It would be fair to say that Ben Barker (back at Berwick this Saturday) isn’t everybody’s favourite Cornish pasty.
His career, ever since he pushed a bike out for the long-gone Telaweny Pitbulls in 2003, has been, er, chequered.
Spattered with highs – as early as 2006 he was third in the British U-18 Championship (above him were Lewis Bridger and runner-up Tai Woffinden) – and a few lows as well.
But love him or loathe him, people want to watch him – which is why we’ll all have our eyes wide open as he returns this weekend as a Redcar Bear.
He’s a rider who can sometimes show all the urgency of a sloth on ketamine.
But when he’s ‘on the gas’ – oh mercy. Watching Benjamin when things are right really has to be done with hands spread in front of the eyes.
He can be a one-man roller-coaster of excitement to rival anything at Alton Towers.
His commitment to the sport is also noteworthy. The only ever-present at every BenFund Bonanza and a regular at any Testimonial he’s invited to (and guaranteed to turn up, too) riding in such ‘free’ events every bit as hard and fast as he might in the biggest of big-money meetings.
When we announced his signing as a Bandit for the 2015 term of trading, flabbers were gasted from West Lothian to West Row, from Pumpherston to Penzance.
Being Ben, he produced some great performances in black-and-gold. He’s brave, and wouldn’t run even if you said “Theresa May is coming” but getting consistency out of the chubby wee barrel was sometimes like trying to nail jelly to a tree.
But he crashed out in that season’s British Final and that was that. As we understood his back injuries were to sideline him for the rest of the year we brought in Coty Garcia – only for Ben to make a remarkable recovery, and sign up for Peterborough in one of the Panthers’ now-annual “sign a big star and collapse” efforts to win something…….
Ironically, we dropped Ben because we thought he wouldn’t be back, but retained the also-injured Claus Vissing as we were continually being told he was on the point of getting fit, although he wasn’t! Ho hum.
However, that was then and this is now.
Last Saturday, at the KD/DO, Ben quite simply stole the show. Racing from the back – especially in Heats 11 and 13 – he had everyone buzzing, in the pits as well as in the stand.
When I heard he’d been drafted into Monday night’s British Final to replace Lewis B, I thought that – if wee Ben is in the same kind of mood he was in on Saturday, some of Rosco’s fortunate sons might have to watch out……
And the rest is…..
Something snooker players use when they can’t reach their balls!
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