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George Dodds's picture

I’m pumped, stoked, cock-a-hoop … all at the same time.
Truth is I’ve never really been one for hero worship; not a natural selfie taker with the stars; not easily impressed by the giants of track or field who, all too often, turn out to be nowhere near as interesting, exciting or even human as anticipated.
No real surprise I guess. The only actual prerequisite to being a sports’ star is that you’re good at sports.
It doesn’t follow that you have ground-breaking or even vaguely coherent views on combating world poverty, can eliminate knife crime, reverse global warming, get Middlesbrough promoted.
Truth be told quite a lot are complete and utter knobs – but very good at sport.
But some are not.
In case Mrs D happens upon these ramblings I would like to say here and now than in magnitude what happened this week is second only to the gloriousness of our wedding day (and winning the KO Cup in 1980 and 1989 – but I probably shouldn’t say that out loud).
… Doug Wyer became my friend.
Actually it’s Douglas Wyer these days and the friendship is on Facebook – but that takes no gloss off it all.
I’d like to think that Doug (or Douglas, I’m always happy to accommodate the needs of a legend) received my friend request and pondered briefly.
“Mmm Dodds – yep chubby young bugger (he’s from the Midlands you know), first spotted him under The Ducket at the end 1970 when I came up to Berwick. Made a lot of noise during my dominant 1971 season in Black and Gold, then for some reason appeared on the back straight at Sheffield during the late seventies with a dodgy home made scarf, air-horn and a pint of Stones Best Bitter – must have been a teenager by then, still a porky bugger though. Yup, worthy of my friendship.”
Although – despite a life-long conviction which means that I still believe every August that this will be the year Newcastle United win something in my lifetime suggesting otherwise – I am not naïve.
The Flyer’s acceptance was probably more along the line of “Another batch of 20 friend requests today. Who? Dodds, well nothing obviously unpleasant, no criminal convictions, see a bit of Berwick in his profile, used to be a journalist – not so good – but extensively retrained to become a retail fulfilment enabler. OK he qualifies as Friend number 2,632 (18 mutual).”
Point is that whereas Toyah, Michael Schenker, Iron Maiden and Altered Images (come on, Clare Grogan … we all wanted to) provided the musical backing track to my progress from boy(ish) to man(ish), Doug Wyer was its speedway equivalent.
He was my first Shielfield-grown hero and when the family upped sticks and left Eastcliffe for South Yorkshire the nearest speedway track was Sheffield and, who should be leading the Tigers but … Doug Wyer.
Being a teenager in the late seventies and early eighties wasn’t a barrel of laughs. Puberty was a breeze for a generation which saw greedy unions bring down a Labour government – it would be 22 years until the next – only to be systematically and cynically decimated themselves by Thatcherism.
Great industries such as steel, shipbuilding, mining and printing were being ripped to shreds, villages, towns, regions consigned to the employment dustbin by a working-class-hating, money-grabbing elite chomping on cigars and drunk on grotesquely expensive port in their London and Home Counties mansions while the numbers they forced out of work were counted in the mid-millions.
The future looked bleak and quite frankly scary for someone in their mid-teens but every Thursday night Doug Wyer – in his white leathers, tasselled fringes flapping in the breeze – shot from the tapes at Owlerton and had invariably swept around the outside of the best riders in the world by the time he roared past me on the back straight.
For a couple of hours a week the world was a good place, a safe place. He was someone you could rely on.
Indeed I was convinced that it was only when Doug knew that I was heading for college, had mapped out my future; even worked out how to chat up girls that he knew his work was done at Sheffield and could sign for Halifax. With hindsight (good name for a programme column that, must have a word with the editor when he sobers up) I accept it is possible that there were other reasons for the move.
Our relationship has not all been plain sailing through – Doug did test my loyalty by signing for Edinburgh in the late eighties. However, fortunately I was by then trying to bring about the downfall of Mammon from within so it hurt less.
Although travelling to Powderhall during a holiday at the Berwick family pile to find Doug in Monarchs’ colours and Dick Barrie as Edinburgh announcer did provide confirmation that sometimes we slide between a parallel universe in which normal rules do not apply.
At least Doug led the Monarchs at Powderhall – it would have been a travesty to see such a majestic rider strutting his stuff at Armadump – which is where we head on Friday looking to wrap up Championship Shield qualification.
Not their fault I suppose as when the GRA sold the stadium for housing Shawfield was tried and failed so it was pretty much Armadale or nothing in the most spectacular piece of property portfolio downgrading since Audrey fforbes-Hamilton in To the Manor Born.
The Under-21s was a good old night. Ruthless Robert was, well Ruthless, Zach Wajt excellent, Dan Bewley has a way to go on his return from injury but can still pull a mean wheelie at the back while Jack Thomas and Tom Brennan showed a liking for Shielfield that will make their return with Leicester and Eastbourne respectively interesting and the next generation is looking rather good thank you very much.
But team racing is the bread and butter, provides the cut and thrust, yings our yang – especially when we are doing well.
Two wins this weekend would see us in the Shield semi-finals – one and a point from Armadale would almost certainly have the same effect.
Josh Bates (Friday) and Kyle Howarth (Saturday) replace NBJ who is riding in the Danish Championship.
Finally a word of apology to the fine men of Berwick Rugby Club.
Sorry lads I’m afraid I gave up on you halfway through the second-half of the livestream feed of your National Men’s Shield Final last Saturday, marking your performance as “good but not quite enough on the day”.
How was I to know that you would produce one of the great sporting comebacks of all time?
For those who don’t already know the Berwick lads – and as amateurs in a largely semi/pro sport they are still almost exclusively lads from the town and surrounding area who have come through the hugely impressive junior set-up – scored 45 unanswered points to first force the final against Greenock Wanderers into extra time and then win the damn thing.
The game is available to watch of the Scottish Rugby Union’s youtube channel. I suggest you do – maybe next Saturday when we have no home meeting because of the Speedway of Nations at Belle Vue – because even if your first reaction is “I don’t like rugby” you will after watching this game.
With the strong links between the Bandits and the Blacks it’s odds-on that we’ll see them parading the cup at Shielfield as soon as our worlds align and the Bandits are at home and the Berwick rugby heroes are not on league duty/tour/healing the sick/taking part in an open-limo ticker-tape parade through Scremerston.
A Berwick team has brought a national trophy back to the town.
Inspirational. Aspirational.
It would be good if my new friend Doug made it to Shielfield when two teams which hold him in such high esteem clash on Saturday – he wouldn’t even have to pay because as an ex-Bandit he’s entitled to free admission for life. He could come through the Season pass, disabled and concessions gate … but he might have to pose for a selfie.
Tapes-up 7pm.