Chris Wallett recently captured these pictures of the one-time home of the Cradley Heathens. You may still
recognise the entrance to the old track, though the site is now covered in housing. The only evidence of this bit of land's
past is the name of the road that leads into the estate.
How To Alienate a Speedway Fan By Jamie Scarrott
I attended, and thoroughly enjoyed, the recent Premier League Fours at Peterborough, but wish to air my views about "hidden" charges. Having seen the
adverts and preview in Speedway Star, £15 for admission and £4 for a programme seemed good value. Imagine my surprise when asked to part
with £2 to park my car. I have NEVER paid to park at the Fours when held at Peterborough in the past.
Then, having paid to get in, I'm asked to pay
AGAIN to sit down. Once again, never before at the Fours have I been charged to sit in the grandstand. My main gripe here is not the cost, but the
fact that these charges were not advertised. Are the promoters worried that if they do, no one will turn up? If I were them, I'd be worried about them
not turning up in 2011 because who knows what hidden extras will be charged for
Diana Sharples wants to know more about her grandfather George Basil Mortimer. She believes he was well known in speedway circles
in the thirties - Can You Help?
"Sorry to learn of the passing of Toby Harryson.
saw him at Glasgow White City when he managed the rare achievement of beating Charlie Monk round the old track. His lack of height seemed to make him
all the more exciting to watch, as he seemed to be at odds with the law of gravity and I'll always remember him for that."
"Quote- All of a sudden we will find out who can
ride any Speedway bike and really be the Champion of the World - Unquote.......How can you say that, I garantee you that all of the SGP competitors will have
tried every available frame and engine on the current market and settled on the setup that best suits their style. World Champions work harder and are
focused on the ultimate goal. There will always be those who qualify for the SGP but never even come close to winning a round let alone the holy grail. That's
how it was in the One Off Final and every Motorsport on the Planet today. There will be winners and there will be losers. Trying to create a standard
system would make a joke of the Pinnacle of our great sport. Imagine making F1 a car lottery. Sorry I do not agree with any system that tries to make
winners out of losers........"
"While I agree with Bill Gillihams ideas. I
would go one further & suggest that all speedway bikes be bog standard. In that I mean as bought over the counter no goodies added, then it will be down
to the skill of the riders as they will all be on identical machines. It will also cut down the cost of maintaining the machine & even a novice can go out
& buy the same bike as the world champion rides over the counter be it JAWA OR G.M."
"I like the idea, it would stop 'cheque book racing',
however I very much doubt it would even be considered as an idea. Everyone knows that Jason Crump is probably able to spend 2 or 3 times more than most
other GP riders due to his massive sponsorships etc, this would certainly even the playing field. It could also work for the League as well, it would
remove the cost of engine tuning, potentially lower the riders wages as they wouldn't have the tuning bills, and therefore make it cheaper for the fans.
I seriously doubt it will ever happen though."
"Sat here in Baku Azerbaijan and decided
to look at some speedway stuff on the web, to be honest I never thought I would have been reading about Tom Black, I remember him well at Cleveland
Park one of many from down under who represented the Tigers in the 70s. There are still plenty of speedway fans at the current Redcar Bears meetings
that remember Tom also, a 100% trier. Good luck Tom."
"Very sad indeed... I was Mike Wilsons 'spannerman', I
worked next to where he worked and got on very well indeed. I used to love the speedway nights and the away legs... some very funny times. I remember
dropping into Mike in NZ during a trip and having some giggles about what we used to get up to. Happy times."
"Don't sit thinking about buying Mike Lee's
book, go out and buy it now, you will not be disappointed. This is the best read since Kenny Carter's story. I finished it in four days and could not put
it down. I now feel like I know Michael, and really like the guy now, he seems so genuine."
"Who do you admire the most-
what a great sentiment to your Mum & Dad. My Mum died when I was nine months old and I was put in an orphanage. Boy did I have to struggle to get enough
money to buy a speedway bike and van. Good onyer to remember what they done for you. Too many youngsters take their parents for granted these days."
"Good to see old Paisley photos, I worked on the
trackstaff for the 2 seasons and vividly remember the televised Champion of Strathclyde and Ivan Maugers' gold plated bike. The stadium has only recently
been demolished to make way for a Tesco."
