THE BEST, EVER?

Published on 22nd June 2020
Author Dick Barrie

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Firstly,everyone with link to speedway at Berwick will mourn the passing of Vic Howie who, along with his wife Jean and son Neil, was such a good friend to, and a loyal supporter of, the Bandits for so many years.   He was my pal, too.

Through his garage business at Swinton, Vic offered friendship as well as sponsorship to many riders over the years, with Willie Templeton, Mike Fullerton and Bruce Cribb among his favourites.

Long-time stalwarts on the third bend at Shielfield, Vic and Jean more-recently could be found in the centre stand during meetings.   My condolences to the Howie family.

Moving on, what’s the best, brightest moment in time you’ve enjoyed as a black-and-gold disciple?    As ever, the e-mail address at the bottom will field your many and varied suggestions……

Me myself, I’ve had a few – but certainly not too few to mention.    As Paul didn’t quite write, Frank didn’t quite sing.

Absolutely classic, stand-out, jaw-dropping stunners…….      Dates that will live in my memory, well, forever……

Like August 2nd, 1975:     Berwick against the mighty, all-conquering Newcastle Diamonds.   Which we won, 43.35

How did we pull it off?      .  I refer you to Heat 7 on that summer evening, 45 years ago……..

In a race that had the entire population of the old grandstand on their feet for the longest 74.8 seconds of their lives, 21-year-old Dave Trownson got out the gate ahead of Diamonds’ magnificent family double-act of Tom and Joe Owen, and – somehow – stayed there, for four of the screamiest, shoutiest Shielfield laps I’ve ever experienced!

Wee Dave was, at that time very much an inexperienced reserve, the Owen boys were the league’s top two superstars.   We loved that he got ahead of them, but as they snapped at his back tyre – Tom inside him, Joey out around the fence for all four laps — we couldn’t really believe he could beat them.

But beat them he did.    If you are old enough, and you were there, you’ll remember it, clear as day.  It was that sort of moment in time.

Fast forward now thirty-one years, and another four-lap impossibility.    July 22nd, 2005.

The brand-new Redcar Bears were in town.     Gary Havelock, the former Champion of the Whole Wide World, had come back over to our Premier League to lead their venture and was – not unlike the Owens in 1975, carrying all before him.    Maximums nearly every match, and an average of ten-point-something-huge.

He won his first two races like a champion (Gary is still the only rider to have raced in “our league” after being crowned World Champ, by the way).    Redcar were looking good, and there didn’t seem to be much we could do about it…..

But then……

Heat  11 came to the tapes, and another unlikely Bandit hero was born.

Our No 6 that night was a stringy, dreadlocked lad from the south coast called Danny Warwick.  He didn’t care – maybe didn’t even know – he was racing a World Champ, and off he went like a bat out of hell, hung Havvy out to dry around the second turn and just flew!

Again, the stand, the Ducket, and by this time the third bend too – were bouncing!

The great man chased, huffed and puffed, but he couldn’t blow Danny’s house down, and our inexperienced reserve beat the best man in the league.   Cue riotous excitement – and, taking inspiration from their young colleague, a fightback by the Bandits to win 50-41.    A good night was had by one and all.

Then there was a match at Redcar on June 20th, 2013.   It started wet and got wetter.  We were never likely to win, and indeed we didn’t.    A night to be a wee bit careful and not try to be too brave (or stupid) under such conditions.     Just get it over with.

Except, we had Eddie Kennett.   Who couldn’t gate for toffee that night.   Resulting in what I think was probably the classiest display of throttle-control and bikemanship I’ve ever seen from any Bandit, ever.

Eddie slid, skidded and slithered his way to a magnificent 14 points that dismally-wet night.   From the back.   Picking off Bears at will.     Wonderful!     Put it in the bag, another jaw-dropper for my collection.

Finally, I think the last time we were all together was maybe the best night, ever.

September 7th last year.     The double-header that had everything.    An absolute humbling for the five-time champions, with Jye sticking it to his former friends.   Three dancing mascots pumping up the fun factor.  Good weather, good humour, good track, the mighty Tigs and all the fun of the fair.

The night’s atmosphere just built and built, climaxing wonderfully during and just after Heat 15.   As in ’75 and ’05, the noise in the stand and on the terraces was thunderous, rolling over the stadium as we watched the 39th start of the evening, and the alarms and excursions of  the next few minutes.

As I say, that most-recent meeting had just about everything you could ask for at speedway.    I defy anybody who was there (a few Dorks excepted, perhaps) not to agree that it was, overall, just a great night out at the Shielfield skids.

The best ever?    Well, maybe.

But only until the next one, perhaps.

Bring it on!!

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

Dick Barrie
Dick Barrie

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