Dream Team : Bill Elliot
First started following Glasgow Tigers back in the mid 60's but took a time out for two seasons in 1975-76 to assist the shortlived Paisley Lions. Met my wife through the Lions and picked them for my dream team, because many of those teams featured have contained riders who rode/have ridden over a long period and were maybe easier picks, although in going for a team from a club which only rode for two seasons it certainly made the selection process a lot easier!
Paisley provided a much needed shot in the arm to Scottish speedway at the time, as the Tigers were currently operating out of the somewhat run down Cliftonhill Stadium in Coatbridge and badly needed some local rivalry to pep up the local scene.
Paisley is probably best remembered for having a massive 14,873 for a midweek open meeting (and when the great Ivan Mauger beat Scott Autrey in a match race series) - only about 6,000 people actually paid to get in, the other 9,000 or so gaining entry through one of the biggest free ticket giveaways ever seen!
The Lions never won anything during their short history, but I'll always remember them with a smile on my face as there was a really happy atmosphere about the place, and more than a few stories which can't be repeated in print!
Sid was a great first captain for the Lions and like my next pick wasn't an obvious choice for a No 1, but he rose to the challenge and probably scored a lot more points for the club than would have been expected. I remember him on the opening night at Love St, in front of over 6,000 fans, very nervously leading out the team, with a very long lead in his hand, the other end of which had an equally nervous looking Lion cub padding its way slowly towards the starting gate!
"Cowboy" was another Lions captain who maybe wasn't an obvious No 1 as while he had been a heat leader before, his points hadn't perhaps suggested he could make the leap and turn into the Number One which he became, often in the second season being the leader who went out and won a vital race for the Lions when it was badly needed. The Lions struggled a bit in the second year and it was often Cowboy who ensured that they went home with at least a few heat wins in the bag.
Kiwi Mike was one of the quickest starters you could hope for, often letting the clutch go just as the referee was deciding to hit the button (!), and certainly knew the quickest way round the very big Love St track, his claim to fame locally being that as the track record holder at the end of the 1976 season, some 32 years later he still holds that title! Was so popular that in the second year, with the team struggling and him still in New Zealand, supporters clubbed together to help pay his air far to get him over and bolster the team's scoring. Went on to give sterling service to the Bandits in the Borders.
By the time a very fresh faced 16 year old Stuart Mountford arrived in Scotland in 1975 he had already raced for his native Australia against the touring British Lions side and had scored a few points into the bargain. As a comparatively unknown rider (like so many who raced for the Lions in the first year) he did well to fill a heat leader's role for the club in his first year. One of the quietest speedway riders I ever met at the time, he went on to ride for Stoke after the demise of the Lions post 1976.
"Doc" is probably better known these days for his ace track preparation skills but back in the mid 70's he did a sterling job for the Lions in becoming a very sold second string/3rd heat leader role. Came on loan to the Lions initially but wanted to race for us in spite of the 500+ mile round trip to Paisley every week and eventually signed on full time. Very loyal team man and another who could go out and nip a vital win at the most crucial of times,and one of the most popular riders ever to don a Lions race jacket.
Tom was another of our unknown Aussies who actually had relatives in Aberdeen, which was probably how he managed to be selected for a Scotland Select side which raced at Love St in 1976! The first time I saw him and his close pal, my next selection, practice at Love St, they were both nominated as the team nutters, the ones who would try the apparently impossible passes to get past an opponent, and Tom seldom failed to entertain. Tragically, he was killed in a road bike accident back home in Australia at the turn of the 70's/80's decade.
Tom Davie's great buddie from the same town, Mount Isa, in Queensland, Burnett (quickly shortened to Bernie) Foot was another who provided the great swoops around the Love St track and pass unsuspecting opponents until he spent much of the second season, like Tom, on the sidelines with injury. When he and Tom rode at six and seven for the Lions you were always guaranteed that Heat 2 would never be dull!
As a few of the guys took heavy knocks over the second season in particular, hope I might be granted the no 8 facility to include my friend of nearly 40 years, Colin Caffrey. Colin was just breaking into the Lions team at the end of 1976 and went on to thrill fans at both Berwick and Glasgow for the next decade, probably because he could never get out of the start and had to come from the back!
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This article was first published on 10th April 2008
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