"A great article from Alan Pennington. Like him, I wonder now whether I'm going through the motions by watching live speedway. Sadly, the total destruction of Plough Lane, Wimbledon, is now complete and there isn't a track in London or within 50 miles now. This year thanks to the virus we haven't been able to showcase the sport on TV, and quite frankly the Polish stuff without a crowd has been lamentable. I grieve for the sport I love, having spent many happy Tuesday's at West Ham and Friday's at Hackney in the 60's and 70's.
Like Alan, I note the lack of the younger generation at the few meetings I do attend now. Maybe a return to the "old" rules (especially the nonsense at the start - What would Tony Lomas have made of those first out of the gate now?), and the freedom to choose handlebars (remember the wide sweeping cow horns that some used?) would give the sport some of its spectacle back. But, I won't hold my breath.
A once proud and magnificent sport now seems to be slowly dying on the back of political correctness (you aren't excluded now but disqualified), and ridiculous rules courtesy of the BSPA and the FIM which have slowly throttled the life out of it. I shall continue to attend meetings when and where I can, but each year they seem to get less and less important. Nobody though can take away the memories. Thank you speedway for everything."
"Thanks for this brilliant piece which answered many questions for me. I was a 15 yr old Wolves follower at the time and had been to my first meeting at Monmore a few weeks earlier but was not at the meeting where Gary died. I found out the following day seeing it in the Express & Star headline when shopping i n town next day.
It was such a numbing shock I never read the account of the accident.
I became a regular from 1978 with some friends and in one meeting some time after this we were cheering Alan Grahame who was guesting for Wolves that night when one of the older fans stood behind us on the home straight chimed in: "What do you mean 'come on Alan!'? That man killed Gary Peterson!" A woman in their group was visibly distressed and they did not elaborate on how Alan was supposed to have done this. Seeing this piece and attached comments removes the asterisk from Alan Grahame's name for me. Maybe some fans were still traumatised and naturally blamed the survivor in order to cope.
Right up until Wolves were "relegated" to the National League we always seemed one rider short of having a competitive side. I often wondered especially if 1978 would've been quite as disastrous with Gary Peterson alongside Hans Nielsen, Dave Morton and Jimmy Mac and whether he could have emulated his friend Ole Olsen and become Wolves's second World Champion. Or would he have followed Ole to Coventry instead? Alas we shall never know."
"Enjoyed your reminiscences Alan - just one thing Ray Harris -also one of my favourites did ride after Stoke closed, for Newport in 1964 and 1965. In fact Ray scored 7 points at Long Eaton for a Newport away win in 1965 I recall an older speedway fan at that meeting seeing a hectic race with Ray Harris against Ken Adams and saying how great it was to see two old timers giving it their all. I recall that particular race (hitch-hiked up to Long Eaton) - great days and great riders!!"
"Alan's is another sad story of a supporter lost to the sport. Like myself he tells a similar story, a relative or friend persuades you to go speedway and you become hooked. Living in London, Stoke was a track I enjoyed going to, paying many a visit, a couple of times stopping off at Alton Towers with Loomer Road rounding off a wonderful day.
His thoughts on why British Speedway has declined is shared by most of us but I think other factors have contributed, we are told there's not enough riders yet you have track sharing, air fences have reduced the widths of tracks thus reducing racing lines, an example Rye House the last track I was able to get to became poor racing once an air fence was introduced especially when they went Premiership, out to the fence and stay there, no passing unless mistakes were made, ironically Rye had a safer (collapsible) fence than the air fence.
Even if you watched Swedish Speedway on Freeview and Polish on You-tube you were watching the same riders in each league. Fortunately we have the internet with websites such as this where we can share our speedway memories of a time when it was enjoyable, great in these times of coronavirus with self isolating and thank goodness for Zoom and Facebook Messenger. "
Alan has been a fan since the fifties, but fears he has seen has last live meeting now that Stoke Potters are no more. Having seen racing at 74 UK tracks, he's well placed to offer some opinion on the sport.
"Saw a couple of meetings at the Hayley stadium, one against Birmingham the other was the New Year Classic. The Brum meeting had some great racing made even better by the fact that Brum came out on top - this was ridden on a beautiful summers day.
The visit for the New Year Classic was a little different. There had been a lot of rain but the meeting went on even though the track was like a pudding bowl. Racing was very difficult due to the conditions and I had noticed that anyone standing near to the bend three fence got filled in with splattering shale as the riders entered the bend. There were five of us and we wondered around the track watching the racing from different vantage points. I stopped the group at bend three as we chatted. As the riders came round four of us crouched using my brother-in-law as a shield and true to form he got covered from head to toe...as you can imagine we were all very sympathetic.....happy days!"
"Re: "suitable for crimewatch" - Ukrainian Igor Marko who died after a mugging/street robbery in Rivne in 2006. Although over 40 he was still active in the Ukraine. Career highlight was the 1986 European Junior Championship (now called World under 21) which he won from Tony Olsson and Brian Karger. He appeared in Britain in 1990 as part of a USSR touring team."
"Just came across this article. Me and my mate hitch-hiked to Skeggy for a few days back in the 70's. On the Sunday Boston were at home to my beloved Brummies in the second leg of a cup match. We hitched back to New Hammond Beck Road and pitched our tent on an embankment outside the stadium which I think overlooked bends 1 and 2. Our intention was to go into the stadium but we had such a good view we watched from the embankment. We witnessed a great meeting as Boston stormed into a 14 point lead only for Brum to fight back and earn a draw and won the tie on aggregate."
"I remember this meeting has if it was yesterday (not 46 years ago). This was the first time a bunch of us lads (Long Eaton Archers Supporters) had taken our wives/girlfriends to an big individual meeting. We arrived early and went to watch the South London Rangers Cycle Speedway team against a Select Side. An entertaining match, which the Rangers won. I have the program somewhere.
Any way, off to the meeting. My mate Paul's GF (later wife) was a massive John Boulger fan, who fell in his first ride and was unable to continue due to a shoulder injury. It was a great meeting for another Friend (Big Rog) wife, because Peter Collins won it, and she was from Manchester and an Aces Fan.
The fates hadn't finished with us yet. On the way home, the Mini bus broke down. Gary and Tony who drove the bus had to trudge over a mile to the nearest breakdown phone box. After dropping everybody off safely I finally crawled into bed around 5 the following morning. Later I rang my the girlfriend (at the time) Loran up to see how she was, and had to explain to her irate Dad, what had happened to the bus. Any way thanks for reading the story and the memories of an Old Man."