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George Dodds's picture

Red and white flag – check; pierogi and kielbasa stew on simmer – check; words to the Polish national anthem memorised – check; dawaj #692 t-shirt ordered – check; Matej Kus – Czech.
As John F Kennedy would have said, had the 31st President of the United States been a British speedway fan: “Ich bin ein Patryk Dudek fan”.
Well at least until he gets enough points to ensure a top eight place in the GP series which ensures his automatic participation in next year’s global championship.
Because if, surely when, that happens Dudek’s top three placing in last Saturday’s GP Challenge becomes moot and the fourth placed rider in Togliatti qualifies for next year’s GP – one Craig William Cook.
Patryk has only raced once at Shielfield when, on the way to the 2013 World under-21 Championship, the man from Bydgoscz finished fourth on a night of racing which, in the view of many of us in attendance that night, has never been surpassed in our 50 seasons.
He was full of praise for Shielfield and the fans that night.
Mr Cook has been a far more regular visitor – he’s not quite as cuddly or universally loved, especially by the Ultras on the Curva Terza, and has been rather critical of our fine raceway in the past. He has declared that it’s impossible to overtake here – despite doing it himself on more than one occasion.
But he is British, has been knocking on the GP door for a couple of years now and no-one – including Patryk Dudek – has ever ridden Shielfield faster.
Cookie is also that rare beast in modern speedway – a rider who actually puts bums on seats and feet on the ground when he visits and sends Twitter and the messageboards into meltdown with some of his less well considered rants and tantrums.
It also means that there should be three British riders in next year’s British GP, adding an extra edge to the British Final for a Brit wannabe – I’m assuming the points’ money on offer is so low that Rory Schlein wishes it to reside alongside the Championship Fours in the BSPA anatomy.
Let’s hope so because there’s going to be enough whinging Aussies after the cricket Ashes without RS being allowed into the British qualifying rounds again.
Cook’s reception at Shielfield has been, ahem, mixed in the past but come Saturday I think he should be given the standing ovation and genuine appreciation that any Brit who has grafted his way through the ranks to the pinnacle of the sport deserves. If nothing else it might catch him off guard and un-nerve him for heat one!
News of Craig’s achievements in Togliatti began to filter through as last Saturday’s epic encounter over Scunthorpe was simmering, ready to come to the boil.
Two wins in a row is not threatening any club records yet – but even Arsenal’s invincibles were once at the stage of having simply won back-to-back matches – just saying!
The victory over the Scorpions was a truly memorable speedway meeting, one of those rare occasions when each of the 15 heats had at least one talking point to it; a night when everyone went home from the terraces and the posh seats well and truly entertained.
Indeed the only ones who didn’t get full value for their money were some of the riders on show – Jack Parkinson-Blackburn, Josh Bailey and Tero Aarnio in particular getting ridiculously meagre points’ returns for their efforts on the night to offset the repair bills to man and machine.
It was a night when reaching the first bend in front made you a target rather than favourite to take the chequered flag and it has to be said that it was largely the Scorpion boys who succeeded when taking to the high, wide lines.
Michael Palm Toft, Josh Auty and Lewis Kerr showed why there is rarely a dull moment when they are in town.
This meeting may have been between the two teams at the foot of the Championship pile but it was top table entertainment from both sets of riders.
With elbows flying, feet flicking and handbags a-waving it was a night when King Kev and his battling Bandits worked hard for their points and had the bruises to show for their efforts.
More than once the on-tack action left those of us in the stands speechless but it was electrical gremlins that did the same for Roy Clarke.
But it takes more than a loose connection or two to silence the Bard of the Centre Green who added to the 2017 memory bank by galloping across the pitch and bellowed to the back straight that it was “all four back” after the spectacular coming together of the two number ones in heat 13.
He then pinched Kenny’s mini-megaphone, sparking threat of mutiny that only ended when the men with the screwdrivers managed to change whatever plug had come undone.
While every rider on show had their moments there was one who stood head and shoulders over them all.
Nick Morris became the first Bandits for almost three years to finish a meeting unbeaten by the opposition.
Skipper Doolan was the only man to head his young compatriot home as the Morris man had us all dancing for joy and clacking our percussion sticks with his perfect haul – the first Bandit to do so since Kus’s 20+1 effort against Redcar on August 30, 2014.
As he was sent airborne by team-mates and management, given the traditional “bumps” at the end of heat 15, I surely wasn’t the only one beginning to lick my lips at the prospect of Nick and Cookie going head to head this Saturday night.
As a “GP rider elect” Cookie is suddenly an even bigger scalp to be head-hunted between now and the end of the season.
Kev, David Howe, Jye, Gap and JP will all have him set firmly in their sights but, with all due respect to them, those two – in all likelihood three – clashes between Nick and CC promise to provide something extra special.
It could also prove to be the last chance for Berwick fans to provide their traditional warm welcome to the Cumbrian as, presumably, the strains of GP and Premiership racing next season will make it unlikely that he will be doubling up in 2018.
Let’s not forget that the Comets also include Thomas Jorgensen – as popular a Bandit as any over the past few seasons – Ty Proctor and James Sergeant, all of whom have scored well at the Stade de Borders in previous visits.
Or that we have already beaten Workington at home this season.
It deserves a huge audience and the only way to see it live is to be there at 7pm on Saturday night.