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George Dodds's picture

Houston we have a problem …
Not on the track where everything is finer and dandier, hunkier and dorier, fandabier and dozier than at any time over the past decade and a half.
Shielfield is a veritable fortress – we’ve won 16 or the last 18 fixtures on home shale – the league’s biggest and wealthiest have come and been conquered over the past season and a dibble.
For the first time in 15 years we have qualified for the knockout stages of a competition and done it in some style.
For goodness sake we are even in a position where not winning at Edinburgh is a real irritation rather than a meh moment.
Indeed Bandits’ fans are approaching away meetings, Birmingham on Wednesday being the next one, with a realistic expectation of victory or at least a point – not a situation that many of us of a certain vintage are too familiar with.
Success is being achieved in style too.
Before our eyes we are seeing home town hero and one of Britain’s top teenage talents, Leon Flint, growing in stature match by match, Kev Doolan rolling back the years, super cool Aaron Summers rising to the challenge of holding onto the number one race jacket under pressure from the increasingly confident Dane Nicolaj Busk Jacobsen, Coty Garcia rattling in the points at reserve, Jye Etheridge battling to push on to the next level and the Gappmaier twins – doughnut hero Home Dany and the somewhat less exuberant On-the-road Dany.
They’re a tight bunch, an approachable bunch – they like nothing better than celebrating their latest victory posing for pictures with their young – and some not so young – fans in the main stand after heat 15.
Professional, popular, approachable, delivering a brand of brash, battling and confident speedway much to the liking of the fans.
They should be heroes.
But this success is not being reflected by the bottom line – bums on posh seats, feet on the terraces, ballet pumps on the third bend grass banking.
We should be packing them in. We should be the talk of the town but it is just not happening.
We’ve built it but, as yet, they are not coming – or at least not in the sort of numbers that pay the bills.
Perhaps the brothers Courtney got it wrong as our erstwhile fellow tenants at Shielfield have come up with a ground-breaking approach to sending attendance figures into the stratosphere.
Berwick Rangers have taken the opposite approach to the Bandits’ bosses and recruited a god-awful bunch of players and management which gives rag-tag and bobtail a bad name and stand on the brink of disappearing from the Scottish League altogether.
They have one last chance to climb aboard the life-raft so obligingly supplied by their fellow senior clubs – a two-legged relegation playoff against Highland League hopefuls Cove.
They go into it on the back of six consecutive defeats, one win in nine with just a couple of paltry additional draws spanning back 20 games – the polar opposite of the dominating Bandits.
Which has seen local businessmen rallying around the, seemingly lost, cause and a huge spike in attendances.
Last time out just short of a thousand watched the Rangers unlock the trapdoor and lower themselves into the mouth of the hatch by losing at home to the one team who seemed to have the ability to be worse than Berwick this season – Albion Rovers, giving the club coffers a timely boost in the process.
On the afternoon before our next home meeting – Sheffield on the 18th – that attendance is expected to be dwarfed. Indeed even if the Wee Gers manage to cock it up in this weekend’s first leg it is likely that many will be attracted to the “wake”.
Nothing, it seems, succeeds like a lack of success.
Jealous, green-eyed, annoyed?
Yup, yup, and yup with knobs on.
When, having flirted with disaster for years now, it looked as if the football club was finally about to fall on its sword the rallying cry went up to “back them or lose them”.
Didn’t see or hear the same cry when it looked odds-on that the Bandits would go out of business at the end of last season – not even from elements of the club’s self-styled most dedicated supporters.
Jamie Courtney stepped forward and surprised many by being willing to have another go at running professional speedway and keeping it on an even keel in a town with less than 13,00 inhabitants and no more than 25,000 in touching distance.
With a rather more realistic budget than the round ball brigade he put together a team capable of bringing silverware to Shielfield.
The people of the town need to know that they can support success rather than monetise failure.
We need to tell them.
So this week’s task, dear reader, as we break for the Speedway of Nations qualifier at Belle Vue is to use fair means or foul – fowl if you happen to work in a food preparation facility – to spread the Bandits’ gospel, get them along to Shielfield for the visit of Sheffield and keep them coming back as King Kev’s Bandits’ Army goes for glory on all fronts in 2019.
If necessary invoke the spirit of a Bandits’ legend and use your elbows like Granty to give neighbours a nudge, point your workmates in the right direction and let the holidaymakers – especially the Scots – that beer is served at English prices and if you’re a Liverpool fan you can come and taste what glory is all about.
The blips in our home record were a draw and a defeat, both at the hands of Workington Comets who were rather successful on-track in 2018 but disastrous where it matters – in the profit and loss column.
The work to ensure history cannot repeat itself starts here.
I’ve appointed myself Sheriff – you are all hereby deputised to fight this just fight.
Go geddum partners.