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George Dodds's picture

Hyperbole - is there a better word in the English language?
Honestly you’d have to be dafter than the dumbest of dumb waiters to think otherwise.
Without doubt the 13-a-side oval ball code raised itself to undreamt of heights when Rugby League became SuperLeague and remember the dreary old days of First Division football? Who cared who won titles before it became THE Premier League.
Some may, mischievously, suggest that I’ve not been afraid to put the hype into hyperbole when clogging up various media over the years.
I’ll admit to having a nodding acquaintance with hypertension, can be hyperpolarizing, am a complete stranger to hypercatabolism, have a little experience of hyperactivity but do not respond to hypercriticism – vis a vis the lack of email contact at the foot of this column.
So you know where I’m coming from when I suggest that bossman Jamie C’s speech at the mad Friday Black and Gold shindig contained one of the biggest announcements in the Bandits’ history.
After lengthy negotiations with the town’s other Black and Gold army Razor and his band of happy helpers will be allowed to reshape the Shielfield track in time for the 2020 season.
The Wee Gers are offering a full metre on the inside line down both straights with – significantly – the entrance and exits to both bends being widened accordingly. In addition there’s virtually unlimited opportunity to attack the line behind the goals.
For years – arguably since 1968 – the criticism of Shielfield has been that while it’s fast and spectacular it is also narrow which makes it difficult for riders to overtake.
Not impossible but difficult.
Mike Hiftle, Alan Mogridge, Colin Farquharson, Paul Clews and Kevin Doolan are among those who have entertainingly proved the exceptions to the perceived rule over the years but it would fair to say that many or the most legendary Shielfield Bandits – Mark Hall, Graham Jones, Doug Wyer, Dave Gifford, Mike Fullerton, Dougie Templeton – who died, aged 91 just before Christmas – even Wayne Brown, did most of their best work on home shale between the tapes and the first turn.
Some big speedway brains have suggested over the years that a couple of minor tweaks here and there could turn Berwick into one of the best race strips in the country – contrary to what some of speedway’s considerably smaller brains annoyingly twitter.
Standing in the way was the green swathe where the Rangers strutted their stuff. Over the years it seemed to be insurmountable.
Many tried to find a solution … and failed.
But since the Courtney boys took over much once deemed impossible has become fact.
They bought the club and have managed to keep it going through some challenging times during which there have been huge improvements on and off track.
For the first time in decades patrons of The Ducket and its environs had access to catering and bar facilities; match night catering was taken in-house and the old first bend tea bar refurbished and regenerated to include a permanent club shop; big initiatives were launched to raise awareness of the club around the town and the borders with inventive use of social media and stunning visuals – again self-generated – sponsorship rejuvenated. Season ticket holders became a merry band rather than a Lib-Dem tribute band.
Along the way they assembled some effective teams within a realistic budget which have narrowly failed to reach the play-offs in the past two seasons, staged the British Under-21 Final, built an incredible training facility at Duns and generally rejuvenated the club.
But even the noisiest of cheerleaders (my hand is, unapologetically, firmly in the air) would accept that there have been a few meetings where racing has been close, fast, furious but also largely processional.
Nothing like the gloom espoused by those who view their racing solely through updates, forums or via invented conversations with fictitious groups of friends who allegedly attend once a season and never return due to the poor racing/ run of defeats/ lack of a “big” number one/ the snugness of Buddy’s shorts/ inability to use apple pay at the turnstiles/ lack of seasoning in the scotch pies and many other inventive arguments … but rather like the old O-levels you do have to work hard to earn a pass at Shielfield.
We always felt that it was a case of “meh, well what can we do?” until the brothers got on the case. And, of course, Berwick Rangers’ came on board.
It is telling that one of the reasons given for their co-operation with the track reshaping is that the football club's bosses recognise that securing the future of the Bandits – and surely better on-track action will be rewarded with bigger attendances, after all so many tell us that is what is keeping the fans away – is vital if professional football is to maintain its presence in the town.
We need each other. What’s good for the Bandits is good for the Rangers and vice versa.
But, and this is the clincher for me, the eight to nine metres difference in length after the works are completed will surely mean that it qualifies as a new track.
Which means the winner of the first heat of the first meeting in 2020 will become the Shielfield track record holder.
Which means that as soon as the new inside line has been cut, rolled and officially measured we can expunge Craig Cook’s name from the record books.
Bring it on!
PS: Alan Stevenson was one of that growing band who took advantage of the cut-price early bird offer to buy a season pass.
On Christmas Day our own JC took a break from festivities in the converted Oxfordshire manger from where he juggles running the Bandits with a frankincense and myrrh import/export business, Yonder Star travel agency and Minibike Championship empire to put all those purchasers in the google random generator equivalent of the old lucky hat. And lo it was Alan’s name that appeared and the management duly refunded his ticket money.
Everyone else will have to pay but there is still a few days to take advantage of the huge discounts – the equivalent of up to four “free” meetings on a full leaded pass – until New Year’s Day. From then on there is a modest hike in price but still a couple of “freebies” to be enjoyed by buying one of the laminated marvels. Full details on the main channel of this website.
More excellent news – and that’s not hyperbole.