The Non-Essential Guide to....The Berwick Bandits
This article was first published in April 2002
Bandits. Premier League side based right on the Scotland/England border.
So are they Scottish or English?
Opinion seems to vary. Geographically they're certainly based in England. In Speedway terms they're more often than not considered to be a Scottish club. Witness their previous participation in both the Scottish Cup and Scottish Triangle.
Have they been around for long?
The Bandits first appeared in Division Two in 1968. That was a real boom period for the sport with many new tracks springing up all over the country. The promoters back then were Danny and Elizabeth Taylor (not that one).
The Husband and wife team negotiated a lease on Berwick Rangers' football ground and built a team from the pick of Scottish and Northern youngsters. Sadly Danny died before the club was very old leaving Elizabeth, or Mrs T as she was widely known, to carry on the work they had started together.
Do the Bandits still race at the football ground?
They do race there but for several seasons they raced at the purpose built Berrington Lough circuit on the outskirts of the town.
Why did they move and then return?
They were forced out by the Football club at the end of the 1980 season. The 'wee Rangers' believed the Speedway club to be a bit of a nuisance. The club then spent a nomadic year at Barrow and Glasgow before opening the doors at Berrington Lough in early 1982. The venue was basic, initially the exterior wall of the stadium was built from straw bales, but homely.
Eventually the number of spectators travelling out to the remote venue began to fall. Simple economics dictated that move back to the town centre was the only way forward for the club.
Have they been successful?
They've been league champions of Division 3, have won the cup in Division 2 and won the Gold Cup at first division level. Not half bad for a club of their size.
So they've raced at all different levels then?
The club has consistently raced at Division two level, except in the period 1991 to 1996. The Bandits shocked the Speedway world by joining the first division in 1991. It was apparently a snap decision by then promoter Terry Lindon. They signed World class riders like Kelvin Tatum, Jimmy Nilsen and Richard Knight and the team performed well. Crowd levels were reasonably good, but not good enough to cover the club's greatly increased operating costs.
The debts began to mount up and the club had no option but to drop down to the second division in 1992. The club built a good side that season, pulling off a real coup by persuading Richard Knight to stay with them, but the financial problems continued and the season ended with the riders being paid directly from the evening's takings.
The team didn't come to the tapes in 1993 but some late season challenge matches, under the promotion of Mike Hope, ensured that Speedway was staged in Berwick that year. A third division was formed in the winter that followed, the Bandits joined and won the league that year and again in 1995.
In 1996 the Bandits moved back to Shielfield Park and came close to a third consecutive championship win. The current Premier League was formed in 1997 and the Bandits were accepted as members, thus returning them to the professional ranks.
Who have been their greatest riders?
In no particular order - Wayne Brown, Kelvin Tatum, Rob Grant, Mark Courtney, Steve McDermott, Scott Lamb, Richard Knight, Graham Jones, Willie Templeton, David Walsh, Doug Wyer, Jimmy Nilsen and Bruce Cribb all spring to mind.
What does the future hold for the Bandits?
The club is in safe hands with promoter Peter Waite in charge. The former rider runs a tight ship and is always careful to match outgoings with incomings. This approach has annoyed the fans at times, particularly when big favourite Alan Mogridge was allowed to leave, but most are realistic enough to agree his approach is the correct one.
This article was first published prior to October 2002
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