"I went to New Cross speedway every week, I was eleven years old
but I used to meet my sister who worked in the Gas Company Old Kent Road. We would stand over looking the Pits and I used to get the Riders Goggles
with the shale still on them and hang them on my bedpost. We used to sing a song about Ron Johnson. It goes like this:
Ronnie Johnson is his name
Speedway Riding his is game
You should see him when he takes a bend
He's the leader of the stars to end
Every track is the same
Our Ron rides his way to fame
He's the leader of the Rangers
Ronnie Johnson is his name
It was sung to the tune Champagne Charlie is his name.
When New Cross Finished I then supported Wimbledon (The Dons) until 1956 when I got married. Barry Briggs and Ronnie Moore became my Hero's I also went
to the 1949 Speedway World Championship at Wembley and watched Tommy Price win."
"Michael Lee was one of my
favourite riders and I just had to buy this book. I did so with some trepidation given that Michael's past problems are well known and I didn't want
to read "too much information" in case it detracted from the fond memories I have of his on-track performances. I needn't have worried, the book is
extremely well written and I got through it very quickly.
Two things stand out for me. Firstly, talented young sportsmen (and sportswomen) need a
committed mentor, particularly in a sport such as speedway where the emphasis is focused on individual achievements. Secondly, Michael asserts that
all young people will be faced by the choice of whether or not to take drugs and I would have liked him to take the opportunity to offer some advice
on what actions we can all take to influence youngsters faced with those choices. Despite the heavyweight issues involved, my abiding memory is of
hurtling down the back straight at Blackbird Road (Leicester Stadium) before sliding full throttle round the City bend and into the home straight.
In summary then, this is a book well written by Tony McDonald and well worth reading."
"Very interesting to read your comments on the
'Elite' League. It seemed to me that the 'powers that be' who coined that name were trying to come up with something grander than football's primadonnaship,
sorry 'Premiership'. You don't have to be a football fan to realise that's just not going to happen in this country. What was wrong with the 'British League'
"I'm completely in agreement with Roscoe -
whether you like him or not there's no doubting his passion for the sport and he's seen it all as a rider and a promoter. I don't think the Skysports deal
will run for ever and I remember only too well the disastrous effect on football on both sides of the border when major tv deals collapsed. The clubs are
still recovering years later. It's all very well to say that the tv money helps compensate clubs for missing spectators but does that then mean the
ultimate scenario will be televised speedway with no spectators? I don't think so.
I think that already the coverage of speedway is getting distinctly
"samey" in which event there is a definitive sell by date for televised coverage. There may be the occasional visit to PL tracks, for example, but the
basic diet is one of visiting a maximum of 9 venues (some more often that others), a Grand Prix event every couple of weeks featuring basically the
same riders, and that's about it. When punters start to get fed up with that formula (I already have), they switch off, and if promoters don't start
working on getting their missing crowds back now, they will be dead in the water when the tv cameras are eventually switched off. Ironically, the
much vaunted tv coverage might well be a major contributory factor in the demise of many clubs somewhere in the future."
"Sandor Levai first rode in England
in the late 50's at Belle Vue and Birmingham. He failed to make the grade due to poor equipment apparently. He re-emerged at Stoke in 1963, the local press
referred to him as 39 years old and a Hungarian Champion, which he was. He went straight into Stoke's team against New Cross, no second half races at all.
We thought this guy must be pretty good for that to happen. His first race he flew out of gate, failed to turn and spent the race trying to free his bike
from the safety fence. He was dropped but due to injuries he rode in ten matches scoring 19 points and showed great improvement.
Stoke closed sadly at
the end of 63 but I always followed Sandor's career after that. It was great when he finally reached heat leader standard at Newport. I saw him ride for
England at Halifax versus Sweden, he would have been really proud. I was saddened when he died earlier this year, I never met him but those who have say
what a great bloke he was. It seems the Stoke press got his age wrong. R.I.P. Sandor."
"What about the Parker bros - Jack who rode for
Belle vue and Norman the capt of the Dons in Wimbledon. No mention of Lionel Van Praag who rode for New Cross or Ron Johnson another rider from new cross.
What about Vic Duggan who I think was Australian, Archie Windmill who rode for Wimbledon or Eric Chitty? I was of course a Dons fan living round the
corner from Summerstown have a feeling the manager was Ronnie Greene. I can remember the teams we played, Wembley, Harringay, New Cross which was a dire round
track, Bradford, Belle Vue."
Articles on these riders, or any others, for our 'Riders to Remember' series would always be appreciated.
Karen selects her 'seven from heaven' - including Milduran favourite Leigh Adams.
An Ellesmere Port Gunners reunion is being staged on 30th October 2010. It will be held at the Greyhound Club which
is right next to the old stadium. Tickets will be £3 each. Further details from firstname.lastname@example.org
George Stancl is staging a farwell meeting at Brough Park on 27th September. You can keep up to date with the latest
news at the brand new website - georgestanclfarewell.com.
