Loading...
George Dodds's picture

One day you're wondering if it's worth the hassle; if Saturday nights in front of the telly with the family or simply working 9 to 5 to keep them secure and warm wouldn't be a better option than sinking every available penny into running a couple of speedway bikes.
The next thing you know you're being thrown up in the air, given the traditional bumps by delighted team-mates, mechanics and management while hundreds of fanatical Bandits' fans roar their approval.
A couple of minutes later you're back at the pits gate, this time as one of the welcoming party as a young gun with whom you have shared pain, frustration and glory over the past 12 months takes his place in the spotlight.
For David Howe the 27th maximum of his career, the 12th full; for Jye Etheridge the first of what surely will be just as many.
Four years and four days after The Phoenix last went through the card – a four ride maximum in Scunthorpe's home thumping of Glasgow – he was at it again.
Perhaps the two time GP wildcard's career is entering a second golden era. At 36 he still has a few years left if he is to emulate Ivan Mauger and Greg Hancock by lifting the world title in his forties.
He was simply awesome on Saturday night as Sheffield became the latest highly-touted team to come to Shielfield assuming that there was points to be taken from a Bandits side still considered to be "average" by those in the know and going home on the end of a thumping.
If you ventured onto David's Facebook page the following day you will have discovered just how close he had come to retiring for the second, and presumably final, time is his career, the emotional turmoil following the death of his father on the eve of the season finally catching up with him.
It was a typically raw and revealing piece from one of the sport's most eloquent and interesting speakers; one who surely will find a place in the media when he finally hangs up the kevlars.
On the night that it all clicked again we saw a masterful display from Mr Howe while the young pretender also got it very, very right.
Jye also carries some emotional scars, albeit in his case from being publicly humiliated by Edinburgh boss John Campbell who proclaimed him as "one of the worst ever newcomers in the Premier League".
Just two years on Mr Campbell would probably like those crass words to disappear from the internet (not a chance) while the most likeable of Dragons from Down Under is probably long past using them for inspiration. Or maybe not.
This year he's found himself the victim of a series of crashes – normally as the innocent party – and had gritting his teeth and riding through the pain barrier as well as paying to straighten some very bent bikes.
As supporters, owners, management, keyboard warriors it can become too easy to forget that the men on the machines are human beings.
They are not robots, they have feelings, grow ill, grieve and sometimes are just not on the game.
They don't mean not to score points – indeed their very livelihood depends on them doing so. They turn up every week and try to push life and all the baggage that comes with into the background as they enter the surreal world of the professional sportsman, remembering to smile as someone who couldn't even start a speedway bike, let alone race one, tells them in minute detail what they are doing wrong and then slinks away to call for their sacking while hiding behind a pithy messageboard pseudonym.
But they are not fair game for those that "pay their wages" just because they are sportsmen. They can't be like us and just ring in sick, choose to go to the pub or nip off for a weekend on the hoy at the GP when spirits are flagging.
Which makes it even more enjoyable when those that you respect and admire rise above the heavy burdens they are carrying and enjoy the sweet taste of success.
Although I am sure that David would like me to point out that he is still way, way ahead of Jye in the maximum stakes ... and the Aussie boy hasn't got a full one yet.
No meeting this Saturday so I may have to pop out and find a pub showing the GP rather than the Champions League – although neither of us are actually Champions of our country – Final.