome brought home the bacon with a last-heat 5-1.
Four meetings in five days at that point – and wait, there was more……..
Saturday morning had me up at dawn’s crack to join Razor and big John A on the road to Manchester for the SON.
This was in itself a treat – my first trip south of Berwick since the BenFund meeting at Scunthorpe in March, 2019…….
As I am usually good for a dozen away matches with the Banditos over a season, you can understand how cruelly deprived I’ve been feeling, and how much I reckon Covid has to answer for……..…..
Anyway, it was a great weekend – the two meetings were (to quote our former skipper) indeed “out of the top drawer” with the stunning, totally-out-of-the-blue climax making a mighty memorable memory…….
Sunday morning held a treat, too. We took ourselves over to Salford to visit Ricky Ashworth in his personal “den” — which has been fitted out to ease his difficulties with the invaluable help of the SRBF – and found the Rickster in good form, very happy to see us and, as I saw it, a bit better at talking and walking than when I last saw him a couple of years ago.
Ricky and his dad Dave send their very best wishes to all at Berwick, and promise us a visit at some point next season.
After the afternoon dramas, as Team GB displayed their gold medals I wondered how this would be sitting with the stubborn traditionalists, those who demand that “the team that tops the table are the champions” and disregard the very real need for financially-viable play-offs, which are so necessary to attract public interest and generate valuable finance for the sport.
I mean, do these folk also believe Poland are the World Champions and Denmark should be given the silver medals?
Or were they as excited as I was during the last two races at Belle Vue, and proud that Team GB are back on top of the world at last?
Back home – and still buzzing, my treats continued into this week. The long-awaited Test Match with Poland had to wait 24 hours before it could proceed at Ashfield, but when it did, it sizzled.
On a bitterly-cold evening, a huge crowd packed into Saracen Park (despite efforts to re-name places – Brough Park’s another one — I tend to stick to the originals) and with a healthy and vocal contingent of Polish people ramping up the atmosphere, the tension crackled throughout.
There were thrills and indeed spills galore – Tobiasz Miskowiak dramatically skittling partner Magic Janowski and Tom Brennan in Heat 4 was only the beginning – but with Bomber ‘The Bandit’ Harris proving a more-than-adequate replacement for Tai, the Brits hung onto the lead thoughout to inflict a second defeat upon the mighty Poles within this magical week!!
Our new man wasn’t everybody’s choice to wear #1 for the nation when Tai crashed out of the reckoning, but his form proved the doubters very, very wrong. Zmarzlik, Kubera, Musielak – the bigger the all-star name, the harder they fell to his sword, and only Magic Janowski got across the line ahead of our new pal, and even then Chris had made up twenty yards after a shocking gate, and would quite possibly have got Magic over a fifth lap……..
As I watched him roll back the years against the very best in the world on Wednesday night, I pondered on how long so many readers of this weblog have moaned and groaned that our Banditos should sign “an out-and-out #1” to bolster our sometimes-lacking returns from Heats 13 and 15.
Well folks, here you go – the biggest close-season signing for Berwick since, er, Charlie Gjedde.
Go for it, Bomber! You were most certainly my man of the match against the Poles this week, bar none……..
The Test ended with a big crash three heats from the scheduled closer, all four riders in Heat 13 hitting the deck at high speed on the back straight and sadly, the mopping-up of this carnage took long enough to give the Gods of Rain their opportunity to scupper the show.
Had we escaped that crash, the remaining heats would have been achieved before the heavy downpour kicked in – and, while we cannot know if the Poles might have staged a recovery, the contest was declared after twelve of the scheduled 15 races. 36-35 to Team GB, and a pulsating night of racing that made me (in part thanks to five layers over the thermal vest) forget the October chills, and add another tick to my busy speedway week.
Then last night, while I chose not to go back to Glasgow again for their play-off with Edinburgh (a little matter of watching Rangers beat Brondby in the Europa League) I did purchase their stream to watch later and conclude a very satisfying eight-meetings-in-eleven days spell to wrap up my speedway year.
As I started out by saying, as there was no Bandit or Bullet involvement, the events I watched on screen and attended in person allowed me to be an uninvolved neutral (OK, I was rooting for the Brits) and get back to what is really the best pastime on earth – standing or sitting with good pals, bantering away and watching motorbikes going sideways……..
Which won’t be happening again for five and more months, but when it does…….
Disagree with Dick – as so many do? He is always be happy to hear from interesting people at firstname.lastname@example.org