AS well as being the new team manager of Redcar Bears, Jitendra Duffill has another claim to fame – he is the only man I have ever undressed.
After an intro like that, I feel I’d better explain quite quickly.
I first got to know Jitendra some years ago when he was riding for the nomadic Boro Bears second half junior team which Steve Harland had put together during the black hole years of no speedway on Teesside.
I’d taken some time out of speedway after Cleveland Park closed but, from the moment Steve phoned me up and told me he was taking me down to Sheffield one Thursday to see his Bears side in action, I was hooked again.
I’d jumped in the Owlterton-bound car again with him on this occasion to see Ben (as Jitendra is more commonly known in speedway) and the boys in action against Sheffield Prowlers.
He’d ridden pretty well but in his second ride he was the victim of a nasty crash through no fault of his own.
The rider in front of him lost it on the home straight and smashed into the fence. Poor Jitendra was crossing the finish line when his opponent’s riderless bike collected him as it bounced back off the fence.
It was clear the future Bears boss was in a good deal of pain so I went to visit him in the ambulance room.
Fortunately the injuries, though painful weren’t serious. I was about to leave when Jitendra asked me a favour.
“Look I know this is awkward,” he said, “but I can’t move my arm and my leg’s stiff too so I can’t get my racesuit off. Can you help?”
Now as I mentioned I’d never unclothed a bloke before (and before you ask, I haven’t since, either!) but it all went well and the task was performed painlessly. Well, for me anyway.
Just for good measure I ended up driving his car part of the way home too due to the injuries he’d just sustained.
It’s not something they teach you at journalist college but it’s all in a night’s work for a speedway scribe.
Fast forward a few years and Jitendra’s appointment as team manager will have come as something of a surprise to many, but it’s a shrewd move.
I’ve resisted the temptation so far to refer to him having his eye on success or that he’s determined not to make a spectatcle of himself (Jitendra is an optician and owns Eye Deal Opticals in Middlesbrough in case you didn’t know) but I guess there’s time yet.
And judging my the mood so far, he has the fans on side – so hopefully we’ll soon have some wins to cheer on a Thursday night.