Herding the GOATs – for and against

Published on 25th April 2020
Author George Dodds

Lockdown Week whatever – one always destined to be blank for the Bandits according to what has become the theoretical 2020 fixture list – and still no sniff of speedway anywhere in Britain.
Elsewhere the Danes are looking to lift some Covid restrictions and there is even talk of events and gatherings of up to 500 being allowed, the Poles are considering staging speedway behind closed doors, Liverpool fans are living under the real shadow of a football season destined to enter the history books as “not completed” – and Newcastle United supporters would apparently rather be owned by someone with an appalling human rights’ record than someone with an appalling workers’ rights record.
I’ve never been afraid to pinch other people’s good ideas and run with them so here goes … the best Bandits of all time.
One of the joys of this particular selection is that there is no points’ limit, no budget to balance, no egos to massage – nothing but selective memory.
First the selection criteria. It only covers the Bandits in the second tier of British speedway, ruling out Kelv and Jimmy N. My lack of involvement with the sport through the early noughties also means Makovsky, Franc, Burza and Mogridge among others are ineligible.
Mind you they are in good company as some superb Bandits such as Andy Meldrum, Mark Hall, Mike Fullerton, my all-time hero, the legendary Mike Hiftle, David Blackburn and young Doolan also didn’t make the cut.
There is also the likes of the Templeton brothers and their nephew Jimmy McMillan – brilliant riders without question but their best days were not in the Black and Gold.
So here you go – in riding order the Bloody Brilliant Berwick Bandits, powered by Rose Tinted Memory.
1 Richard Knight
2 Wayne Brown
3 Doug Wyer
4 Steve McDermott
5 Mark Courtney
6 Maurie Robinson
7 Graham Jones
Not a bad line-up that and one which wouldn’t drop many points home or away.
Messrs Knight – who spent two of the most turbulent years of Berwick’s history as a Bandit and probably still hasn’t been paid for most of it – and Courtney, who rebooted his career after a disappointing spell at Newcastle – aside I class the other five as Berwick “discoveries”.
The Flyer and Jonesy were effectively plucked from second-half racing – Robinson had enjoyed only sporadic outings for Halifax, the bit of business which saw Stevie Mac and Dave Trownson swap Bandits and Monarchs kick-started both careers and the Mighty Atom spent years becoming an overnight sensation before finally finding the key in the late seventies. A sprinkle of black and gold magic dust and they were among the top ten riders in the country.
That’s our heroes – but what about the rest?
With plenty of time on our hands at the moment how about concentrating the mind on the best seven opposition riders?
Who has been the biggest thorn in our sides? The best of all time?
Again the rules … there are no rules – but there needs to be explanations.
Crump – Jason and Phil – Michael Lee, Peter Collins, Simon Wigg, Mark Loram, Gordon Kennett, Louis – John and Chris – Gary Havelock and Nikki Pedersen are among those who don’t make the cut as, while they went on to become some of the best of all time, they were on their way up when our paths crossed, often only briefly. Again it is restricted to the Bandits’ time in the second tier ruling out the worlds’ best who descended on Berrington in that unbelievable summer back in the 1990s.
Some huge second tier names: Tom Owen, Lou Sansom, Martin Yeates, Kenny McKinna, Paul Bentley, Andy Galvin and Andrew Silver also fail to make my cut.
Here – for discussion via club@berwickspeedway.com if you insist – in riding order is my pick of the best seven opposition riders I’ve seen.
1 John Jackson
2 Tai Woffinden
3 Joe Owen
4 Steve Lawson
5 Les Collins
6 Scott Nicholls
7 Craig Cook
Funny how the little things in life can bring pleasure in these troubling times but naming our former track record holder as number seven gives me an un-natural sense of well-being – but he more than deserves to be in the mix.
What we now need is for some self-isolating IT gonk to find a way of staging a virtual match between the teams around the new-look Shielfield.
Viewing figures on Youtube would go through the roof – although it may take some time to run as I would anticipate some brutal first bends and a number of “all-four back” refereeing decisions – unless Barbara Hawley was in charge. In which case Jye Etheridge would be excluded.
Elsewhere Dick Barrie’s protégé Mike Bennett has launched an incredible new Facebook group – Mike Bennett’s Speedway stuff – featuring some superb photographs and videos spanning the late sixties into the current century.
Obviously, I signed up and for the first time in history found my name and Phil Crump’s mentioned in the same article – I feel blessed.
It’s happened again on this particular section of t’interweb.
These are, indeed, strange time

George Dodds
George Dodds

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