Ricky Ashworth made an emotional return to Berwick on Saturday’ almost two years after the accident which ended his speedway career.
Ashworth, who has been left with debilitating injuries, was presented to fans at the end of the Bandits’ home meeting with Plymouth, when he received a standing ovation from fans’ officials and riders alike.
He made the journey from his Salford home with father Dave, who helped wheel him out onto the track in his wheelchair from the pits.
He waved to the crowd, had his photograph taken with the riders, and even managed to stand for a brief period before saying a heart-felt ‘thank-you’ to everyone for their help and support.
Earlier in the night he had watched the racing from the pits area when he mingled with staff and riders, including some he had raced against in the past.
The former Berwick captain sustained head injuries when he was involved in a racing accident whilst representing the Bandits at Scunthorpe in August 2013.
He spent 90 days in a coma and was hospitalised for exactly a year before being allowed home.
In the intervening period a benefit meeting was held at Shielfield to raise funds towards his rehabilitation. Further fund-raising initiatives were held by supporters throughout the country and another benefit meeting was held at Sheffield, the track where he spent the majority of his career, at the start of this season.
All of the funds were managed through the Speedway Riders’ Benevolent Fund, which is designed to help former and injured riders.
And as coincidence would have it, Berwick will hold their annual collection for the BEN Fund this Saturday when Glasgow are the visitors on Premier League duty.
In recent years Berwick fans have donated generously with the club being recognised for the fact that collections at the track have been the best in the country for three of the past four seasons.
“That is a tremendous achievement,” said Berwick promoter John Anderson, “and hopefully they will continue to be as generous again in the future.”
Berwick had been hoping Ashworth would be able to make the journey at some point, but always feared it might never happen.
Anderson said: “We thought we might never see this day. What happened to Ricky was something we never wish to see in speedway. He is always in our thoughts and it was just so good to see him back at Berwick again, because we honestly didn’t know if he would be up to the trip.
“His visit really put the topping on what was a very big night for us.”
Berwick are now gearing themselves up for another big night on Wednesday, July 8 when the Sky TV cameras will again roll into town to capture the action in a Premier League clash against Peterborough.
It is the third time Sky have covered a meeting at the track and Anderson says his is justifiably proud to welcome them back.
“We must have done something right on the last two occasions,” he said, “so hopefully this will be another opportunity to show what Berwick has to offer.”
* The accompanying photograph was supplied by GRT Media. They have also produced a DVD of ‘Ricky’s Big Day from earlier in the season at Sheffield. This is available from grtmedia.co.uk at a cost of £18 - all proceeds going to Ricky.