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George Dodds's picture

It is well documented that in the era of the Two Brothers Bandits’ heavy rock of choice was provided by AC/DC.
That provided access to an excellent and extensive playlist and the 2018 squad’s rendition of Highway to Hell at the end of season bash is currently being tweaked ready for download where it will feature alongside Aaron Summers and the 2018 Rye House Rockets singing “Money, money money (where is it?), Workington’s triple winning septet’s rendition of Saturday night’s all right for fighting … but not racing if there’s footie or GP on the telly while Matt Ford and the Pirates’ have tweaked the Judas Priest classic and retitled it “Bendin the Laws”.
There’s even a sing-along version of “If I only had a brain”. I’ve heard it, it sounds very familiar, I'm sure I've served them at The Ducket Bistro and Grill but I can’t quite put a name to the voice. Answers on the back of a £50 note c/o STARS, Berwick Speedway, Shielfield Park.
However, there was no place in the final cut for Iron Maiden’s 1984 Epic “Two minutes to midnight”.
Like many of Maiden’s best the track was not just headbangers’ heaven but a protest against the ramping up of the Cold War by American and Russian political hawks and defence industry lobbyists.
The title comes from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ infamous Doomsday Clock, a physical manifestation of how close the world stands to nuclear annihilation at any given moment.
Set at 23:48 by the thermonuclear boffins (12 minutes to midnight for those Brexiteers who only deal in 12-hour clocks, imperial measurement and demand that their benefits are paid in groats) the clock has only twice crept to 12:58 – in the 1950s when the superpowers were testing bombs on what seemed like a daily basis and last year when Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-ung traded the sort of childish insults rarely seen outside a British Speedway Forum “debate”.
The world was effectively on the edge of obliteration ... which in many ways reflected my mood about the future of Berwick speedway following Jamie and Scott’s decision to put it on the market a month or so ago.
While we had been there before and everything had turned out alright in the end, this felt different. More dangerous. The clock was ticking.
Would this finally be the crisis that no-one came forward to solve; to sink their money into subsidising our Saturday night entertainment?
After all compared to most of speedway we are a tiny town with an equally sparsely populated catchment area, lacking the big wealthy local businesses prepared to splash their sponsorship pounds on the Borders’ top crowd-pulling sport. Hell we don’t even have a supporters organisation dedicated to raising funds with the sole aim of helping the owners make ends meet.
For 51 seasons Berwick has found a way of making it to the tapes – sometimes only just – but in 2018 the Shielfield Doomsday Clock seemed to be moving a little faster and much louder. For what it’s worth my guess is that it was somewhere around 12:59… and 30 seconds.
So you can imagine my relief when a notification popped up on the old smartphone telling me that Jamie Courtney has decided to go it alone and run the Bandits as a Championship side in 2019.
The good news arrived just as I was being shoehorned into a wetsuit before a snorkelling session around a place called Kicker Rock – a lump of pumice in the middle of the Pacific Ocean somewhere west of the Galapagos Islands.
The joy at speedway’s survival at the end of my street came as a timely boost amid somewhat fanciful but not entirely unfounded fears that I could be mistaken for an especially juicy and filling seal meal deal by any short-sighted black tipped sharks cruising the area on the lookout for a mid-morning snack.
Obviously I fully get the younger brother bit of Jamie’s decision to keep the Bandits on track.
The youngest in a family is inevitably the most intelligent, best looking. talented and driven. We also tend to have a belligerence honed by rarely being allowed to bat in backyard cricket, getting shoved in goal during football shooting practice, providing the the focus for late and high tackles in rugby hit-outs and forced to risk life and limb hanging off the back of home-made bogies.
But we also – often begrudgingly it must be said – appreciate the efforts of big brothers who pave the way and flatten some of the bumps in life to make our road a little easier when our time comes.
Scott was the very visible face of Berwick speedway for the past three years, grafting behind the scenes to raise sponsorship, fill team berths, cover injuries, attract new fans, smooth the ruffled feathers of old ones, run the show, run the team, take the brickbats and the occasional praise while trying to balance the books, in partnership with Jamie as co-owners for the past two.
Oh and he fulfilled a long-held dream of building a training facility for future talent in the north and Scotland with the opening of the Grant Henderson Tankers Academy at Duns.
Now the baton has passed and on Sunday evening Jamie will unveil his solo vision for 2019 and beyond when the Black and Gold hosts a Fans Forum from 5pm.
No doubt he will have news on team building, sponsorship opportunities and how the STARS initiative – launched towards the end of 2018 – can expand to allow those supporters who want to donate over and above their admission fee directly towards securing the short-term and underpinning the long-term future of speedway at Shielfield Park.
The Doomsday Clock that so nearly blew up in our faces has been reset but it still needs to be wound way back – somewhere around 19:00 would be good.
As Bruce (Dickinson rather than Cribb) and the boys would say: Let Aces be High, The Man Who Would Be King will lead us to the promised land and deal with Public Enema Number One.
So don’t Run to the Hills, meet the new boss on Sunday night and learn what 2019 has in store.
Season 52 starts here.