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The Woolly Bully Rides Again

This article was first published early in 2002

Premier League riders up and down the country are shaking in their boots as news breaks of a possible comeback by Rob 'The Woolly Bully' Grant. The 43 year old, father of the Newcastle rider of the same name, has taken out a racing licence and is in contention for the Diamonds' number seven jacket.

Grant's original career kicked off in 1977 at Berwick's Shielfield Park. The young racer lined up in the club's junior side and quickly gained a reputation as an 'enthusiastic' rider. His reputation was strengthened after a nasty crash at Blantyre that saw a light standard all but demolished and the stadium plunged into darkness.

These days in the junior ranks saw him make good progress and a regular team place was his in 1978. Once in the side he proved a difficult man to dislodge and soon developed into a steady second string rider.

The Bandits had to decamp to Barrow in 1981 and the move looked to be the making of Rob. He was virtually unbeatable around the Park Road circuit. On one memorable occasion he scored a maximum from the number eight position and he looked to be on the verge of a big breakthrough. The move to Barrow proved to be short-lived and the Bandits withdrew from the league in mid-season.

The Bandits were back in 1982 and were now racing at the all-new Berrington Lough venue. Grant was still there and quickly got to grips with the new circuit. His form was good but he never reproduced the kind of results he managed at Barrow.

The Bandits made team changes in 1984 and Rob found himself left out. He moved on loan to Edinburgh but the move proved to be an unmitigated disaster. The Monarchs fans made it clear they didn't fancy him and Rob found the points hard to come by. He soon found himself out the side and headed back to Berwick and to second half racing. He later regained his Bandits team place during an injury crisis.

Rob received a well-deserved testimonial in 1987. The weather was awful but the meeting, starring Shawn Moran, went ahead and an entertaining day we enjoyed despite the conditions.

Rob remained in the Bandits team until the end of 1990. Always a solid middle order scorer, albeit far more productive at home than he ever was away. The following season Berwick moved into Division One and Rob was left out. His career seemed to be over but the Bandits were hit by a late season injury blitz and they turned to Rob to help out. Unbelievably he now found himself racing with and against world class stars. Rob was in the side the night the Bandits won the Gold Cup and it seemed to be a great way to end his career.

He wasn't finished yet though and reappeared in 1993 when Berwick ran a series of open meetings. The Bandits lined up in the newly formed third division in 1994 and it was rumoured that Rob would lead the side. In the end he never did re-appear - until now.

If this remarkable comeback does come to pass then he will join Mark Courtney and Andy Galvin as surprise returnees. The problems experienced by Galvin in particular make it clear how difficult it can be to make a successful return. In many respects Newcastle would have little to lose by employing Grant. If the move doesn't work out then there will be no shortage of youngsters willing to take his place. On the other hand, if he really can roll back the years then the Diamonds may well have a very handy reserve on their hands.

 

This article was first published prior to October 2002

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