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George Dodds's picture

There was a time when it was believed that the civilised world ended some sixty or so miles south of Berwick and the borders.
Roman Emperor Hadrian – in a display of insularity that would make even a Brexiteer peer choke on his quails eggs, kippers, kedgeree and champagne and forget to massage his expenses claim – obtained outline building consent for a wall to run from the Tyne to the Solway Firth. His failure to annexe Poland and consequent decision to use local builders meant that it took a bit longer to build than anticipated - and costs over-ran!
But as far as the boy H was concerned this was the northern extent of the Roman Empire, and as a consequence Europe. To the south of it lived the civilised masses to the north the barbaric hordes.
His view was not a million miles away from those of Jacob Rees-Mogg and his modern-day Tory chums.
It is probably the one and only time that Newcastle – or Pons Aelius to be accurate – was considered to be the last bastion of civilisation.
And it is precisely the sort of isolated, ill-judged thinking that forged Northumbria and the border country and its inhabitants – in other words everyone born north of civilisation – into what we are today: independent, inspirational, natural born survivors … and just a little chippy.
We look out for ourselves because nobody else does after all if Leeds and Manchester are at the centre of the Northern powerhouse where does that leave us?
In speedway you will get riders prepared to commute to Poland, Sweden and Denmark but ask them to travel from Essex to Newcastle or Berwick on a weekly basis and the answer is “I should coco”.
Over the past couple of seasons, with the odd exception such as Mr Morris, the Bandits have bucked the modern speedway trend by signing riders who haven’t had a second, even third, team in Britain.
This year keeping track of the KLS Bandits, powered by Mike Hope, is going to involve a lot more searching on Speedway Updates and its counterparts because in 2018 the boys are taking a leaf out of the Romans book and marching far and wide in their quest for speedway domination.
At the time of writing Aaron Summers is both a Bandit and a Rocket having replaced Ben Barker in the Rye House line-up and Jye Etheridge is plying his trade in the big league with Belle Vue while Academy starlets Leon Flint (Birmingham) and Kieran Douglas (Buxton) will also be racing in the National League alongside newly-signed club asset Luke Ruddick (Coventry).
I expect a number of Premiership clubs will be monitoring the progress of Mr Busk Jacobsen in particular with one eye on the reshuffling of racing personnel which will almost inevitably follow the first set of real averages.
Throw Poland, Denmark and Sweden into the mix and you can see that our Bandits will be competing far and wide over the coming season.
With increased racing opportunities comes an opportunity to boost earnings, much of which will be ploughed back into the engines and frames which race them around Shielfield most Saturdays between now and October.
There is also an added potential for injury and mechanical Armageddon, which means that Messrs Courtney and McCleary will never be far from their phones on the nights when the Bandits boys are in action elsewhere, dreading a late-night injury call.
And it’s all just a couple of sleeps away – press and practice taking place at Shielfield tomorrow night (Thursday), 6.30pm outdoors and the launch party in the Black and Gold a couple of hours later – and then the visit of them from over t’wall on Saturday, tapes up 7pm.
As Hadrian would say: “Suo novo inducere speedway” - although in all likelihood his pronouncement was followed by some slate warrior whinging on the Empire-wide Web: “What have the Romans ever done for us anyway?”

* For those who didn’t have the pleasure of Ma Mac’s double latin: Winter is over … bring on the gladiators