Same as it ever was

Published on 10th June 2021
Author George Dodds

Ah well, another Bandits’ road session with nothing to show for it other than blood, sweat and blown engines.

Twas always so as many of us with long memories will testify that following the Black and Gold away from Shielfield and even, although slightly less-so, The Luff was rarely about grabbing a pie (with mash and liquour back in the days when speedway was still raced in London) and a flat pint, sitting back and watching the good times roll.

I seem to remember taking part in a conga to celebrate breaking a run of home 5-1s  (Graham Jones, heat 10 in the old 13-race days) at Mildenhall, various Eastbourne calamities,  Rye House rogerings, Hackney horror shows, Newport no-shows, Weymouth woes and St Austell sh…. amings. Not to mention the genuine sigh of relief when Workington beat us to a place in the record books which seemed to have our name pencilled in; namely being on the wrong end of a “perfect” score.

The fact that we were the warm-up act at Crayford that night when the Comets disappeared down speedway’s black hole was a timely reminder that we had often come so close.

+ SPOILER ALERT + Most speedway meetings are won by the home team. Always have been, probably always will be – indeed that very likelihood can be calculated mathematically using the Jeffrey Divergence model as favoured by Marek and Vavra. It’s especially the case when those of us from the real world venture past Birmingham into the twilight zone commonly known as “the south” – that would be the sarrrrrrrrrffff for those who have seen the light and joined us in the chosen land over the years by relocating.

Labour governments, Caring Capitalists, purple carrots, Sunderland Premiership campaigns, okenite, thought-provoking internet message board conversations, golden tigers, Bandits’ away victories.

Not unheard of … but far from the norm.

And yet it seems we should have swept the board on our tour last week.

Leicester? Defending champions, joint-favourites to repeat. Poole, down from the Premiership, money to burn. Lose a number one, book an ex-GP man as a guest. Joint-favourites for the league. Probably only Glasgow running to the same budget. Whether they replicate their eye-watering annual losses yet to be seen – much less likely than the aforementioned Tigers to perform the hockey-chokey on reaching a play-off final (although it’s always wise never to discuss the 1989 KO Cup Final while berthing the yacht in Poole Harbour).

One win (at home) and a near miss (away) against Leicester, same-old, same-old at Poole. Plymouth a bit of a ‘mare in the last four heats. The one time this season so far that our reserves have been challenged, let alone outscored. They have a number of free passes in lieu of earlier efforts but seem determined not to use them.

No question that with Aaron and Nicolaj’s scoring being intermittent it is too much to expect the engine room to pull off victory away from home.

Answer? In reality it comes down to either wholesale butchery of the team or trying to get to the bottom of individual problems and solving them collectively.

I suspect that we know what our management is most likely to do – not least because these much-lauded mystical away track world beaters prepared to travel to Berwick every Saturday night simply do not exist anywhere other than the fevered imaginations of anonymous trolls – but also because the points are clearly there to be coaxed out. These are two talented riders who have scored heavily for us in the past. But, just perhaps, the road back from serious injury and a year’s hiatus means that our top two are still somewhere in the early-season, working their was back to full, competitive match-fitness mode.

Which means they should be flying come play-off time. Which should be handy.

The number of times that NBJ found himself wrapped in an airfence last week yet still made it back to the tapes next time round suggests that his troublesome shoulder is in reasonably rude health – even if his team kevlars were looking somewhat worse for wear on the odd occasion that the Poole livestream was in focus on Wednesday night.

However, Alan Ferrow was spotted successfully lapping Duns last Saturday. Surely not that much more left-field than the David Howe/Jye Etheridge rabbit from the hat in 2018 … and that worked out OK.

Anyway from the ridiculous to the sublime as another highly-rated side makes its way north.

The Smoggie’s seemingly launched themselves up the pecking order when Jake Allen changed his mind about wintering in the northern hemisphere and filled the Erik Riss-shaped hole in the Bears’ line-up. Jordan Stewart’s injury in their ill-fated opening fixture at Birmingham knocked their plans askew. As a result it’s an RR-off at number two.

Anders Rowe and Leon Flint get to swap Polish League tales while Jordan Jenkins and Kyle Bickley will be keen to continue their own progress this season.

The Bears have often flattered to deceive at Shielfield in the past but there is no doubt that we need our top two firing live ammunition on Saturday night – unless, of course, the rest score 36 points between them as they did against Leicester, then a dozen will do. More would be appreciated.

It’s back to 7pm again as we start a run of single-headers through until an Eastbourne Eagles and Seagulls double in August.

But obviously we wouldn’t dream of offering just 15 heats of Championship capers. No tomorrow sees the first of this season’s Northern Junior League fixtures when the Academy welcomes Redcar Cubs.

And an intriguing match-up too with Caydin Martin making his Berwick debut, alongside the obligatory Pijper – Ace in this case – while the Cubs are due to track two of the growing band of young female wannabees.

All with Gavin Parr at the helm.

Having completed either four (Dani, Nicolaj), five (Jye, Aaron), six (Kyle) or seven (Leon) meetings in the past week the Bandits now have a fortnight in the workshops. Until a certain Glasgow team visits on June 26.

They could probably do with the rest … after Saturday (or Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday if you’re a Bullet, an Ace or a Shark.

We’re still Covid-compliant, still all-ticket, you’re still advised to arrive early and wear a mask when not within your bubble. It’s £17 – less if you qualify as a concession or an under-16. And it’s still the best night out in town.

George Dodds
George Dodds

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