Berwick Bandits team manager steps down

Gary Flint and son Leon pictured during a Bandits’ fixture. Picture: Steve HoneGary Flint and son Leon pictured during a Bandits’ fixture. Picture: Steve Hone
Gary Flint and son Leon pictured during a Bandits’ fixture. Picture: Steve Hone
Gary Flint has stepped down as Berwick team manager for personal reasons.

The former rider and father of British under-21 Champion and Bandits’ captain Leon has managed the Bandits for the last seven years in addition to the National Development League Bullets and acting as co-promoter of the Borders’ club.

Kevin Little, who rode for the “full set” of northern clubs during a sparkling 20-year career, will manage the Bullets full-time for the rest of the season and Bandits’ home meetings, beginning with the visit of top of the table Oxford Cheetahs on Saturday night.

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Berwick co-owner Scott Courtney will manage the Bandits on the road.

Flint said: “It’s been an incredibly hard decision to make but ultimately, due to personal circumstances, I feel it’s best for all concerned for me to take a step back from speedway.

“I informed the promotion last week of my decision and wanted to make the riders of both teams aware in person.

"The club, riders and close friends have been incredibly supportive of my decision and understand that for everyone to get the best version of me I must take time away.

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“Being team manager can be mentally draining as it’s not just a case of filling in a programme on race nights.

"I know that when I am ready there will always be a place for me at the club but for now I am looking forward to watching the boys progress from afar.”

Berwick will be at full strength when they become the latest team to try and halt the Oxford juggernaut on Saturday.

The Cheetahs maintained their 100 per cent start to the Cabs Direct Championship campaign with an easy home win over Birmingham on Wednesday night, their third of the campaign.

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In contrast Berwick, racing at home for the first time since May 6, have beaten Scunthorpe but lost heavily last Friday at Redcar.

Young Dane Jonas Knudsen has been the stand-out performer for the Bandits this year but it was feared that he would be missing due to clashing fixtures with his Polish club Polonia Pila.

Fortunately for the Borders’ club their fixture has priority under the terms agreed by the major European nations and overseen by the International Speedway League Bureau.

Berwick, who also hand a home debut to ex-Edinburgh rider Jacob Hook, will need the 22-year-old’s scoring power against one of the most successful visitors in the history of Shielfield Park.

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In 16 visits, the first with Somerset in 2011 and the majority with Edinburgh Monarchs, Australian Sam Masters has racked up 171 points at an average of 10.68 per meeting and was unbeaten by a home rider in two of his last three appearances.

Six-time British champion Scott Nicholls is another with an impressive record around the super-fast Berwick circuit, including 17+1 in 2018, while three of the Oxford side – Jordan Jenkins, Henry Atkins and Ryan Kinsley – dropped just a handful of points between them in the National Development League clash between the club’s sides two weeks ago.

But on a positive note for the home side they were all beaten by Connor Coles who lines up alongside Hook at reserve, with the third-generation speedway rider in the form of his career and exceeding all expectations scoring-wise this year.

Berwick have switched their riding order with number one Rory Schlein partnering captain Leon Flint while Jye Etheridge – a maximum man himself when Berwick comfortably won the clash between the sides last season – and the fast-starting Knudsen will ride together in three heats.

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Flint admitted: “It’s been a strange season fixture-wise and the long gap since we were last at Shielfield hasn’t been ideal.

“Having Jonas available is a huge boost as he’s been our standout rider over the last couple of meetings.

“I’ve ridden enough with Rory in Wolverhampton colours to know that we are a good fit and we have the opportunity to get the meeting off to a flying start and the other pairings look well balanced too.

“Saturday and then at Birmingham on Wednesday night gives us the opportunity to make a statement for the rest of the league campaign and get the focus back on qualifying for the end of season play-offs.

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“It’s been a long time coming but we are fired up and ready to return to Shielfield with a bang.”

Saturday night’s meeting starts at 7pm.

Bandits: Rory Schlein, Leon Flint, Jye Etheridge, Jonas Knudsen, Thomas Jorgensen, Jacob Hook, Connor Coles

Cheetahs: Sam Masters, Lewi Kerr, Cameron Heeps, Jordan Jenkins, Scott Nicholls, Henry Atkins, Ryan Kinsley

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