Just for a moment. Briefly. We were verging on approaching something agonisingly close to normality. For the first time in almost two years the world was revolving around what could, at a push, be called reliable.
Things that as sports fans we’ve always taken for granted for decades have been turned inside out, upside down, west to east by Covid.
The thwack of leather on England opener’s stumps, Aussies declaring the Ashes a foregone conclusion, Scottish goalkeepers grasping thin air at international tournaments as the ball hits the back of the net, Rafa Benitez/Sam Allardyce/Alan Pardew touted by the media as the man for a job. The subsequent horror of those clubs’ supporters. Craig Cook transferred.
The Bandits losing to a North-east rival – although some may sing that Redcar is really just a small town in Yorkshire with a stunningly inept football team – Blog punditry falling flat on its face (for the second time this season if you’re keeping score. But they do say that if all else fails you should strive for consistency).
After all that’s gone wrong in the world there was finally a big meeting to look forward to at Shielfield. One which had seemingly captured the imagination of even the hardest to please.
A top-of-the-table clash to savour between the Bullets of Berwick and Gems of Newcastle.
Two of the National League’s fancied teams, top of the table Berwick, unbeaten Newcastle. Flint v Clegg, Embleton v Watson, Douglas v Dugard, Bickley v Terry Daley, with Greg Blair promising to go high, wide and handsome against anyone who had the temerity to outgate him. McDonald, Rathbone; Alcock, Freeman, Smith.
All for a tenner. Two teams full of locals, top of the table against exciting visitors. Unpredictable racing. Thrills guaranteed, spills more than likely.
The antidote to reasons – among others – given to me over the years as explanation of why people choose not to come to Shielfield on any given Saturday (bunch of foreigners, Bandits not winning, dull racing, too expensive in case you’re trying to link questions to answers).
With the weather set fair there was no reason to think we wouldn’t have a decent crowd on Saturday night. No reason to think that it would not have matched, exceeded even, the visit of Scunthorpe, even been in the ballpark of Leicester and Redcar – both attendances boosted by impressive away followings.
At just a tenner a head not enough for either Courtney to put a deposit on a BVI Condo but the thinking behind the Bullets seems to be more about securing the long-term future of the club by identifying and maturing our own riders than short-term profit.
Still it would have done no harm for the management to be reassured that there was an appetite for this level of speedway and that any losses would be small, sustainable.
This was after all the first time that the Bullets had hosted a stand-alone meeting with the Borders’ speedway public invited to join the party.
After a behind-closed-doors, livestream opening against Armadale and two outings as the second part of double header, the Bullets were coming home.
We’ll never know how many of you good people were going to be there to cheer them on. Because almost as soon as tickets had gone on sale the bosses were arranging for the money to be refunded and announcing the cancellation of the meeting (in that order as it happens).
Newcastle’s announcement that the Gems were to be immediately disbanded and withdrawn from the league came as a bitter blow for all involved – not least the Brough Park riders who seem to have had little inkling that the guillotine was ready to drop.
A lot of time and effort had already been expended when the plug was pulled.
Our nearest and dearest seem to have had nothing but problems since Rob Grant took over the reins in the winter of 2019, the Diamonds seeming to stumble from one crisis to another.
It’s never nice to see and the Bandits’ owners have bitter memories themselves of a first season at the helm littered with path-crossing black cat moments. It probably comforts them to see that some of those who so vehemently criticised their efforts have matured over the intervening period and seem prepared to cut the Newcastle boss much more slack as he tries to keep the ship afloat than they received at the time.
So instead of live speedway of the in-the-flesh variety we have the choice of Livestreaming a fairly tasty GP Qualifier from Ashfield or Spain v Poland in Euro 2020.
And for those fans of table-topping, Berwick-led, thrill supplying, wallet friendly, future-starring, Blair leg-shaking, solo Saturdays, the Bullets host Mildenhall – Luke Ruddick, Sam Hagon, Jordan Jenkins et al, on July 24. Noted in diaries please. Double underlined. Promise you’ll be here.
Oh and Glasgow, Newcastle of the Diamonds variety and Edinburgh are here before then.
They might be worth watching too.
In the meantime it’s back to revelling in replays of David Marshall channelling his inner Alan Rough.
Predictions? Once bitten, twice shy … on the other hand, maybe it’s third time lucky?
Here goes. Neither Scotland or England will win the Euros.
Dewch imlaen Cymru