2008 Live Speedway Season on Sky grinds to a close
Except for Poole fans, the so-called Grand Final second leg was always likely to end in anti-climax. Though the Pirates have lost at home this season, a Lakeside team ravaged by injuries was hardly going to repeat this medicine or thrill first time watchers. Incredibly, only moments into the broadcast Nigel Pearson – probably contractually – has to claim, “Lakeside are not here just to make up the numbers!” In the sense that it took them seven heats to get into double figures this was undoubtedly true. Elsewhere in the stadium, Sarra was at her coquettish, flirtatious best but still couldn’t prise a smile from Pirates captain, Bjarne Pedersen. Amazed that a televised Sky meeting didn’t totally decimate the crowd, her praise of “a packed house for you tonight” had the Dane come over all wistful about times gone by, “yes, it’s nice to see it can still happen”. If a full house is the exception not the rule in Poole nowadays then heaven help less well blessed clubs. In a case of the pot calling the kettle black, an unselfaware Kelvin later remarks of Bjarne, “not always the most exciting figure you have to say!”
The meeting opens with a couple of 5-1’s and is effectively over for any watching neutrals from that point onwards from an entertainment point of view. Nigel soon marvels excessively during yet another follow my leader, processional race at the notional “exhibition of team riding we’re getting.” Things are so desperate that hyperbole levels are immediately changed from stun to kill by the fourth heat when Nigel ignores history to exclaim, “this probably is the best Poole team ever!”
No live broadcast would be complete without some of Kelvin’s trademark stutters, mispronunciations, malapropisms or basic errors about the rules. Tonight is no exception when he celebrates with a roll call of the many Pirates glories of yesteryear with a magnificent unforced error, “we saw in 03-04 when Tony Rickardsson and Leigh Lanham spearheaded the team”. Such mistakes are infectious as later Nigel gurgles, “they’ve had some fantastic riders down the years – the likes of Johnny Rickardsson”.
If this were a boxing match, the referee would have stopped it after only a few heats but, as this is speedway, everyone has to endure a full dose of the entertainment. Notorious for her in depth research and knowledge but apparently confusing him with Rosco, Sarra informs Matt Ford, “not many people were tipping you at the start of the year”. Dark haired this season, Matt politely corrects her, “to be fair, we were favourites.” Half way through the meeting, Sarra collars Bjarne who cracks a brief smile before unemotionally stating (in the manner of a speaking clock), “it’s amazing, a dream come true.” By now used to how taciturn some speedway riders can be when interviewed live on television, Sarra regularly splatters her own questions with ready made observations (“you did it for the fans”) that require no reply but just hang there to create the effect that she’s interviewing herself.
With the meeting mathematically won after heat 11, the Pirates riders go wild and celebrate the league crown before the meeting has ended. Whether this is quite cricket to do before the end I don’t know but it gives time for yet more leaden interviews with personnel from both teams. Before that, Nigel stretches credulity beyond breaking point and leaves himself in a minority of two (along with Kelvin), “quite frankly, not many people expected them to be so dominant on the night.” Even though he’d been a sponsor of the club in the ‘wooden spoon years’ prior to assuming ownership (and even the 2008 Elite League table shows nine defeats), Stuart Douglas unbelievably claims, “we’re not used to losing” before coming over all Arnie-esque, “I can promise we’ll be back!” He then goes on to add, “I think we’ve done very well to be here tonight – especially with our injuries. I’m not making excuses with our injuries but it ripped the heart out of the team!” [It was touching to catch glimpses of a convalescent Adam Shields in the pits] Later we learn – from a studiously magnanimous Jon Cook – the contemporary era Lakeside version of Arena’s speedway club history, “the club was on its knees when we took it over, two wooden spoons and a reputation for being perennial losers!”
Things are so dull in heat 12 that when Pedersen (B.) and Davidsson (D.) ride different racing lines – one inside and the other outside – Nigel froths, “there was almost, er, a bit of telepathy between those two riders!” Kelvin likes to find something tenuous to worry about throughout every meeting and, with the Sky speedway live broadcast season nearly at a close, masterfully notes, “you know it’s not always easy to keep your concentration when you win a championship half way through a meeting.” Strangely enough, he could be speaking for all non-Pirates fans comatose on their sofas at home. Even Nigel can’t be bothered to shout excessively during the racing tonight nor does Kelvin feel the need for too many orgasmic “whoo’s” or “whoa’s!”
The broadcast closes in a welter of staged images of ersatz celebration but still manages a slew of predictable interviews. “President of the BSPA” Terry Russell presents medals to the winning team only. Chris Louis lurks on the centre green, telling us he’s “down here with Matt Ford and his two children Sam and Dan”. While Sarra makes the fatal mistake of assuming Zorro doesn’t have a quick wit in his third or fourth language, “how does it feel second time around Magnus?” Her investigative efforts are rewarded when she gets one of the first honest replies to any of her anodyne questions this season “I dunno – do you?”
13th October Poole 60 Lakeside 33 (aggregate 108-75)
Poole crowned Elite League Champions