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Recapturing Past Glories
By John Hyam

From the South London Press, Friday September 19, 2008

The first match I saw at Wimbledon on Thursday April 29 1948 actually featured Wembley beating Belle Vue 52-31 in a National League match.

This was because Wembley were based at Plough Lane for six weeks while the Empire Stadium was in use for that year's Olympic Games.

But I had seen the Dons in action many times before that when they were visitors to my first speedway love, the now gone but not forgotten New Cross team.

In the late 1940s, New Cross were often compared with the Dons - and for most of the time until their closure in early 1953, New Cross held sway over their south London rivals, as they had also done in the pre-war seasons between 1929-39.

The book concentrates on a period from the 1950s through until the demise of top-class racing at Plough Lane on June 5 1991. Then, the sport went out on a damp note at the closedown meeting with the match abandoned at heat eight because of rain.

But the closedown was no real surprise. Wimbledon had been in decline for years before that. As far back as 1986 there was speculation that it would fold.

The book has a bright modern feel. There are many excellent team photos - going back as far as 1931 which feature great riders such as Vic Huxley and Ray Tauser.

There are also photos of two riders who I regard as being the most spectacular in post-war years to have worn the club's race-jacket. They are that great legtrail-style rider Oliver Hart and the hustle-bustle thrillmaker Lloyd 'Cowboy' Goffe. In the days when tracks were deep cinder surfaces rather than the shale of modern times, their spectacle has never been repeated.

The 'Wimbledon Dons' book gives an insight from the days when speedway was a mainstream sport to the lesser dimensions of the ill-fated venture into Conference League racing between 2002-05. It is well worth a library place.

 

WIMBLEDON DONS
The story of Wimbledon Speedway
Edited by Howard Jones
106 pages, more than 200 photos

£15.99 (post free - cheques/postal orders only) from:

Speed-Away Promotions
19 Arundel Road
Lytham St. Annes
Lancashire
FY8 1AF.

Or from Speed-Away Promotions website.

 

This article was first published on 25th September 2008

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