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George Dodds's picture

Forget the Perfect 10 the Bandits need to find the Divine49 … twice.
49 points at Perry Bar tonight (Wednesday), 49 at Ashfield (Saturday) equals eight league points, 37 in total from 20 Championship meetings – one more than current final play-off place filler Somerset who completed their campaign within the cut-off date originally set at the start of the season. One point more than Redcar currently have but the Bears have two more meetings to race – although third place is conceivably up for grabs.
Seems so simple doesn’t it?
It all begins tonight in the Second City – get it wrong and it ends tonight – but with little Ben again filling the boots of Aaron at number one we travel full of confidence.
And why not – after all Super Saturday certainly lived up to its name on and off track.
Depending how old you are it joins opening night 1968, Ivan’s Bordernapolis 1975, KO Cup 1980, Luff opening 1982, KO Cup 1989, Re-opening night 1996, Peterborough Fours 2012 as “I was there” moments.
Perhaps the club can design a special T-shirt and we can gather for an Andersons lamb pie and coffee before each meeting.
Anyone who was also at the 2002 Fours win trumps me I’m afraid. Steve McDermott and Nick Morris’ Riders’ titles make a strong bid for inclusion – but I’ll see them and play Wayne Brown, Wimbledon 1980.
Great nights in the club’s history, great nights to be part of, atmospheres that still live in the memory when little else makes it.
People will tell you that you rarely get that sort of night anymore in British speedway. Truth is that you never did, they were always rare – that’s one of the reasons they are so memorable.
But Saturday night showed that there is still nothing better than a night out at Shielfield with a big crowd roaring on a Bandits victory over the nearest and dearest.
It was a brave move to stage a double header involving Edinburgh and Glasgow – especially with so many coming through the turnstiles holding rain-off tickets from previous attempts to stage the meetings. For once – possibly the first time this season – the weather played ball with not a sniff of rain all day, allowing everyone to concentrate on the big night.
You don’t always get to choose how you deal the cards but, with hindsight, the fact that Edinburgh provided the hors d’oeuvres rather than the main course was perfect.
Thank goodness for Ed the Monarch – virtually the only one in blue and gold to head back up the A1 having enhanced his reputation. If only they’d shown the fight of one of their female acolytes who visited Helen’s back straight bistro and bar in search of liquid refreshment at a point when reinforcements had arrived behind the serving hatch.
As she demanded my head still hangs in shame, I absolutely should have known better and I am an utter disgrace but, in defence, when the Bovril’s gone, the Bovril’s gone.
The Moanarchs, who had been pretty ordinary here in the Shield weren’t even that good on Saturday. Beating Sam Masters is still worth having on your CV but even he only managed to take the chequered flag twice; the number of in-race retirements by his team-mates generally underlining their lack of effort and the double time exclusion and effort to reinvent the, admittedly sometimes fluid, rules of speedway laughable.
Jye, of course, made hay while the sun shines and rattled in the second paid maximum of his Bandits’ career against a team which, for some reason lost in the mist of time, seems to inspire him.
The last man to get a genuine full-house (ie not paid) was, fortunately spinning the spanners in his pits – although I’m sure Mr Howe is far too modest to have mentioned it.
Our joy was matched by that of the assembled Tigers, especially on the back straight, who were having a gargle and getting the vocal chords loosened.
A disappointingly large number of our Edinburgh visitors decided to make an early departure – echoes of Rugby League’s infamous Wigan Walk which sees fans of a previously all-conquering team head for the exits when anyone had the temerity to beat them. Well to add to their rubbish night they missed a speedway classic.
From the moment that the Cookie monster raced from the starting gate in heat one to the moment he stood at the pits gate viewing the carnage caused by his heat 15 lunge up the inside of Jye it was speedway – for that matter – sport at its finest.
On-track it was hard, at times bordering on brutal, on the terraces the atmosphere just ramped up and up.
Slightly worrying for the home support in the early stages was that – unlike the warm-up act – the headliners had some serious talent up-front, Vissing and Jensen (R ) capable of supporting the lead singer with audience-pleasing solos of their own.
Not to put too fine a point of it, while the Bandits were keeping it tight we weren’t really banging in the heat wins and, away from home at least this season, that has proved costly.
Cometh the hour, cometh the Argentinian-Italian. Our super six teamed up with first Jye and then Dany for back-to-back mid-meeting 5-1s to open up a seven point gap. Could you hear the drums Fernando? Well no – someone had left it at home but the third bend was pretty raucous, the back straight tumultuous and the posh seats rattling their pearls.
Jensen R and tac sub Cook brought us back to earth in the following heat but we still had a vital cushion.
Jye was flying and it was obvious that our hopes lay on the still somewhat painful and scarred shoulders of our Aussie boy.
Mr Barrie can often be heard telling anyone who isn’t quick enough to look busy when he hoves into view that speedway meetings are won not in heats 13 and 15 but 2, 8 and 14.
4-2, 5-1, 5-1 respectively was our haul from them – common denominator Garcia F (or C if we’re using nicknames), partners Flint (L), Gappmaier (D) and Doolan (King).
And so, with the crowd ramped up to 12, it all came down at 9.29pm (of course we couldn’t race 30 heats in three hours © British Speedway Forum ad nauseum) to a last heat which will, over the years, grow into a full evening’s discussion all of its own.
On the face of it all we had was the last heat of a speedway meeting. Berwick had already won and had three points in the bag.
No-one was on a maximum. True a 5-1 would give Glasgow a losing point which could mean something in the final shake-up and decide who has seniority in the play-offs.
Straightforward right? Not really.
From the moment that Jye flew from the tapes to the moment that he bounced back out of the funbags on the first bend – 40 odd seconds – the old stadium was in uproar.
As he sprinted down the football pitch the noise ramped up. When Jim McGregor switched on Cook’s white exclusion light it threatened to lift the roofs off both The Ducket and the main stand.
A flying wedge not seen since the hey-day of the All Blacks roared out of the pits to halt a rather cross-looking young Ethers in his tracks, Howe played the Grant Fox role both in reaching the breakdown first and being an experienced head amid the carnage caused by a bunch of forwards searching for intellectual enlightenment.
I’m told the roar could be heard in Berwick town centre when Glasgow’s team manager made a rather inelegant interjection to the settling storm.
And when the dust settled it was left to the calming influence of Ben Barker to take an injured Jye’s place and share the heat with the Gapp.
It’s a shame that it all had to end … it’s a match I’d have liked to just go on and on.
It makes you want to do it all again, soon, perhaps in the play-off final at the start of October.
Shall we?
Finally on a personal note if Emalali is reading this … why?