Flint, gold, Bronze – this is a precious town

Published on 22nd July 2022
Author George Dodds

Despite having, at the last Census,  just over 12,000 residents (12,043 to be exact) my home town consistently punches above its weight – especially in the sporting arena.

Having spent the middle part of my life living and working away from the homestead you got used to batting away the “knowledge” of the ignorant masses about Berwick-upon-Tweed.

No we don’t have a split personality. Born in an English hospital, to English parents in an English town makes you English, although lots of Scots have relocated here over the years. Often squabbled over, occasionally bought and sold but definitively part of England since 1482. Ask Dick Barrie, he commentated on the handover from the centre green at Hallidon Hill

No we’re not at war with Russia – that was a 1960s joke by a slightly tipsy mayor to the editor of Pravda which the public schoolboys and girls at The Guardian swallowed hook, line and sinker and repeated ad nauseum.

Yes the football team does play in the Scottish leagues – but Cardiff, Swansea, Newport and Wrexham play in the English Football League and no-one questions their Welshness.

Ah sport. Shielfield Park, a stadium at which the record attendance (13,365) is still, to this day greater, than the population of the town it plays such a central sporting role of.

That, of course, was the day in 1967 that the Wee Gers beat a similarly named side from some obscure Glasgow district. Which was the last playing destination for Trevor Steven who graced the same football fields as me at Tweedmouth West and the Billendean but who, it would be fair to say, “kicked on” a bit more with Everton and England also on his impressive CV.

Injury forced Ian Ramage to give up playing rugby and become one of its best-ever international referees, son Peter forged a decent career as a professional footballer, Craig Smith and James King earned their rugby credentials at Scremerston before taking them onto the international stage.

And this weekend two of the town’s current crop of sporting excellence are writing the next chapter in the dream story – but only one will be captaining his home town team … as British Champion.

It would be fair to say that Lucy Bronze’s role with the Lionesses at the Women’s Euros is attracting more column inches than Leon Flint’s Redcar masterclass on Thursday night. Which is a shame as Flint Junior Junior’s achievements seem to be flying just a little under the radar.

He also deserves back page banner headlines. It was after all his fifth national crown – the other four coming on various cc’s in the British Youth set-up.

With a current rolling average of 6.96 he is third in the Bandits’ averages and likely to be headed only by Bomber as his recent run of form is reflected in the next set of sheets. That’s a couple of hundredths more than Glasgow and Great Britain’s Tom Brennan, nearly two points up than his Under-19 title predecessor, Drew Kemp.

Much has been made in some quarters of who was missing from the line-up on Thursday but Dan Thompson, 4.97, and Jordan Palin, 4.98, are barely in the same postcode as the boy from TD15 in 2022. The inclusion of Ben Trigger in the list of missing “threats” can only point to a welcome increase in access to modern technology in the West Country.

Quietly confident but fiercely driven, Wor Leon is not one to shout from the rooftops about what he’s going to do here, there or anywhere. Indeed I suspect he, as did I, cringed at the way that the Under-19 was handed to him on a plate post-meeting.

“His to lose; no-one else in the frame; walk in the park, is it on the telly? why is my Speedway Star always late?” the twitterati one-finger typed.

A lot of pressure to put on a 19-year-old struggling with a dodgy back in what, despite the success on track, has been an injury-punctuated season for Prior Park First School’s living legend.

A startline twitch, engine misfire, deflating rear tyre, even a referee allergic to bringing all-four back and it would have all been over with Jake Mulford taking his opportunity to shine.

A similar situation to 2018 and 2019 when he was part of the British Under-21 starting 16 at Shielfield Park. Robert Lambert came as red hot favourite, his to lose. Smoked all opposition, 15 point maximums, finals at a canter.

Or behind closed doors in Covid 2020. Dan Bewley red hot favourite, his to lose. Smoked the opposition 15 point maximum, track record. Second that night Leon Flint. Again didn’t receive the credit his performance deserved due to the strangeness of the “ghost” season and the fact that it was raced on his home track.

Fast forward to 2022. Not at Shielfield. Starring performances also recorded at Oxford, Poole and Edinburgh among others this year. Leon Flint red hot favourite. 15 point maximum, smoked the opposition.

I think they call that learning on the job.

While Lucy has just one job this summer – apart from finding a flat in Barcelona I suppose – young Leon is chasing glory with Bandits, Wolves, whatever animal prowls Valsarna, British Championships at open age and under-21, pairs for Berwick, GB, maybe even a GPII wildcard at Cardiff. Both, the best of Berwick.

Ah Berwick the town not at war with Russia, without a split nationality personality and for 54 years defying the odds by being home to a speedway club which eats big city slickers for breakfast.

This weekend it’s Monarchs from Edinburgh (albeit nominally since 1997) and Lions from Leicester – little ones facing the Bullets on Saturday, big roars at home to the Bandits on Sunday.

With Leon in charge of captaincy matters on Saturday. Home town boy, home town joy.

Just a word of explanation for anyone tempted by the idea that tonight could be the Bandits’ last trip to the current home of the Monarchs. If that is your first visit to Armadale, honestly they haven’t started stadium demolition early …

Double header on Saturday so early start, 30 heats in three hours from 6.30pm, £24 adults, £20 concessions, free parking, free under-16s if booked online.

www.berwickspeedway.com/tickets

George Dodds
George Dodds

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