It's All About You... Andy Oldfield
Tell us about your introduction to speedway
I was taken to my first speedway meeting in 1968 at the age of 10 by my Brother-in-Law who had just become a 'track raker' at Kingsmead Stadium, the home of the new Canterbury Crusaders team. Whilst the detail of the meeting has dulled over time, I am pretty sure that it was against Berwick Bandits and the Crusaders managed a narrow win. I had seen grass track racing before so speedway was not entirely new to me in that sense, however the atmosphere of the stadium and Johnnie Hoskins antics really grabbed my imagination, and being part of a 'huge' crowd watching your team was just the best experience.
Tell us about your favourite meeting of all time
I have to say that there have been many, many over the years, including Wembley World Finals, however the one that sticks out in my mind was an away match for the Crusaders at the 'old enemy' Crayford in 1970. This was the year when Canterbury won the old Division Two title with a very strong team - Barry Crowson, Graeme Smith, Graham Miles and Barry Thomas to name a few, and the away league match against the Highwaymen, as they were then, was late on in the season. Crayford was never an easy place to go for the Crusaders, as the tight and difficult track was completley different to the wide open spaces of Kingsmead, and Canterbury usually struggled to get round the place, however on this night the boys were on fire and thrashed the hapless home team to the tune of something like 28-50! Graham Miles in particular was magnificent, unbeaten I believe and we all went away firmly believing that it did not get much better than that!
Tell us about your favourite rider of all time
A previous contributor has said that your first hero is always your favourite and in my case this is very true. Martyn Piddock rode for the Crusaders from the start and was my absolute hero. To see him flying around Kingsmead with his orange scarf flying out behind him was truly amazing for a ten year old, and an image that I have never forgotten. When he died so tragically in 1970 I was heartbroken and wrote a letter to his parents offering my condolenses. Martyn's Mum took the time to reply to me and I believe that I still have the letter in my loft. It was such a shame that he did not get the chance to become the great rider I believe he would have been.
Tell us about your favourite track/stadium
I always loved the 'old' Kingsmead track which was big and fast. Unfortunately it was also very fair and popular with visitng riders, therefore ensuring that the Crusaders usually got a hard time from the opposition! My best memories of the early days was standing right by the railway sleeper safety fence with my mates and ducking down when the riders came past to avoid the flying shale - the health and safety police would have a heart attack nowadays! The Canterbury track was completely ruined when they introduced the dog track in the late eighties and to be honest that was when I lost some of my enthusiasm for the sport for a time. Other than Kingsmead I always enjoyed Peterborough and Mildenhall and hated Eastbourne, actually not just the track - I just hated Eastbourne as all true Canterbury supporters did at the time!!
What are the best things about speedway?
The excitement of a good race with all four riders in contention on a well prepared track just cannot be beaten. Unfortunately a processional race on a poorly prepared track is also one of the most boring ways to spend 60 seconds!
What are the worst things about speedway?
See above!, I would also add that the delays between races should not be allowed to drag on as they do.
What one thing would you do to improve speedway?
Allow 'messing about' at the start to be re-introduced! Riders should only be excluded if they break the tapes as in the old days and rolling should not be punished, adds to the excitement but controversial I know!
Tell us about a rider you wish you'd seen
The great riders of the 50's and 60's I only saw towards the end of their careers, Ronnie Moore, Barry Briggs, Ove Fundin, etc, and I would really have liked to have seen Peter Craven as he must have been amazing.
What does the future hold for speedway?
I believe that speedway in the UK needs to get back on a more realistic financial basis and allow the GP series to go its own way. I have to say that I enjoy the Cardiff experience as much as anyone (although personally I am a fan of the 'one off' final) however league speedway is what it is all about for me, therefore league teams of largely local riders riding standardised machinery and really wanting to win for their team is what we need right now.
What was the best meeting format?
I always loved the 13 heat team meeting followed by a second half, culminating in the Rider of the Night final. I understand that financially it does not make sense any more however it ended the evening perfectly for me. I would also want to see the re-introduction of the 'Golden Helmet' type match race, where your teams best rider had the chance to defeat the current champion - magic!
This article was first published on 8th April 2010
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