8 August 2022
The Dirt Xtra
It’s been a long time coming but the Bandits finally picked up…
My favoured ringtone used to surprise many.
Not an obvious fan of the Carpenters but, especially when based in Manchester for over 20 years, it was wholly appropriate.
And wound up the locals who then – as now – were exceptionally sensitive to the perceived wisdom that if it’s not raining in Manchester … it soon will be.
Nowadays it’s accusations of sportswashing or title drought, depending on whether you follow the team from Manchester or the one from Salford, which causes apoplexy in the Mancunian masses.
As it happens Manchester barely drips into the top 20 when it comes to wet zones. According to Met Office statistics Cardiff is the supreme soggiest town or city, hence the roof, slightly damper than second-placed Glasgow – another play-off loss for the stripes? – Liverpool tenth, Bournemouth, Exeter and Coventry in the top 20 too.
But I can assure you the mad ferrets turned a pleasing shade of purple every time I took a call in their presence.
Rainy days and Mondays indeed.
Please stop peddling the misconception that it always rains in Manchester they wailed. Not a chance I boomed from under my oversized Etheridge 34 Racing umbrella.
Well it rained in Manchester on Monday and it caused a proper broo-hah.
Let’s face it sport is at its best when it’s simple: most goals/points wins, that sort of thing.
So let’s keep it simple shall we?
Chris Harris is the in-form British rider in domestic speedway this season. His Premiership average –using data contained in issue 15 of the official “green sheets” released on Monday August 1 proves it. 8.00 for Premiership Peterborough, 9.31 as a Championship Bandit.
Second is Adam Ellis, 7.65 Premiership and 7.83 for Birmingham, albeit from just six early season league and cup matches.
So when the British Final failed to reach a conclusion had it been kept simple then one of three people would have been in the running for the Cardiff GP Wildcard. One from two actually because Russia invaded Ukraine and a couple of bans later Dan Bewley was in the big show in his own right.
So, simply, it appeared to come down to which one of Chris Harris or Tom Brennan got the wildcard. They hadn’t met head to head in the truncated final so no opportunity for countback.
We could have gone with the fastest race win but that penalises those whose wins come from the back, what are known in the vernacular as “entertainers”.
They could have gone to the last time the pair met. Saturday at Shielfield as it happens. Two race wins each in four epic races.
Not much use.
A run-off between the two? But where? Not Peterborough, not Belle Vue, not Berwick, not Glasgow. Perhaps somewhere that neither has regularly ridden this season? Rules out every Premiership track and, in the case of everyone’s favourite guest, the Championship too.
But we’re keeping it simple here remember.
Premiership green sheets Harris 8.00, Brennan 5.26; Championship 9.31 against 6.62.
Surely not Poole, with its post heat two blue groove and monocular supporters.
That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.
At least until around 9.30pm on Monday night. When Adam Ellis was named as the 2022 British Grand Prix wildcard rider.
Speedway’s rulers are often accused of being boringly predictable and lacking originality. Not this time. That came from way out in left-field that.
Their reasoning seemed to be that, having won the title in 2021, Ellis is the reigning British Champion and had not been replaced as such after the 2022 event failed to reach a conclusion. True of course. Supplementary reasoning being that due to Covid he missed out in 2021 as there was no British GP to wildcard at. Reasoning becomes a little fluffier here and those that made it are probably hoping that Rory Schlein doesn’t throw a typically Roo Boy spanner into the works by announcing the reversal of his retirement.
Interestingly the resulting meltdown seems to have been more among fans and TV viewers. Many riders – directly involved and otherwise – seemed to rally behind Ellis, after all he is a seemingly innocent party in the decision.
Unattributed claims that the decision, apparently voted for by the final night riders, was unanimous seem fanciful.
Again those of us watching from home could swear that at least one man didn’t give the impression of being tickety or boo, fan dabby or dosie with what had been decided. But a solid performance from both the door and its hinges which both passed a stern test with flying colours.
And presumably those with a (Wildcard) vested interest did the decent thing and abstained from voting on their own future.
There’s been an impressive silence on the goings-on at that room in the bowels of the National Speedway Stadium.
Which left Wor Chris: asking “why is it always me?” and consigned to the parade of legends at The Principality next weekend when, I strongly suspect, his reception from the crowd will be considerably more rapturous than that of Monsieur Ellis.
The only thing Bomber can do is take it out on his opponents for the rest of the season, beginning with Plymouth on Saturday, then Birmingham on Wednesday.
A Plymouth side which looks much stronger with the return of Michael Palm Toft and Hans Andersen and Lewis Kerr, looking to make it three Shielfield wins this season, guesting for Lord Lucan at number one.
Our Leon – along with Tom Brennan confirmed as track reserve for Cardiff next Saturday – and likely to fill the role at the following day’s SGP2 as well, guests for them at Edinburgh tonight, as does Theo while Ricky leads the Brummies at Glasgow.
Just out of interest Leon heads Tiger Tom by a fraction in the Championship averages this season but there’s clear daylight between him and la Belle Brennan in the Premiership .
But there is absolutely no question that they are the top two under-21 Brits this season and no-one can really dispute TB’s SGP2 wildcard.
If only everything in speedway was such.
Victory over Plymouth’s Centurions in the Bullets’ last home league outing of the season wouldn’t mathematically put them in the play-offs but in practical terms it would, especially if they also fire on all cylinders at The Coliseum on Tuesday night.
That’s with challengers for a top four place Mildenhall, Kent, Belle Vue and Oxford all scheduled to meet, and therefore take points off each other in the pre-play-off knockings.
There’s a kind of hush, but with play-offs beckoning we’ve only just begun.
Enough. Keep it simple. Alive and Kicking.