With hindsight the warning signs were all there.
Indeed Ranting Roy – or as his devoted Brough Park public know him Agent Clarke, beloved leader of the Fossway Revolutionary Popular Front (formerly the Democratic Insurgency Against Meddling Oligarchs and Notional Devolution on Stotties) – gave us a sneak preview of how it was going to go down.
In keeping with history’s other great Guerilla leaders: Lenin, Nelson Mandela, Robert Mugabe, Che Guevara, Matt Ford – his message was coded and has taken a team of highly trained Bandits fans – the monkeys were on a belated Easter break at Centre Parcs – almost a week to crack.
Something along the lines of: “former Bandit” Carl Wilkinson, ex-Bandit Tero Aarnio, “two spells as a Bandit” Matty Wethers, “had a successful time at Shielfield in 2011” Ludvig Lundgren, “often filled in for the Bandits during last year’s injury crisis” Ashley Morris.
What the great orator was actually telling us was that Newcastle arrived with a side far more experienced around Shielfield than half the home team.
What he kept to himself was that they had been locked in darkened rooms all week using speedway starting procedure simulators.
They flew from the gate in pairs and young Hayley was in danger of developing the manual scoreboard operator’s equivalent of barmaid’s biceps as the points piled up on the right-hand side and trickled in on the left.
Some reached for the drink, others grasped at straws as HMS Bandits thundered towards the Tyne Tweed Trophy iceberg.
A late change of course saw it dealt a glancing blow rather than the head-on collision threatened for much of Saturday night. As our website match report pointed out we actually “won” the last five heats 21-9, so if only we had raced over 19 heats …..
Well straw suitably snatched and inserted in post-match pina colada and brown sauce added to humble pie.
Doom-mongers naysayed on T’interwebbynet, Redcar fans gloated, Glasgow fans rubbed their eyes in disbelief.
Redcar fans were gloating somewhat less 24 hours later when Roy, resplendent in the FRPF urban combat fatigues currently on sale from all good Brough Park track shop outlets – a fetching little grey number straight from Joey Boswell’s market stall in Birkenhead – steered the Diamonds to another thumping win, this time over the Bears.
NBJ made a significant contribution to the Diamonds score on Sunday, suggesting that all may not be lost in the battle for the TinPot, whenever the second leg is finally staged.
It has been a busy week for our Great Dane as he also filled the injured Stuart Robson’s Kevlars for Rye House at Belle Vue on Monday night, lining up alongside Aaron Summers for the Rockets and facing Jye Etheridge in the Aces side. Rather more spectacularly our pair of heat-leaders steered Rye House to an unanticipated victory over Wolverhampton on Wednesday night.
Such is the lot of a modern professional speedway rider – here today, somewhere else for someone else tomorrow.
Often frustrated Bandits fans have been able to take solace from the efforts of our flourishing junior set-up.
And so it turned out last weekend with Leon Flint leading the way with a stunning maximum for Birmingham at Stoke while the first team floundered.
Brilliant we thought, but actually it was just a warm-up for his 16 points against Kent at Perry Bar on Wednesday night.
Kieran Douglas was also in action, paid for 11 points from two tough National League Cup ties for Buxton against the very strong looking Belle Vue Colts.
They were probably exempt from the compulsory extra training announced by boss man Scott Courtney this week – although I suspect they wanted to be there anyway.
After a long winter, extended by a soggy spring, we can now gorge on speedway with three meetings in seven days at Shielfield and a trip to Edinburgh tomorrow night.
Locally it begins with the visit of Lakeside on Saturday – and hopefully Roy will gloss over the fact that ex-Bandit Nick Morris leads the nearest we have to a London side in speedway these days and that Richard Lawson helped us out a number of times during our injury crisis last season – and ends with Workington’s visit on Saturday week.
In between the Comets’ new local hero Dan Bewley will take his place in the British under-21 Final on Tuesday night.
Messrs Douglas, Flint and indeed Ruddick will have their eyes on the prize in years to come but this year will see the in-form Bewley start as favourite alongside defending champion Robert Lambert.
All start at 7pm.
Finally if any Sunderland fan needs help for 2018/19 football season I am happy to share my 20 years’ experience as a sports reporter in the North West and provide them with detailed road maps to help them find the grounds of their new chums at Accrington Stanley, Rochdale, Oldham, Blackpool, Bury and the likes.
If they are really lucky they’ll draw Tranmere away in the Checkatrade Trophy – now that would be a good night out for the Makem Megastars!
With hindsight the warning signs were all there.