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Dream Team : Andy Harris

Andy Harris of Newcastle nominates his seven.

Ivan Mauger
My boyhood hero and the sport's greatest ever rider. There's little new that can be said about the great man. I remember his earliest rides for the Diamonds, it was immediately obvious that he was a class above most of his provincial league opponents. The true extent of his class didn't become apparent until 1965. This was the year that the leagues combined into the British League. Ivan soon proved that he was one of the very best in the World. The club never really recovered from his loss.

Joe Owen
One of the original members of the 'new' diamonds side in 1975. Joey was a tremendous rider let down only by his gating. This didn't matter to those of us on terracing, we loved watching him recoup ground on his faster starting opponents. In the mid seventies he was the best rider in the league and his loss to the British League was inevitable. He returned to Newcastle in 1982 and was every bit as good as I remembered. He had matured as a rider and simply oozed class. He led the side in the ill-fated BL campaign in 1984 and proved that he could still mix it with the best. Tragically he was paralysed while racing for Ellesmere Port in 1985.

Tom Owen
Elder brother of Joe and an equally proficient scorer. Led the side magnificently from 1975 to 1979 and was rightly nicknamed the 'Ivan Mauger of the National League'. Injuries saw him miss most of 1980 and 1981 but he returned to the side in 1982. Moved on to Stoke the following year, but concluded his career with a season at Newcastle in 1987.

Tom was Mr Newcastle for many years and is one of the club's greatest ever servants. He possessed an air of invincibility that nobody has come close to in recent years. We knew he should really have been in the British League, but we loved the fact that he wasn't.

David Bargh
'Barghy' first appeared on the scene in the late seventies. He was a young Kiwi with a fierce determination to forge a career in Speedway. His talent was undeniable and he developed into an excellent National League racer. He moved onwards and upwards (returning in '84 for the BL season) and enjoyed much success with club and country.

He returned to Newcastle in 1990 after a long fight to be given special dispensation to ride in the National League. It was a ridiculous situation, no club in the top league wanted him yet he was 'too good' to drop down. The situation was eventually resolved and he was allowed to start a third spell as a Diamond.

For the next three years he led the side brilliantly. Home or Away he could be relied on to rack up the points. He was idolised on the terraces, especially because he was 'one of our own', and his World Championship adventures provided many great days out.

Ole Olsen
Ivan Mauger's Danish protege who eventually replaced the Kiwi as the club's number one. Olsen wasn't idolised in the way that Ivan had been, but he was an excellent rider. Olsen inspired respect more than genuine affection but I couldn't leave him out of my side.

Nikki Pedersen
Nikki only spent one season with Newcastle (1998) but he is one of the most popular riders we have ever had. He arrived with a big reputation and didn't fail to deliver. To score so well, so soon, on unfamiliar tracks was an indication of his class. He was a slickly polished professional in the Mauger mould and we were lucky to have him. It's been great to see him doing well for Wolves and in his debut Grand Prix.

Rod Hunter
Let's make no bones about it, Rod liked money, lots and lots of money. Nothing wrong with that of course, but it often did seem to overshadow much of his career.

Rod, an Aussie, first rode for Newcastle in 1978 and swiftly developed into one of our best riders. He was always a slightly controversial character who divided the support. Like Barghy he moved on to the upper league before drifting in retirement. He had offers to return but a deal could never be struck.

He eventually did return in 1989 when he lined up for the reformed Newcastle Diamonds. He hadn't ridden since 1985 and it was a desperate gamble from an increasingly desperate promotion. After a slow start he clicked into gear and proved to be an excellent number one. The club wanted him to return but terms couldn't be agreed.

It looked as if his career was over again but he signed for arch rivals Middlesbrough on the eve of the season. That was to be his last year in the sport. Rumoured to have won big on the Lottery a few years ago - he'll like that!

 

This article was first published prior to October 2002


 

  • Nigel Crabtree:

    "Never a truer word spoke Andy. Rod (Hunter) definitely liked his money. I used to stop with Rod during my days at Newcastle. I always remember when we got home after a meeting Rod used to work out how much money he had earnt, take off what he had spent (NOT MUCH) eg fuel, oil, spares, fish and chips, beer, rent, gas etc. Within 30 minutes of getting home he knew how much profit he had made. What good times!"

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