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It happened THIS WEEK

• Middlo and the ex-Pirates: back, left to right, Eric Broadbelt, Norman Strachan, Martin Yeates, Sam Ermolenko, Russell Foote, Mike Cake and Garry May. Front, Kevin Smith and Andrew Silver

Among the ex-riders there were World Champions Tony Rickardsson, Mark Loram, Chris Holder, Gary Havelock and Sam Ermolenko as well as former Pirates Norman Strachan, Tim Bungay, Mike Cake, Martin Yeates, Eric Broadbelt, who travelled down from Burnley, and Kevin Smith, among others. Mike Broadbank, who never rode for Poole but was a regular visitor, was also there as well as Neil’s one-time Eastbourne team-mate Paul Gachet.

There were probably others, too. Darcy Ward, Bjarne Pedersen, Davey Watt, Kacper Woryna and Krzysztof Cegielski, who all rode under Middlo’s management, recorded video messages.

“I’m a softie, I had so many moments,” confesses Neil. “When Darcy came on the big screen, I was in tears!

“I have to say such a big thanks to Nigel Leahy, who was second to none in arranging everything he did to make sure it was a great night. Also Gordon Day, before he passed, he was a driving force for the 2020 event that never was.

“I’m sure he’d was up there with Mum and

• THE future of Premier League Somerset was thrown into doubt because of council officials “making life impossible for us,” according to promoter Andy Hewlett. A planning permission application for the Rebels to run on Wednesday as their alternative race-night was rejected by the council, who also turned down permission for a new bar and requested that the club’s referee’s box be removed. “We are trying to take the club forward,” said Hewlett, “and we’re fighting just to stand still. Under the current requirements, there is no way we can continue to run speedway at the Oak Tree Arena.”

Week-ending September 13


Dad, looking down on us all on the night.”

There were so many surprises – like Matt Ford and his wife Helen saying they were too busy working at their French chateau to make the trip but being unveiled as the two people inside the parade mascots – and the appearance on the big screen of some of those who have been under the charge of Middlo in his 22 years as Pirates’ team manager.

Darcy, who both lived and did his bikes at Bailie House, summed up his time with Middlo: “I’m sure you will be appreciated by everybody for everything that you have done there, it’s been a long career for you there, it’s well deserved. Sorry I can’t be there but I will be watching on livestream so I will be there in heart.

“You guys were like parents to me when I first came to England. I have great memories and I’m very thankful that youse took me in after Suzi had to think about it for a while!

“We had some great times, I could flashback to coming home p***** at three in the morning and lighting off fireworks, not only just fireworks, but we are talking about like £500 worth of fireworks.

“Middlo running down and chasing me around the garden and scaring the s*** out


PAUL McCartney, Joe Biden, Billy Connolly – and me.

All born in the same year. Two of us knighted by the Queen, another is President of the United States – and then there’s me. The fortunate one.

All my years I’ve been dogged by good luck.

‘Cos I’m the only one of our quartet, the Class of ’42, who has been able to see speedway on a regular basis, every week, all over the world for so long!

I’m guessing the majority of citizens looking at this magazine love speedway.

Even readers who can no longer get along to a local track, maybe confining their watching to TV or an annual pilgrimage to Cardiff, have this addiction.

It’s a bug, isn’t it? Once you’re bitten, you’re terminally infected…

Even folk who say “I used to go, but…” will then lapse into the fondest memories of following a long-defunct team, remembering facts and figures that could qualify them to have speedway as their specialist subject on Mastermind.

I bump into people at the library, at concerts or just out walking who greet me with memories of matches, riders and (most of all) the fun they remember from summer tours and autumnal away days. Mischief that would make Keith Richards cover his ears in disgust...

So, I’m the lucky one. While the Big Yin, Macca and POTUS were getting rich and famous, I was having fun at speedway.

This will never end. While the machinery has changed and the riders all seem younger than in my salad days, it’s still four guys, four bikes, four laps and no brakes.

British speedway is on the up. We have three quality GP representatives, the youngest of whom has won the last two rounds at just 23. When I first arrived on the scene, our (British) World Champion was 38.

I’ve just watched Leon Flint – a lad I’ve seen progress from the age of nine through the youth system, NJL Academy, NDL, Championship, Premiership and SGP2 – add the British U-21 title to his U-19 award, and I believe the future is bright.

Not just because of Berwick’s favourite kid, either…

We’ve got Tom Brennan and a twosome of Thompsons right behind him – with younger, 15-year-old bloods in the pipeline such as Jody Scott, Ace Pijper and Max Perry.

There’s no point in us old farts sitting back, waiting for the Grim Reaper to start his backswing.

We still need to be pushing forward, having fun and helping our world improve as time goes by.

We’re not doing too badly, are we? I still get to speedway, Sir Paul headlined Glastonbury this year, Sir Billy continues – currently with best-selling books – to make us laugh uproariously and wee Joe’s still got his finger on the nuclear button!

September 10, 2022 speedway star 33

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