Dream Team : Rob
The first proper Speedway meeting I ever saw was Wembley vs Belle Vue in July 1970, and for 10 years I was hooked. I hardly missed a home meeting of the Wembley Lions in their 2 seasons in the British league and was gutted when they had to make way for football. I went to Wimbledon after that and was privileged to watch great names like Ronnie Moore, Barry Briggs, Tommy Jansson, Trevor Hedge and of course Jim Tebby ride for the Dons. I also watched many meetings at Newport and White City as well as attending Wembley for World finals, World Team Cups etc.
I moved down to Kent and watched Canterbury a few times before they folded at which point my speedway watching came to an end for over 25 years. In 2008 I went along to Kings Lynn 2 or 3 times, now my nearest track to see how much it had changed. I remembered the likes of Terry Betts, Malcolm Simmons, Howard Cole and Ian Turner riding for the stars. I can't say I was hooked again, the smell was similar, but the atmosphere and excitement were a little lacking while the racing was pretty processional. I will go again for the odd selected meeting but not as regular.
Anyway, my Dream Team is made up of riders who represented the Wembley Lions in those 2 glorious seasons, it includes 4 riders who stood on the podium in World finals, 6 World finalists, World Team cup and World Best Pairs Champions. If this team had all been at their best at the same time, well they would be unbeatable, at any time, on any track and against any opposition, come on you Lions!!!!
What is their to say about Fundin, probably the greatest rider ever. I only caught the very tail end of his career and I only saw him once or twice in Wembley's colours as he quit the Lions just after I started going, however I did see him in the World Team Cup final at Wembley later that year. Multiple World Champion, World Team Cup Champion and for Wembley in 1970 he rode 14 meetings and still had an average of just under 8. A True number 1.
One of my heros at Wembley in 1971. Had been a Star at West Ham before a horrific injury had threatened his career (and possibly life). He struggled to come back at West Ham and moved to Wembley for the 1971 season. Great to watch the little man flying round the outside on his JAP and never giving up, a very spectacular and exciting rider to watch. He got his BL average up to about 7.8 in the end when at times, if I remember correctly, he was even down at reserve. A wonderful comeback. He took part in one of the best, if not the best, race I ever saw. At Wembley in 1971, a 2nd half of a match against Swindon, if I remember correctly. He and Barry Briggs had been fighting for most of 4 brilliant laps Harrfeldt flying round the outside, Briggs more towards the inside line, round the last bend (where I stood) Briggs went a little wider to ease Harrfeldt right out, and looks over his right shoulder as Harrfeldt cut back and flew inside Briggs to take the flag by a whisker. Brilliant Speedway. Harrfeldt was a 2 time World Finalist finishing 2nd in 1966 (with 14 points to Barry Briggs 15).
A very stylish rider who appeared to do everything simply but effectively. He was again towards the end of his career when he rode for Wembley in 1971 but was still fabulous around the Empire Stadium, and a joy to watch. Multiple World Finalist, finishing 3rd in 1961, he was multiple Sweedish Champion and ended with a BL average over over 9 in 11 meetings for the Lions.
I have included Tommy Jannson because he did ride for Wembley at the beginning of the 1971 season, but only in some away matches before the season started late at the Empire Stadium. He was just 23 when he tragically died in 1976 and I believe he would have gone on to be a multiple World Champion. I was lucky enough to see his career progress at Wimbledon and to me as a spectator he appeared to be a fabulous rider, smooth and fast, but he also was able to team ride. He seemed to have the world almost at his feet, he had been Sweedish Champion, a World Finalist twice already, he had been World Pairs Champion, World Team Cup runner up. While he only had a 4 point average for Wembley in 1971, he had got an average of over 10 with Wimbledon in the end. A great loss to the sport.
In 1970 he was one of the Eastborne wonder kids, at 16/17 one of the English hot properties. Trevor Redmond snapped him up and he rode in both 1970 and 1971 for the Lions. Small but very quick he put in some fantastic performances for the Lions, and went on to be part of the great English/British group of riders who won major honours in the late 70s and early 80s. He ended his time with Wembley with a BL average of nearly 7.5 and went on to ride with distinction for other teams including Leicester, Reading, Kings Lynn and Wimbledon. He was a multiple World Finalists, finishing 2nd in 1980 when he was also World Best Pairs Champion. He was a multiple World Team Cup champion and one of the truely world class English riders of the 70s and 80s.
A great rider who never quite hit the heights of stardom. He was Wembley's top rider in 1970, which was some going with Fundin in the team, and was consistently good throughout his British career serving many clubs. A World finalist only once in 1968, it was amazing that someone scoring so well in the British League only made one appearance.
No Wembley team would be complete without Bert "Haggis" Harkins or Bertola. Mr Wembley, the team captain and my speedway hero at the time. In fact he is the only Speedway rider whose autograph I ever got. Standing on the pit bend and watching the activity, he always seemed to be rushing around helping or advising his team. On the track he was always trying to team ride, trying to help the 2nd strings and reserves. Most of all it looked like he was enjoying it and he had a wonderful relationship with the Wembley fans. His best BL average came in 1971 with Wembley when he averaged over 8. That year was also his best chance of making a World Final, the last 2 steps were at Hampden and Wembley, both pretty much home tracks, but he broke his collarbone just before Hampden and failed to qualify. I of course am biased but no less than Ivan Mauger in his Speedwar Star column of the time believed that Bert could probably have qualified. A true Speedway legend, flag carrier and champion of Scotland's speedway cause, an all time speedway personality.
Submit Your Own Dream Team
This article was first published on 4th March 2010
"Good to see Rob picking a team of riders who rode for
Wembley in the '70s, and good to see that the Lions are not forgotten. Losing that prestigeous stadium was a big blow for all of Speedway. Thanks
for your comments, Rob, but as I was reading it, I blushed so much that my glasses steamed up!!"
"Totally agree you have 4 of the greatest riders Fundin, Harrfeldt,
Bertola, but most of all REIDAR EIDE. Wonderful rider, great with supporters. Pity norway has stopped producing the like of those two and Dag and Ulf Lovaas,
Oyvind S Berg. Remember Sverre at Meadowbank - invincible and brilliant. He and Hurri-Ken tore us apart."
"Great to get feedback from Bert Harkins on my Wembley Dream team,
seems he is still very active in the "World Speedway Riders Association", and he must have a treasure trove of memories and anecdotes to share,
would love to read a few on here. The Lions were only around for 2 years in the 70s, but as a 14/15 year old I loved going. Went to a number of
World Finals, World Team Cups etc at the Stadium too, they were fantastic nights, what a fantastic venue it was for speedway. In later years
Wimbledon was always enjoyable, good racing, a couple of pints at "Nosher" Powels pub after the meting, then Fish & Chips at Molly's Fish Shop, great."
"Great comments Rob.....and of course Bert ! .........I used to watch the Lions in 1970 and 1971 too.....great memories.......I was only 14/15 yrs old but was mesmerised by it all. Sverre was a sensation from gate 4 yellow/black helmet........I don't recall watching Ove but did see Reider and Gote as great No 1's.......some of the lesser lights contributed too....the likes of Brian Collins and Brian Leonard.....Tony Clarke........and even lesser lights like Steve Bast, Pete Prinsloo and Wayne Briggs.........did get the occasional surprise point or two! I used to travel from Watford and then climb those concrete steps to sit and watch high up on first bend......can still imagine riders coming out if close my eyes and also hear that irritating song 'Chirppy Chirppy Cheep Cheep' ........ Went onto Hackney on Friday nights at Waterden Road when Lions finished...was good but could never replace those wonderful Sat nights at Wembley........"
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