Is there a better feeling? . . Speedway has always been weighted in favour of the home team winning, and to be frank it probably always will be.
Which means that, when you do see your favourites upsetting a home-team applecart, it is rare enough to be recalled with relish for years to come – and I suppose, given that we haven’t really made it a habit over the years, we should savour such victories as come along all the more…….
F’rinstance, although I’m a pretty regular attendee at away matches – recently specialising in rain-offs, as well as racing – I’m discombobulated to realise that the last away win I watched was in 2018!
But I can certainly savour it. We had been looking good at Edinburgh that year in a match we were leading when a wee bit of rain gave the Mondorks a good enough excuse to roll up the flags, so when we went back in September I had some doubts that lightning might strike twice…..
But strike it did. Blitzen!!!
Armadale hasn’t always been a terribly happy hunting ground for our teams, but this was the night it all came together!
Were you there? Against all their stars – Ricky Wells, Joshie Pickering, Richie Worrall and Erik Riss – we were sixteen points ahead after Heat 8, and had only to stonewall from there on in to take a comfortable 48-42 victory. Sweet!
Going up the A1 and beating the mighty Monarchs – yes, a good feeling, even if it was my most-recent away win.
But what was the first away win I saw? Everyone surely remembers their first time………
That’s something I had to think quite hard about, but a sudden flash from a fading memory took me back to the Banditos only-ever visit to the Coatbridge track, in September of 1968. On the Saturday night after the close of the first home season at Shielfield.
The circuit at Cliftonhill was a bit basic. A tumbledown stadium in a tumbledown town.
If Coatbridge’s chosen role in life in 1968 was to make every other town in Britain look better by comparison, it was doing the job very, very well…….
But I digress. As well as the first away win, it was also the first time I’d seen a Berwick team in action. I had visited Shielfield earlier in the year, but that was for an individual event which I think would have been the Tweedmouth Feast.
The success of Division II speedway at Berwick hadn’t gone un-noticed by Ian Hoskins, and with his Monarchs out of town (getting rained-off at Swindon, as it happened) he cobbled together a second Coatbridge side – which he called the ‘Kings’ — to face the Bonny Bouncers in what was billed “an intriguing challenge match”.
What might in retrospect be thought most intriguing was that Hossy naturally paid all the riders at Division II rates – but maintained his Division I turnstile prices! ‘Way to go, Ian!
To be honest, I don’t recall all that much about the night’s racing. I didn’t have any Berwick connections back then, so the victory didn’t mean anything. Second Division was very much a novelty in 1968, and I think a fair crowd turned out to watch the Bandits (Mark Hall 11, Roy Williams 10) beat the home side (Alastair Brady 10+3, Jimmy Tannock 10 & Bobby Beaton 7) by 40-37.
Most of the riders on both sides of the pits were familiar, the Bandits having been cobbled together at the start of their season from Scottish second-halvers and – with the notable exception of the marvellously-named Mervyn McConkey, an enthusiastic grass-tracker from Northern Ireland — we knew the Kings just as well.
I do recall standing in the pits with Danny Taylor, enjoying the fervour the wee man was showing about the way the border public had taken to speedway that first year. He told me that, despite finishing bottom of the table, it had been a financial success and he was already planning the next season – remarking on how a rider like Al Brady would fit right in with the plans for 1969 (although in fact, Alastair didn’t join the club until 1970).
Writing all this, I now realise that night was the last time I saw Danny.
Talking recently with his daughter Mary (better known to some as Esmeralda) I learned that Danny Taylor would, had he been spared, have turned 101 last month – Liz would be 100!
Ooooh, time marches on…….
Want to disagree with Dick (as so many do?). He is always happy to hear from interesting people at firstname.lastname@example.org