With other bloggers beating me to the punch over our – fingers-crossed, black-cat-stroking now, surely, surely – U-21 Championship, I’ve decided to go the other way, and reflect on my favourite Banditos…….
I’ve been around speedway since I was a kiddo, but I think my early days were really just spent enjoying being there, without concentrating on the individual riders too much.
Which means my favourite – really top of the pile for me – Berwick riders were all in action after the millennium. Some may disagree, but these are my main men:
Actually, before I start, I should nominate my near-thing runners-up. Very, very honourable mentions would go to Seb Alden, Marcin Rempala and Adam Pietraszko. So near, so close, but no cigars, lads!
So, here we go. After much thought (and I suppose I spend quite a lot of my time thinking about the Bandits) I’ve gone for my three absolute heroes, each of whom paid a heavy price for his love for our sport.
If you had asked me prior to 2012, what speedway rider I really didn’t like, I’d have answered promptly enough – I was ever-ready to boo Ricky Ashworth in Sheffield’s colours. Came quite easily and naturally to me.
When I heard he’s signed up as a Bandit, I had mixed thoughts. Although I’ll always cheer anyone wearing black-and-gold, there might be times I’m cheering for the race-jacket as much as the man.
However, at our pre-season “do” at the rugby club that year, I found myself pulled out onto the floor by that bloody Mr Barrie on some pretext. Once out there, he started telling everyone exactly what I thought about the Ashcroft fella, which I thought a bit strange, but wasn’t going to argue about.
Then Ricky stepped out of the crowd around the bar with a huge bouquet of flowers, which he presented to me with a smacking kiss and a lovely wee speech about how he hoped to win me over when the season started.
No problem – he had me from the kiss!
On track, he knuckled down and quickly became a local hero. A genuine No 1. I still cannot forget his phenomenal last-to-first at Scunny early that year, and of course he was part of the 2012 4TT winners, and came close to helping us (almost) retain it the following year.
Racing balls-out all the way in every race, before so-sadly coming down in that tragic Heat 11 at Scunthorpe.
My next superstar arrived unheralded from deepest Argentina, with no reputation and very little machinery.
Yet he quickly stole my and other hearts with his attitude, never prepared to be beaten if he could help it, despite tin-pot equipment. Anyone at the KO Cup-tie at Glasgow in 2003 will remember his astonishing ride to win Heat 14. What a hero!
Carlos was a genuine friend that short year, and I got to know him well. He made Berwick his home, he worked so hard to learn the lingo, and made time for everyone. A real darling of a lad.
But top of my table, tip of the iceberg and to me the best Bandit ever, has to be Adrian Rymel.
It’s no contest – no-one even comes near him. He never gave up (except maybe a few times at Armadale, where of course his career tragically ended) Adrian was forever approachable, made time for all the fans, had that lovely laugh and crinkly eyes and, as well as being such a brilliant rider, a fabulous Bandit and all round good guy, was very, very easy on my eyes!
Feeling brave? Share your opinions and/or vent your wrath with Sarah at: email@example.com