George Dodds's picture

At the third attempt … hopefully wagons will roll and speedway’s favourite Tigers will finally open the 51st season of speedway for Berwick’s Bandits.
Look at the wise sages of t’interwebbysphere and last week’s rain-off against Edinburgh was a foregone conclusion and the decision should probably have been made on Thursday/Friday/Saturday morning (delete as applicable).
Of course there is no reason for them to know, indeed care, about the efforts that went into trying to defeat the elements. They just want to pay their money at the turnstiles on a Saturday night, be entertained and go home.
No problem there … the more the merrier.
But from Thursday night the track staff had lovingly rolled, scraped, painted and packed the track. The covers army was called to the front once more on Saturday morning, albeit restricted to covering both bends by Berwick Rangers’ latest bid to defy monumental odds and actually manage to allow Cowdenbeath to crawl out of the relegation play-off spot.
They were back to roll them up again when the final whistle blew on another footie disaster – a game which didn’t take place according to the back page of this week’s Advertiser (“Trusted News since 1808”) - and then helped Razor and his tractor team scrape the surface off the sodden straights in a bid to find dry shale.
There was even time to divert and drag Granty’s sinking burger van out of the car park clart.
Sadly the drizzle just would not stop and the call came about 6.30pm that we had suffered our second successive rain-off.
The crew were then back at the stadium on Sunday drying out covers and relaying the shale in an effort to put everything back in place to start the build-up again to make sure that everything is in top shape for this weekend.
To see that dismissed as: “Should have just called it off earlier” must have raised a few danders – once the mud had been washed off them.
So much goes on behind the scenes at our club.
Don’t believe me? Well tell me, hand on heart, that you weren’t surprised to read Monday’s announcement that Shielfield Park will stage the final of the British Under-21 Championship on May 1.
Birmingham were initially slated in to host the event but when things went wrong in the Midlands Scott and Jamie stepped up and took on the running of the final.
T’interwebby exploded.
Many welcomed the decision to give the event to our young, vibrant promotion but many others bemoaned the fact that they would have to travel if they wanted to see Messrs Lambert, Bewley – and hopefully Flint and Ruddick – battling for a trophy which has been raised by, among others, Peter Collins, Michael Lee, Kenny Carter, Mark Loram, Tai Woffinden, David Howe and Mark Courtney over the years.
In effect they face the same decision/problem of every Berwick, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Workington and Redcar/Middlesbrough supporter since the event was first staged – three qualifying heats and a final, won by Graham Plant at Wimbledon in 1969 – hit the road or miss out.
The final did venture north once – in 2000 – and Mr Howe will still talk you through, lap by lap, the night he stood atop the podium flanked by runner-up Lee Richardson and Paul Lee – to Edinburgh but between 1972 and 1985 the event was run at Canterbury normally on a Saturday night.
Indeed when Mark Courtney lifted the title at Kingsmead in 1980, almost 400 miles north the Bandits were hammering Canterbury in a British league match at Shielfield.
Stoke (a 470-mile round trip from the Borders), Eastbourne (over 800), Wimbledon (700 plus), Long Eaton (450), Ipswich (680), Kings Lynn (550), Lakeside (700), Peterborough (500), Rye House (650), Wolverhampton (500), Coventry ((540), Leicester (250) and Poole (830) have all held the final since the Kent track was finally silenced by local residents in the mid-80s.
With all the northern teams fully committed to junior racing and the success of training tracks at Northside and Duns hinting at a bright future for the sport in this area there is an opportunity for fans from the real north to pack the stands and terraces on May 1 and show those who begin to suffer altitude sickness north of Sheffield how it should be done.
But first, weather permitting, it’s those pesky Tigers – Bomber, Richie Claus and all, tapes up at 7pm.