Saturday November 22, 2014
Local derbies are always special occasions although in speedway the whole concept brings a new meaning to the word local.

Using the wonders of Google Maps I discovered the journey to Ipswich is a full 69 miles from Hoddesdon, and Peterborough at 65 miles away are geographically our nearest neighbours. Interesting to think if you remove those two from the league and as I write this the Panthers are unfortunately teetering on the brink, Sheffield would be our local derby.

Anyway back to 2014 and our only home win over Ipswich which came on Easter Sunday and probably provided the high spot of Matthieu’s Rockets career. Our amiable Frenchman scored paid 11 against his old mates despite blowing an engine in the opening heat. The Witches did stage a late comeback when the April showers threatened but we held on to throw a serious spanner in their league cup campaign. What a difference 5 days makes from smiles against Ipswich to me wondering whether a texter on Speedway updates had hit a few wrong numbers as Somerset sent the boys packing wracking up 62 points in the process with Simon and the skipper failing to trouble the scorers. For Simon it was a real case of history repeating itself and it wasn’t long before he decided to stand down to save his sanity as much as anything else. One of speedways true nice guys I was delighted that he got things back together again its just a shame he couldn’t do it in a Rockets race jacket.

So we came to the British Semi Final and a rare appearance of the World Champion in Hoddesdon. To be fair the lad looked total class and as a certain disgraced ex football manager would have said “was playing with a cigar on” such was the ease that Tai qualified for the final. There was also plenty to cheer from a home perspective with Young Norman and Steve making it through a tough field. Also prominent on the night was Stefan Nielsen who obviously caught Uncle Len’s eye because much to our delight at the time he signed the lad up.

Now over the years we’ve had many riders that have qualified for the ‘Frank Spencer accident waiting to happen‘ award but young Stefan must be right up there with the best, or worse depending on how you look at it. He must also hold the record for the shortest home debut of all time. The 27th May was the date and I missed it. Over in Paris I was catching up with my other sporting love at Roland Garros and could only witness the five or so seconds before he became acquainted with the first bend fence when camera Ken gave me the DVD on my return. After a start like that I suppose it wasn’t surprising that for the next few weeks we were playing ‘where’s Stefan?‘ as things continued to go pear shaped on the track.

Having started this edition with Ipswich I suppose its only fitting that we end it with our ‘local‘ chums. If there’s a meeting that sums up 2014 it has to be Saturday May 31st. It was definitely an evening to forget with Steve’s bike deciding it wanted a rest and Young Norman’s producing a loud bang in Heat 12 handing the Witches the 5-1 that made all the difference in the end. A first home defeat in the league left us wondering if Uncle Len had run over any black cats in the winter or inadvertently smashed his shaving mirror because luck was definitely in short supply. Little did we know though that things were about to get a whole lot worse........