Here it is, Merry Xmas blog

Published on 27th December 2020
Author George Dodds

Proof, if any was needed, that 2020 has been as a year like no other, came when an accidental mid-morning retune of the cursed kitchen DAB radio landed randomly on Radio 2. Apparently that still exists.

Wittering away was a Scotsman of a certain age. Not, as it turns Mr Barrie but the somewhat more obscure Scots’ radio personality called Ken Bruce.

He’s been around a while has Ken, I remember him being the not-too successful replacement for Terry Wogan in the 1980s. Ken still exists.

A none-too original section of the show features old Ken’s record of the week, what us vinylers would call an album, with a different track played each day.

This particular week’s selection was Power Up by AC/DC which, to say the least, smacked my gob.

AC/DC record of the week on Radio 2. As Robert Allen Zimmerman very nearly once suggested the times they have, indeed, a-changed.

It seems like only yesterday – but was probably the mid-1970s – when Christmas cash was pooled and Dirty Deeds purchased from Woolies next to the bus station. Neither now exist.

A decade or so later I was there as DC, literally, brought the house down at Whitley Bay ice rink. A few Doningtons and a Graspop later, having lost two lead singers and a brace of bassists among others to a combination of death, substance abuse and prison sentences, accommodating more line-up changes than Glasgow’s reserve berths they are still hanging on.

More than that AC/DC is still capable of belting it out alongside the best that the new wave of metal has to offer.

They may not quite be what they were; a bit frayed around the edges; even something of a throwback.

After four decades at the cutting edge of hell-raising and debauchery it can’t be entirely comfortable to find yourself segued between Ronan Keating, Barbara Dickson and Josh Groban on Radio 2.

But hey, despite the hip young pretenders there is still an audience out there for what they can offer. Given the opportunity they can still make a beautiful noise and send the audience home happy.

Which – if I may channel Rowan Atkinson’s Thought for Today vicar from Not the Nine O’Clock News – means that AC/DC is a lot like British speedway.

It still exists. Is hanging on in there, desperate to be allowed to strut their stuff but – in all truth – needs a bit of a reboot. And may have to be happy with being Radio 2s record of the week than Radio 1s Breakfast Show.

2020 has been a potentially ruinous year for speedway outside of Poland and Britain in particular where being classed as an elite sport saw it all but banned from allowing admission to spectators and stymied plans for any meaningful league competition.

A few promotions put the time and effort in to get the wheels turning including the Bandits’ bosses who presented the British Under-21 Championship to a livestream audience which is currently pushing over 22,000 views.

Belle Vue, Scunthorpe, Edinburgh and King’s Lynn all managed to stage meaningful events which were largely restricted to view from home audiences. Which proved the demand if the product was delivered properly.

The future for speedway remains up in the air to say the least.

We don’t know what effect the much-vaunted vaccine will have on life in general. We don’t know how Brexit will affect the ability of Brits and non-Brits alike to travel in an out of the country.

We certainly don’t know what financial havoc has been wreaked on riders, promoters, sponsors and fans by the events of the past 12 months.

Or when the season can start. Or whether spectators will be allowed into stadiums. Or how many riders will make a team. Or what the points limit will be.

Or how many who were ready to roll in 2020 will have found the  alternative income sources they were forced to find a better bet than the uncertainty of league speedway racing.

Or how those forced to choose by the Polish pipers which countries they will ply their trade.

Everything is up in the air. Some would say a typical speedway off-season – especially in Britain.

Santa seemed to be seconded from Coca Cola to Pfizer BioNTech this Christmas so it’s understandable that I didn’t get everything on my 2020 wish list.

While socks are always welcome – along with mega Haribo tubs and giant Dairy Milk bars – there was no place in the old guy’s sack for a new set of British speedway regulations.

Maybe next year I’ll get my wish as, for team building purposes, all British qualified riders aged under-19 on the first day of a season are assessed at two points, those under-21 at three and the under-25s at four points. Averages which don’t rise – but can drop – irregardless of on-track scoring. Gradings which are set in stone for a period of not less than five years.

Giving young British riders an unfair advantage to the detriment of those from elsewhere in the world? Hell yeah.

Then there was the rule that the visiting side has the choice of gate positions in each heat. Oh, and did I mention that they don’t need to be alternate gate positions? If gates one and four are hot then they can have them both. If they fancy a white line press on the home side pairings so be it. Go ahead and fill ya boots. Might just encourage a change in track preparation mindsets at some circuits.

And why does your top averaged rider need to fill the number one race jacket? Why can’t the top five fill any position – except reserve? Allow managers to manage and pick the most effective pairings, especially away from home, unfettered by restrictions.

Tinkering? Possibly but I maintain that, rather like Johnno, Cliff and Phil, the base is solid … all we need is to power it up and make some noise.

To fans of the blog Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and see you at Shielfield come April.

To critics … stop wasting your time reading it’s never going to make you happy.

George Dodds
George Dodds

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