Published on 25th January 2023
Author Dick Barrie

I’m writing this on Burns Night, but I won’t lapse into verse – or worse – in this latest weblog from my Scottish hideaway……

I’ll leave the rhyming to our Bandits and Bullets when they hit the Shielfield shale in (exactly) two months’ time for Press’n’Practice – that’ll do me fine for a shot of poetry in motion!

This past week has seen the issue of the NDL listings, allowing a full set of fixtures to be published for both our teams.

This in turn gives me the annual frisson of anticipation, planning which away fixtures I can attend during the year.

Of course, you never know…….

Exactly three years ago at this point in January I had all the meetings sorted and listed, and my declared ambition was to attend every Bandits’ fixture during 2020, home and away – collect the full set, you might say.

Well, how did that work out?

Hmmmm…… I made it to the BenFund meeting at Scunny in March that season -– and nowhere else!

That plague swept around the world and we all went absolutely nowhere.

Even the one meeting staged at Shielfield – keeping alive our proud record of running speedway every season since 1968 – had to be behind closed doors, introducing us to the now-accepted alternative of watching a stream when we can’t make it to the real thing.

But I will still be making it my intention, my ambition, to watch our teams in live action ‘on the road’ whenever possible.

It isn’t just the smell, the sound and the skidding I crave – it’s the whole experience of ‘being there’……

Travelling to other tracks, revisiting the scenes of past glories (and miserable defeats) and — perhaps especially — meeting old friends.

This creates the almost-magical ambience of speedway, which just cannot be captured by watching our sport on a screen, despite the professionalism of discovery+ and/or the BSN.

I’ve just done a quick tally, and I believe I’ve watched Berwick teams racing on forty-five different circuits in the UK over the years – and I’ll be just as keen to add #46 in May (when the Bullets head over to test the much-talked-about new track on the left-hand coast) as I was to watch the Bandits for the very first time in a challenge fixture at Coatbridge, back in September, 1968…..

Mind, if I hadn’t been contracted to broadcast a radio programme on Sunday afternoons for the past forty-five years, I could have made it to quite a few more away matches!

Even now, having to be in the studio on all the Sabbaths this coming year (4pm on Crystal FM 107.4, folks!) will rule out Kent and Mildenhall visits, and make for a through-the-night gallop home from the Bullets’ Leicester engagement on a Saturday evening in early April. Oh well, ho hum…….

The announcement today that Bandits’ fixtures will this year be in the newly-named Cab Direct Championship has to be a welcome boost –- any sponsorship of a competition has to be very good news for every member-club of any league.

Cab Direct is an off-shoot of the Allied Mobility group, already heavily-involved in speedway through ownership of Glasgow Tigers and long-term backing of Team GB, and we must be grateful for their continuing, and indeed increasing, interest in the sport. Full marks!

Of course, having looked at the big teams’ commitments, I should also take time out to report that the Academy will be doing their stuff again at NJL level – for the fourteenth consecutive season – against five other junior sides. The NJL fixture list will be published in due course.

Our Northern Junior League began quietly in 2010 – the initial inspiration coming from our then-promoter John Anderson – and has continued to create a platform for younger riders to learn the disciplines involved in team sport from an early age, not least on the 125cc bikes.

The clear road from Duns, to the Academy, to the Bullets, Bandits – and beyond – has been laid down, and (as imitation is the sincerest form of flattery) it is encouraging to see Edinburgh declaring a similar objective.

Indeed, at Armadale they are again going to run two NJL sides, mainly to accommodate the number of U-16 lads they’re attracting up there, all of which must be good news for speedway in the north.

And good news for speedway is what we want, every time!



Want to disagree with Dick (as so many do)? He is always happy to hear from interesting people on dick@crystalfm.co.uk

Dick Barrie
Dick Barrie

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