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George Dodds's picture

By and large the quality of songs offered by your typical football fan leans more towards the Cheeky Girls than Pink Floyd for composition, insightfulness, political commentary, memorability, melody.
But, just occasionally, they hit the mark.
As they did one day many moons ago as I travelled on a train from Pembroke back to Manchester.
For some reason Wales had been playing Scotland in a football friendly that afternoon and the carriages became packed at Cardiff Central.
And – just as night follows day – the out of tune battle rap between Sospan Fach and Flower of Scotland descended into the traditional little country refrain of “We hate, England and we hate England”.
A popular choice it has to be said for most inhabitants of the train.
Except for a small corner of the carriage taken up by four squaddies and two house hunters.
To the tune of Blue Moon they accepted the gauntlet thrown down by the Scottish chappies and chappettes.
“Iran, you couldn’t beat Iran; the Faroes or Japan; you couldn’t beat my gran,” came a riposte which neatly encapsulated decades of Scottish football ignominy in a way that even Dave Gilmour would struggle to better.
How useful that Wherethehellisthataktzan – or whoever Alex McLeish’s boys lost to last weekend – seamlessly fits the song’s iambic pentameters and can be added as a second verse at will.
That afternoon me and Mrs D chanced a sneaky chuckle, although the Army Choir somewhat spoiled the ambience by reverting to unlikely orifice insertions of daffodils and leeks as a riposte to the Welsh brethren.
However, rather like Sunderland AFC, Scottish football remains the Winter comedy gift that just keeps on giving.
But, finally, we can put interest in the round ball to bed because it’s speedway time again.
Almost six months to the day after the Bordernapolis closed the 2018 season at Shielfield it opens the 2019 version of Summer Saturdays at Seven.
That’s two nights after the Magnificent Seven and the Academy Aces go through their paces on Press and Practice night and then toddle over to the Black and Gold for a spot of public speaking, meeting of fans and selfie opportunities. Action starts at 6.30 that night.
I’ve said more than once that I feared that opening night 2019 would never happen and, to a large degree, ensuring that opening night 2020 is a foregone conclusion starts here.
Obviously attracting enough people through the turnstiles every Saturday to balance the books would be ideal, steering the management towards potential new sponsors and identifying candidates for Neil Stephenson’s hospitality extravaganza does no harm either.
The new promoting trio of Courtney J, Flint and Dews have put together an intriguing field for opening night.
At the head is the seven who will be pushing for Championship glory in Bandits’ colours this season.
Matty Wethers made the podium in last year’s event and will be looking to get a sly dial-in of track conditions before returning with the Diamonds the following week.
Ty Proctor bids to follow in the tyretracks of Kyle Howarth by taking the trophy back to Sheffield, Nico Covatti, Kyle Bickley and Luke Ruddick get a bit of impromptu practice before arriving with their respective clubs later in the season, James Sarjeant will probably give the start-line team an early season workout while Theo Pijper and the latest Aussie wunderkid Josh MacDonald hang their “This Gun’s for Hire” shingle in the pits as they bid to find a British ride for the new season.
All in all a decent looking field and one that suggests that most of the heats have a pretty open and competitive edge to them as 16 bid to become a semi-final eight and then four of the best for the final.
All in all the recipe for a good night’s racing to get season 52 off and running.
And then there’s the sub-plots.
Bickley, Ruddick and Flint cross swords in a mini competition for the best northern reserve trophy with MacDonald an interested outsider; Covatti and Garcia stage the Italian-Argentinian Championship; Gappmaier and Jacobsen contest the Austro-Dansk Trophy and there’s a helluva lot of competition for the Skippy Cup.
Other potential excitement includes David Howe forgetting what his new role and completing four laps after being sent out to warm up NBJ’s second bike – outgating Jye Etheridge in the process – how many hoodies and scarves Steve Hayward can squeeze under his flat cap on the centre green and whether I can break a 52-year duck with the half-time raffle.
Since the Courtney boys took over the club there has been changes both on and off track, their investment in the likes of stadium branding, opening of The Ducket Bar and so forth giving Shielfield the feel that it is home to The Bandits on a Saturday night – rather than just speedway taking place at Berwick Rangers’ ground.
Often, as with The Ducket, they have gone back to the future as it were and so it will be for those of us of a certain age this season.
What used – pre-Berrington days – to be the tea-bar as you came through the main turnstiles has been renovated to become … the tea bar as you enter the ground near the main turnstiles. So farewell to what has been an impressive array of burger vans since our return to Shielfield.
Next door what once upon a time was a first aid room which would not have looked out of place downstairs from Sweeney Todd’s hair emporium, is our new club shop.
There’s even talk of pop-up box offices, media teams and baked potatoes.
Oh and season pass holders get in for nowt on Saturday – everyone does on Thursday.
Gentlemen start your engines … Scottish footballers search for English relatives.