Speedway author Adrian Pavey has an interesting blog that includes some shale content -
Aaron Govern is looking for an audio copy of "The Ivan Mauger Story" and a video copy of "The Flying Kiwi" - Can You Help?
"After reading the article on Brafield Badgers, having gone to a meeting one Sunday I met John Latrobe and asked whether I could
help in any way. Well I finised up staying until the very end. All my weekends were spent putting up the demountable fencing. No mean feat that, but then I
was only 25 years. Now I'm 69 and living in Aussie. That time at Brafield was the most rewarding time because of the friendships we made, lots of the riders
went to become top class. You could not find a better or more friendly bunch of riders or fans. Thanks to John Latrobe we have just found our dear friends
Archie Wilkinson, just one of the many who turned up Sunday after Sunday. Great days, not bad with one finger, eh?"
"It seems a bit unfair to criticise current
day riders for bringing their bikes in a van rather than on a trailer or tow-bar mounted bike rack. Running a van doesn't really cost a lot more than a
car, you can carry more gear, and you can lock everything away."
"You have a point with your article. But
one thing I will say is where can you sit at home and watch for free? You have to subscribe to a premium channel so one way or another you still pay
whether you go to the track or sit at home. Someone is making money when you sit at home and watch. If I can sit at home and watch for free where do
I sign up?? Nothing is free. Maybe in future Speedway will be a track with no stands and we can all sit home and watch for free."
"I'd agree with a lot of what Alun and
Dudley Jones have said in the last couple of weeks, when I started going to speedway in around 1972, Peterborough had a useful team who were about mid
table and crowds were good enough to make finding four seats together in the grandstand difficult if you were a little late. Being in Division 2 the team
was all British with the occasional Aussie thrown in (Glyn Taylor, John Stayte) and Richard Greer lived around the corner from me. The same eight riders
rode for you all season and it was unusual if at least six of them were not back the following year. This season Peterborough have changed their line up
at least three times already and last year it was worse.
I used to be able to name most of the top seven from each track in the country, what night each team raced on. How many people can do that now. I stopped
going to speedway in the late eighties and only started to attend when my kids were old enough and we now go to Peterborough about four or five times a
season. Thats mainly because we live forty miles away, regular race night is a Thursday (to accommodate the GP's) and therefore a school night. Monday's
for Sky only adds to the problem.
The lack of teams in the Elite league is an issue, in one season the nights we were able to go meant out of four visits we saw Coventry three times and it's
difficult to explain to a new fan that there are so few teams that can afford to be in the Elite league, racing the same opposition a minimum of four
times a season is no good for anyone.
I think that any speedway on TV has to be a good thing and remember eagerly awaiting big meetings being shown
on World of Sport, but it can't help tracks when as has happened twice recently Peterborough had a Friday home meeting against Belle Vue, then Monday
against Lakeside. Two or three weeks later they then had Friday, Monday and I think Thursday home meetings. It cost's me around �70 per meeting including
fuel, programme and food for four, how many people can afford that three times in a week?
The point I'm trying to make I guess is that there's no balance anymore, Peterborough have seven overseas riders and many more on loan or "rented" out
to other tracks. The Premier League is full of overseas riders and thats blocking places for british youngsters to come through, overseas meetings seem
to take priority for many of these riders and it's very difficult to explain to a youngster why a programme sometimes has three or four guests or
Look at the National league and how many riders over thirty or forty are there in what's essentially a training league. The really scary thing for me is
that many of the British riders around now were around when I stopped attending in the first place, Gary Havelock etc. While thats a testament to their
commitment and longevity they should be being ousted by good youngsters by now. I don't have the answer but the product is there, the set up and marketing
isn't and that may be the problem. Speedway has, like football come to rely on Sky money and Promoters possibly don't have to work quite as hard to keep
themselves afloat with one shining example, Len Silver at Rye House.
Having said all that, styles, bikes, promoters and riders might change but theres still something about speedway on a well prepared track under lights
that draws you in. I might be in my 50's and only an occasional fan these days but I still get excited when we set out from home for a meeting and
in what other sport would I have got to sit next to and spoken to my favourite rider (Briggo) recently.
By the way can anyone explain why we got rid of the old tactical substitute rules that potentially gave each of the oppositions three heat leaders an
extra ride to keep a match close and went with the current double points version which only gives you one chance to close the gap? "