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Riders to Remember: Ray Moore
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It's All About You... Gary Moore

'Atomic' Tommy Miller

Tell us about your introduction to speedway

I started my love affair with speedway as a six year old in the summer of 1977, when the Glasgow Tigers moved into the Blantyre Greyhound Stadium. To be honest I can't remember if I had ever shown an interest in - or even heard of - speedway at the time. What I do vividly remember, is being at the dog racing at the stadium one night with my Grandad and seeing the track shape already pegged out and the hard core base laid down. I must have asked him what was was going on, because my Dad took me and a couple of my sisters along to that first meeting against the Crayford Kestrels. We actually watched the first few meetings, along with many others, from the top of the old slag heap (bing) which stood behind the back straight. The first meeting I can remember being inside the stadium for, was the Graham Dawson Benefit against Hull Vikings which took place on a grey and murky Sunday afternoon at the end of October that year. But I still have some old programmes from before October, filled out with my Dads shocking hand writing so I was obviously inside before then.

 

Tell us about your favourite meeting of all time

Jeezo there have been so many. I am going to go for Jim Beaton's testimonial in 1985. If anyone deserved a meeting to himself, then it was Jim, after all the trials and triblations he went through to salvage some sort of career. To right with just one good arm takes some courage and Jim had it to spare.......and it also gave me the chance to see one of my favourite riders of the era having a blast round Craighead Park, the one and only Shawn Moran, and he was a sight to behold around that place, let me tell you.

 

Tell us about your favourite rider of all time

Merv Janke, no question, your first speedway hero when you are kid will always be your favourite and wee Merv was mine. Right from the moment he bounced off the fence and careered across the centre green at that first meeting, I was hooked hooked on this tiny wee blonde haired guy. He is still one of the most spectacular riders I have ever seen.

 

Tell us about your favourite track/stadium

Apart from the first Blatyre track, I would have to say Powderhall, I used to love my visits to Powderhall. Whether it was on a hot and sunny summers night with that bright red shale and the perfectly manicured centre green or a cold and dark late October evening, with the fairly lights twinkling in the darkness, it just had something about it. The track lighting wasn't great and the viewing wasn't the best, but I just liked the place. As a youngster I used to collect old programmes and the track shop at Blantyre was always pretty basic, but I used to fill my boots when I got to Norrie's programme stall under the main stand, even moreso at the end of the season when he would sell things off and have a few boxes of them out on the stairs.

 

What are the best things about speedway?

It used to be the smell and the atmosphere, but both have all but gone these days, unfortunately. I do still get a wee buzz when the riders are revving it up at the tapes just before a crucial heat and for me nothing will ever beat the Stripes winning a derby meeting after a last heat decider and I speak as a former season ticket holder at Ibrox, who has experienced many Old Firm games and big Euro nights...

 

What are the worst things about speedway?

The rulebook, it's absolutely shocking how the very same promoters who make up and agree to the rules at the start of the season, go on to show a complete disregard for them during the season. Speedway is at his core a very simple concept, so why do the rules have to be so complex. I realise it is all part and parcel of speedway, but serious injuries and sometimes the ultimate sacrifice, are never nice.

 

What one thing would you do to improve speedway?

That's easy, rip up the rule book and start again. Better prepared tracks and standardised engines can come after that. It's no good having a good product once again, when the powers that be are making the sport a sham. Speedway was introduced as an entertainment first and a sport second, but there is far too much emphasis placed on winning at all costs these days, unfortunately at the cost of entertainment.

 

Tell us about a rider you wish you'd seen

Tommy Miller, I have read plenty about him and the impact he made during his brief speedway career. To have risen from raw novice to a top points scorer in one season was phenomenal. So 'Atomic' Tommy is the man I would love to have witnessed.

 

What does the future hold for speedway?

Difficult to say, as long as Sky are continuing their coverage, then at least speedway is being kept in the public eye. It isn't in the healthiest of states at the moment, but I dread to think what state it would be in, if Sky hadn't stepped in when they did. You watch some televised meetings on a Monday night and the crowds are very poor at certain tracks, absolutely shocking. You wonder where some of these clubs would be right now if Sky wasn't involved. So as much as we knock it and its commentators, British speedway needs Sky right now and as long as they are involved then the future is, maybe not bright, but certainly flickering like one of those new futuristic energy saving bulbs.

 

Should relegation and promotion be scrapped?

Definitely, this has to be the most pointless and crackpot idea the powers that be have ever come up with, and that is saying something considering the competition. It was a bit of a novelty last season when Edinburgh met Wolves, but believe me the novelty will soon wear off as the ritual of the EL club hammering the PL club at the end of each and every season continues. It will always be a complete mis-match, no matter how hard Nigel Pearson tries to promote it during his commentaries on a Monday night. Who knows what the next conference will bring though, as I am sure they will come up with something to top this idea.

 

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  • John Flanagan:

    "Where do I start? As an apprentice fitter at Shell in Carrington near Manchester I used to go to Hyde Road on a Saturday night to watch Sandor Levai, Norman Nevitt and others beating the rest every week.Then a young curly haired lad turned up at work to start his apprenticeship with me. Peter Collins, closely followed by Dave Morton as a welder/fabricator then Chris Morton and Andy Reid.The number of times that our supervisor asked why they were off work with a cold or a cough that they used as an excuse was legendary, except for the fact that our boss read the speedway results each day and wondered why such sick guys could stil score maximums. I lived in Heatley near Lymm where the smell of Castrol R was always in the air accompanied by the roar of a JAWA or JAP being warmed up by my near neighbours the Collins boys, everyone in our village did Grasstrack or Speedway. Great days!"

     

    This article was first published on 19th November 2009

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