IMAGINE yourself driving down a tree-lined avenue lined with spacious, desirable properties in a leafy suburb of an affluent and prosperous town.
In front of you stands a sign which reads “Welcome to A Great Start to the Season. Enjoy your stay”.
Now imagine that your satnav was on the blink, you’d forgotten to bring a map and ended up hundreds of miles from your intended destination, surrounded by drab high-rise blocks, burned out cars on street corners and groups of chavs with nothing better to do than believe they actually look cool with their trackie bottoms tucked into their socks.
There the sign reads “You are now entering That Wasn’t supposed To Happen”.
That pretty much sums up the Ecco Finishing Bears’ start to the season – it’s been as far away from what we’d hoped and expected it to be as it’s possible to get.
The double wash-out of the curtain raiser at home to Berwick was bad enough. Two days running I’d rather optimistically put a change of clothes in the boot of the car in the hope of getting some sideways action after leaving the office.
Mother Nature put paid to that both times, though, and I’ll be having a stern word with her, let me tell you.
Then came the 20-point defeat at Berwick in what became the first leg of the Tees Tweed Trophy.
It was a freezing cold night, I couldn’t get a signal to tweet updates and the Bears were given a lesson in gating as Bandits repelled their Border raid.
On the plus side, the chicken kebab from the takeaway around the corner was tasty, plentiful and reasonably priced. And I didn’t have to watch The Voice. But that was hardly a consolation.
And the following night came the 60-29 mauling at Newcastle. That was bad. Very bad. It’s a bitter enough pill to swallow losing anywhere by that margin, but to that lot up the road…
This really wasn’t supposed to happen. The team assembled over the winter is far better than that.
So what have we learned from the first weekend of the season?
Well, from his early rides it looks likely that Richard Lawson will be an excellent No 1 who will score big home and away on a regular basis.
And Carl Wilkinson, the Bears’ only other weekend race winner, showed his trademark grit and determination too. If there was a sweep on who’ll be the first to put a hole in his smart new Bears racesuit, whoever draws Wilko will be feeling quite smug. But he’s a true racer with the heart of a lion and the style of a jaguar – if I didn’t have a press pass I’d pay to watch him race and he’s got it in him to win regularly in the Premier League.
But as a team it just didn’t happen for the Bears last weekend and a big improvement is needed for this week’s home match against Scunthorpe, especially out of the start. There’s no question about that.
However before we become immersed in doom and gloom, we must remind ourselves that it’s still early days. Very early days. And no-one has ever won a league title in April.
There’s a long, long way to go, riders are race rusty after the close season and many are adjusting to new equipment.
Remember last season when Newcastle wiped the floor with the Bears in the first meeting of the season? The doom mongers were already buying the paraffin in readiness to burn effigies of Brian Havelock after that one but the season didn’t turn out too badly, did it?
The cobwebs have been blown away now and we’ll get a clearer indication of how we can expect the season to pan out over the next couple of weeks. Until then paraffin stays in the can and the effigies remain untouched.