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George Dodds's picture

I’m not here.

Physically that is – mentally the allegation has been made on more than one occasion, in more than one town, many cities, a couple of countries.
As you read this I’m cruising down the Mekon river.

Behind are the temples of Akhtor and Phnom Phen, ahead lies Ho Chi Mihn City and Hanoi.

I’ll be honest here and admit that when, a couple of years ago, BSI announced that they were looking at exciting expansion plans for the Grand Prix’s that I gambled on south-east Asia.

Instead it turned out to be another meeting in Poland but we’d already booked the tickets and so here I am.

After seeing Lenin in Moscow last year I’m now looking forward to viewing the body of Ho Chi Mihn. I believe they are already pickling Fidel Castro so it will probably be cigars all round next year as I continue my world tour of great, dead, embalmed, tourist attracting communist leaders.

They may have made the trains run on time but would they have made sense of the SCB Management Committee or come up with a workable average converter between Championship and Premiership?

Obviously I am in touch with all the happenings back home via Facebook, twitter and Speedway Updates but the time difference is playing havoc with sleep patterns so it’s all a bit fluffy.

But I would like to take this opportunity to nail, once and for all, the rumour – probably started on the British Speedway Forum – that I was next in line to solve the Bandits’ injury crisis.

Even more hurtful is the suggestion that I had to be ruled out on the grounds that there wasn’t enough spare Kevlar in the world to make a racesuit that would fit me.

Now I realise that in what has been a wretched season so far results-wise missing a couple of meetings could leave me a hostage to fortune.

In a previous life as a rugby league reporter I covered the mighty Rochdale Hornets who, flush with the cash from selling their ground to Morrisons, had surprised everyone and won promotion to the old First Division in season 1990/1.

For the first time in donkey’s years they were facing the might of Wigan, Leeds and Widnes – household names in the days when the sport was a staple of Grandstand.

To say it didn’t go well would be an understatement.

Despite paying huge amounts of money, including a World record fee for a prop forward, they won just once in 26 games – one of only two games that I didn’t report on.

In the same division Hornets – whose former stadium had been the early stomping ground of a teenage Peter Collins – faced Sheffield Eagles who had swapped Owlerton for the more salubrious surroundings of the Don Valley Stadium, former tracks at Hull’s Boulevard and Bradford and Hull KR’s new ground which would go on to stage speedway a decade or so later.

Indeed it was the West Yorkshire side which gave Hornets their only victory of the season – at the fifth attempt.

In those days the two rugby codes were still at loggerheads – professional league being looked down upon by union – although by this stage the supposed amateur status of union players was a matter of some debate and not a little embarrassed coughing, spluttering changing the subject.

Whether by accident or design the Rochdale union club was staging a “legends” match between England and Wales just down the road.

Assigned to cover it despite recognising none of the “star” names which, in fairness, had attracted a couple of thousand union aficionados, I did what I had to do and hot-footed it to Spotland in time to see the second-half of the league match and Hornets’ triumph.

Management, board members players and supporters were unanimous in their verdict. The problem was not poor recruitment, lousy tactics or under-performing players but simply the fact that Dodds was a Jonah.

And so the call went up for my writer replacement that afternoon to be given the gig on a more permanent basis.

I was happy to play along – not necessarily because I believed it was true but because the next fixture was at Featherstone – a mangy mongrel’s kennel of a place at the best of times but especially depressing just a few years after the miner’s strike.

As it happened Hornets reverted to type, got hammered and I was back in the press box as they went on a 21-game losing streak.

They shipped 50 points in most of those games, three times over 70, and the letters poured in to my newspaper office – wanting me sacked for not being “positive” enough about the club’s performances.
They were heartfelt pleas – using CAPITAL letters and multiple under-linings, some in green pen, to make the point.

Unfortunately my editor stood firm and made me see out the season. Damn him.

So if in my absence the mighty Bandits go on a winning streak I expect nothing less and hope that Scott and Gary are similarly united when the calls for my sacking, led by the third bend mafia and the posh seats grows louder and louder.

Now it’s off kayaking on the amusingly named Titiov Island – give the lads an extra cheer for me when the Diamonds land on Saturday.