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George Dodds's picture

From famine to feast.
Just a few days ago this coming Saturday was looking – like the past three – less than exhilarating.
True Asda is hosting a death match smackdown between Pudsey Bear and Buddy the Bandit, to be staged between this week’s bargain booze display and the cooked meats aisle of its Tweedmouth store.
Apparently this time it’s personal as Pudsey bids to avenge his cousin Bertie’s controversial consignment to the sporting mascot scrapheap alongside Wenlock, Mandeville, Billy, Bluey, Sammy the Shrimp and Elvis J Eel.
In fairness I may have misheard and the duo might actually be fundraising for Children in Need and the Bandits’ STARS initiative with a bumper Bandits' merchandise hamper among the raffle and tombola prizes and various young speedway riders on hand to help two fine causes.
Either way it’s worthy of a decko.
That’s equally true of Shobana Jeyasingh’s Contagion which begins its weekend run at the town’s Gymnasium Gallery, a timely remembrance of the 1919 Spanish flu outbreak which killed more people across Europe than the First World War.
But come 7pm Saturday night threatened to fizzle out with no live speedway to break the monotony.
That all changed this week within the space of two Facebook postings from Bandits HQ.
First came the news that Ipswich have managed to find the door keys to Foxhall Stadium for the weekend and will make a fourth attempt to entertain our brave Bandits, squeezing a last Championship meeting in just before the extended play-off qualification cut-off date.
But more importantly for those of us who don’t venture too far from home these days was news that a slot had been found for the always hugely entertaining Stars of Tomorrow event.
That is in no small part thanks to the generous reception to our STARS project which allowed Scott and Jamie to give the young talent their head in addition to The Bordernapolis on September 29.
Even better was the news that – like two years ago – the Starza will be supported by races from the British Youth Championship.
Which means a busy night for Leon Flint who will be competing in both the 500cc Youth races and the main event.
Despite a busy Championship and National League programme “down south” on Saturday there is an impressive field lined up for Shielfield headed of course by local boys Flint, Luke Ruddick and Kieran Douglas.
Joe Lawlor, Kean Dicken, Kelsey Dugard, Tom Wooley, Connor Coles, Kyle Bickley, Corban Pavitt and Danny Phillips are among those scheduled to do battle with the Twempy Massif.
To my mind that’s as impressive array of young talent as British speedway has tracked at any time since the 1970s but they are just the tip of the iceberg.
Those who “watch” their speedway via Speedway Updates and BT Sport, without actually venturing from their sofa, happily opine that British speedway has no future.
They are wrong. Rob Lambert, Dan Bewley, Ellis Perks and the likes have already made the step up and as Saturday will show the next two generations are coming along nicely and proving the sofa supporters wrong.
To fit it all in the action will start, with the initial round of Youth Championship races, at 6.30pm with subsequent youth rounds slotted in between the Stars of races.
Admission is £12, £10 for concessions and it should be noted that season passes are not valid for this meeting.
Don’t worry if it all sounds complicated – the cool calculating minds of that well-known firm of dodgy accountants McCleary, Hayward and Heppell will keep you informed of what is going on both at Berwick and 350-odd miles away.
Indeed for those of us of a certain age, Saturday brings back memories of the way it used to be.
First staged in 1970, in its early years the Starza was often staged to give the Borders public their regular dose of speedway while the first team was on its travels to fellow Saturday nighters Rayleigh or Canterbury.
By the time we take to the track in Suffolk we will know the result from Armadale which, along with Glasgow’s visit to Ipswich on Thursday night, could have decided our play-off fate.
It was a case of so near and yet so far as we came out of hibernation last Sunday, earned our first point on the road this season and much credit for our performance but lost by four points at league leaders Peterborough.
Panthers’ boss Ged Rathbone took to social media and was fulsome in his praise for the Bandits’ both on track and the fans on the banking.
David Howe became far from the first person in history to discover that a face full of Dutch grass can leave you feeling decidedly second-hand the following day while NBJ and Panthers’ guest Thomas Jorgensen had a full and frank discussion on the difficult state of Danish politics on their way back to the pits after an especially fraught heat head-to-head.
Two Bandits’ four point victories this weekend would make things interesting at the top of the Championship table and almost certainly keep the Monarchs out of the playoffs to boot.
I will have had my fix of contemporary and interpretative dance at the matinee of Shobana’s masterpiece but once the dust settles at Shielfield it’s all over to the Black and Gold where the Supporters Club is hosting a 1980s Disco in aid of Berwick Cancer Cars.
All of those competing across the car park are too young to remember the 80s – indeed many of their parents will only just squeak it – but the opportunity to see Norman Clark dressed as Ronald Reagan, Kenny Tait’s Gorbachev and Viv Dempsey as Mrs T dancing the night away to Depeche Mode, Duran Duran and Def Leppard alongside Neil Stephenson’s Michael Jackson tribute cannot be missed.
DISCLAIMER: Please be aware that some of the information in this blog may be nuts. Please check before taking anything as gospel (apart from the Stars of Tomorrow bits). G Dodds, trading as Broken Down Old Journo Plc, who will be attending the disco as Rain Man, cannot be held responsible for anything.