Reggie-cide, Northumbrian pride, Roo’s the daddy and King Coles – what a weekend

Published on 25th April 2023
Author George Dodds

For a staunch republican any royal evisceration is a cause for huge celebration. A double? Then doubly so.

I still dream that come May 6 I’ll be atop a barricade rallying the comrades with a rousing rendition of At these Stones before marching on Buckingham Palace and claiming it for the people.

A bit of remodelling work by Lenin the Builder, interior refit by Paul’s more naturally hirsute brother Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen and it’ll make a lovely refugee reception centre while simultaneously attacking London’s homelessness shame.

True I’ll more likely be exchanging bon mots with the good and noble speedway brethren heading into Shielfield for the first double header of the season on a day when the country will officially, once again, be led by a right(wing) Charlie.

By the time Scunthorpe’s Scorpions and those other Royals, the Kent clan rather than the Saxe-Coburgs, come a-calling we may have qualified BSN Series semi-finals and Knockout Cup quarters.

Which seemed a little far-fetched last time the two middle digits were assembling a weblog. Gloom, doom, despondency from the Twitterati last week. Would we even win once – home or away – they fretted.

Bit quieter this week.

Bandits’ victories at Armadale are about as rare as coronations. Three in the last 13 years – the Tories managed as many Prime Ministers in 60 days last year. A dethroning shared around the globe via BSN who, having also covered our 2022 Oxford triumph and a fairly spectacular near miss at Poole, are fast becoming something of a lucky charm.

Saying that gate four of the West Lothian Bernabeu gave a bit of an advantage on Friday is akin to opining that popes are traditionally male and catholic or that bears forsake the comforts of indoor plumbing whenever they are in woods.

37 points came from gate four, a total of 59 in combination with its gate two sibling. It would have been starker had Kye Thomson not shed a chain and fell after jetting to the front off the gate of glory.

I suspect that Leon, honest young GOAT in training that he is, will tell you that had he won the toss he would have taken 2 and 4 because, well it was blatantly obvious what was going to happen wasn’t it?.

In the event Josh Pickering called right, made the choice – 1&3 and so began a pretty wretched weekend for him.

Even a laughably lame attempt to counter the inequality by ripping up the startline before heat 11 spectacularly backfired as the Danish Dream team left Craig Cook floundering off one and very much off the pace for the next fifty diddly seconds.

Honestly? I would have fancied my chance of reaching the first bend in clean air on a mobility scooter, although it would then have been a case of elbows flailing and randomly veering right and left down the straights.

In totally unconnected news Erik Riss is not in town with Redcar on Saturday, Richard Lawson guests.

Back to Friday. We knew that Rory would ride the place like the legend he is, suspected TJ wouldn’t be far off the pace, hoped Leon and JK would be hot when required and that Connor’s brief spell in Monarchs’ colours could come in handy for a few points.

Previous sterling efforts have floundered by the sort of bad luck that sent Nathan Stoneman to hospital with a broken wing following an untidy tankslapper. When Thomsen’s drive went to chain heaven, dumping him and a Monarchs’ 5-1 into the dirt, we believed.

Because we had Jye Etheridge on fire and Connor was good for more than just a few points – paid 11 if you don’t mind.

No need to go over how Jye’s spell in the minor capital ended. The fact that his joy at leading Connor home in the decisive heat 14 was loudly celebrated by not only the man and his team-mates but a healthy pile-on of current and former riders in a Saturday morning social media love-in amply illustrated the consensus on what remains one of the crassest and most classless pieces of speedway man-management ever.

Saturday the question was not how many we’d win by but if the weathermen could be wrong for long enough for any racing. As late as Friday night the forecasts were for continuous rain from 4am Saturday until 4pm on Sunday.

Even Peter Waite would have kept Billy safely locked up in the Bowserdome.

As the hours ticked by with nothing more than drizzle so light that those of pit-gate Billy’s height probably didn’t even realise it was raining, start-time approached with the track looking mint but, not helped by a strong wind, a tad dry.

Truth be told we all went home looking a little more ginger than we arrived but even the clouds of red shale dust couldn’t disguise a good old fashioned Monarchering.

Indeed Monarchs have not been treated with this much disdain since the French revolution. Perhaps Grantaine’s evocation to “give them a screwing they’ll never forget” was part of Leon’s pre-match talk. Although I don’t really see him as a Les Mis kinda guy.

Again fortune favoured us early on.

Many’s the time in recent seasons that the anxious silence after a heat one pile-up has ended with a Bandit in the ambulance nursing a match-changing injury. This time TJ escaped unscathed and the unfortunate Pickering suffered a suspected broken collarbone and took no further part – for quite a few weeks by the look of it.

With Cook good when gating but spectacularly less so when not – I’m sure you have your own opinion on the validity of his – and Alex Harkness’s post-match excuses – Thomson, Lasse Fredriksen and Jacob Hook did their best to keep the Bandits honest, putting in shifts deserving of a higher points’ return.

Truth be told we didn’t even gate that well but everyone showed a willingness to get out in the dirt and blast a way through.

Everyone had their moments although TJ eventually paid for evading the speedway gods in heat one by losing an easy win when a fuel pipe came adrift and guest Luke Killeen worked his socks off but bit the dust three times – once after the race was over. Plenty of promise, a bit more patience required perhaps.

On any other night Rory would have been hands down man of the match, his heat 13 one-lap, outside, inside, stalk and capture worthy of ride of any season; every outing providing pure theatre.

But Leon shaded it with the second paid maximum of his Championship career, celebrating with a doughnut in front of the third bend vexillologists who, rather timely , have added a Northumberland flag to their multi-national gathering in his honour.

Churlish perhaps to suggest that Danni Gapp’s effort in front of the main stand a couple of years ago was sixes across the board as opposed to 5.8/5,8/5.9/6.0(from his dad) but along with big Dan Burn – he’s from Blyth you know – Flint junior is the surely the hottest sporting Northumbrian around at the moment.

The best thing is that despite everything there is still room for this side to improve and practice will make perfect – at Glasgow in Friday’s BSN qualifier decider and/or dismantling the Bears’ 16-point advantage.

Then the Bullets are back on track on Sunday, with a visit to Mildenhall.

If you haven’t rolled your Redcar tickets over from opening night then buy before midnight on Friday for £18 or pay an extra two quid on the day, ticket or cash.

Berwickspeedway.com/tickets

Viva la revolution … viva la Bandits (and Bullets)

George Dodds
George Dodds

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