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George Dodds's picture

Pijper picks himself out of fence to maximum effect; Jye Rissed-off; Sunday in Redcar is BEN’s dream; Howe accepts job with ACAS; Tigers left licking wounds; Summers finally sees the money; Over and out at Lakeside?
Take your pick of the speedway headlines from the past week.
Having come up agonisingly short of a losing point at Ashfield on Friday – Theo playing a supporting role in a scary crash which saw Nathan Greaves become the second rider in just a couple of weeks to be launched up and over the Ashfield bouncy castle – we gave the Tigers a good old-fashioned gubbing on Saturday.
It was surprisingly easy in the end with only Chris Harris providing any real opposition for the fast-starting Bandits.
Bomber was also the central character in one of our races of the season – although it took the intervention of David Howe before he fully appreciated the fairness of Mr Etheridge’s line off the second bend in that phenomenal heat nine.
Bomber took his revenge by ending NBJ’s quest for a maiden British speedway maximum; Aaron’s bid for a full house effectively ending when he over-anticipated Jim McGregor’s tapes release.
And so it was left to the Flying Dutchman to score his first maximum since 2014, as a Tiger, and take the pit gate bumps.
Theo and Dany were paid for 23 points on Saturday night, Glasgow counterparts at reserve James Sergeant and Jack Thomas managed two. It wasn’t the only reason we were such convincing winners … but it certainly helped.
Not for the first time, especially at Shielfield, the tone for the night was set in heat one. Aaron won it with such ease that we knew there and then that the Tigers were going home with their tails between their legs.
Mr Summers finally got his hand on a long overdue rider of the night award and then achieved every Bandits rider’s dream – to have his picture taken with big Norm and canny Kenny.
Spud might have been wondering what he needed to do to get dosh from the Supporter’s Club, having probably looked on longingly as team-mates were helped out with exploded motors, smashed helmets and the like.
Finally he cracked it and won the vote as the Rider of the Month for July.
Just a couple of weeks ago Aaron was one of three Bandits doubling up in the Premiership. He’s now the only one following Belle Vue’s decision to axe young Mr Etheridge in favour of Mark Riss.
Aces boss Mark Lemon quoted Jye’s lack of experience on away tracks as the Manchester side pushes for the playoffs, neatly sidestepping the fact that he is outscoring Riss in the Championship and fellow reserve Damian Drodz in the Premiership.
Hopefully history repeats itself and a side which replaces Jye with Mark Riss is left to rue the rash decision down the line.
I suspect that the Etheridge mobile will be ringing hot with guest bookings come play-off time.
On the same day that Belle Vue dropped the Etheridge bombshell came the news that the Woodroffe family was pulling the plug on Arena Essex raceway after 40 years, putting the future of the Lakeside Hammers into serious doubt after the end of this season.
It was not entirely unexpected as developers bought the site last year and leased it back to the Woodroffe family who have run the venue since stock car legend Chick opened it for car racing in 1978 and speedway six years later.
I have something of a soft sport for Arena as, in the mid 1980s I worked for newspapers in nearby Grays and Romford – actually getting paid to watch speedway. Dream time.
Arena was considered as Wembley’s replacement as the venue for the 1983 World Final – Woodroffe drawing up plans to install temporary stands to hold around 70,000 before Bradford Council came up with a rather more realistic plan to revamp Odsal for the event – Britain delaying their turn on the finals rota for a couple of years to make it happen.
When I was a regular on the second turn grass banking the track stood in glorious isolation, surrounded by empty chalk pits with just a Tesco and a cinema over the road from it.
A decade ago I went back to Grays for a newspaper reunion and took the opportunity to return to watch what had then become the Lakeside Hammers.
All around Arena was unrecognisable – Lakeside shopping centre, a whole new town called Chafford Hundred, a bridge over the River Thames at Dartford.
But the stadium had changed little in the intervening 20 years – still little more than grass banking with a tin roof on the home straight.
They had built a clubhouse and there was fences, both around the speedway track, the outside of which in those early years was marked by nothing more substantial than plastic markers, and to keep bits of low-flying bangers out of the crowd on the outside of the stock car circuit.
What had definitely changed was the value of the land the site stood on. Woodroffe effectively bought a chalk pit no-one wanted; his family was sitting on a much sought after piece of Home Counties real estate.
It is not the first speedway stadium to be worth more as houses and shops than as a sporting venue; especially in the south of the country.
There is a glimmer of hope that motorsport will continue as planning permission is sought for the site but it casts a serious doubt over yet another track in what has been a difficult year for the sport.
Finally this week came the news that the BEN Fund – our collection will be held during the next home meeting, against the Monarchs on Saturday week, will be held at Redcar on October 7.
You may recall that the scheduled initial staging at Peterborough in March was cancelled with the East of England Showground under snow.
Sensible then to take the meeting to the STMP which acquitted itself well on Fours Finals day.
Not least because history suggests that the Bears’ Ben Barker will be one of the first to declare himself available for the event.
No meeting at Shielfield this Saturday so I’ll be listening to the Decades Day being staged at Berwick Auction House.
I won’t be buying a ticket but living within 100 yards of the outdoor concert means it will be shaking my foundations for seven hours.
With a bit of luck some of the bands might even be able to sing in tune this year!