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Dream Team: Canvey Bal

My first speedway meeting was on Easter Friday 1975 - at the home of my beloved Hackney Hawks. We lost to Ipswich! However, that wasn't going to put me off supporting the greatest sport in the World - which I've gladly done ever since. I've said on a previous post on this site that I truly believe that Hackney's Waterden Road was the best track I've ever seen. Not looking at things through rose-tinted spectacles, nothing comes close to the amount of overtaking and close racing that I witnessed at Hackney Stadium - I'm honestly not being biased!

These days, I work as a SCB Machine Examiner at Lakeside (and yes I was caught up in the silencer issue this season - very sad and enough said). One of my favorite wind-ups is forever telling the other track staff at Lakeside just how wonderful the Waterden Road circuit was - something that doesn't go down too well; as many of them were formerly the mob that went to Custom House! ;-) I still adore this sport as much as ever - albeit I can't believe I now shout for The Hammers!

I've been to a lot of away tracks over the years too - albeit its so sad to see many of the excellent photos on this site of them now defunct. I've also been to Eindhoven to see Ice Speedway - a fantastic spectacle that I'd recommend to any fellow speedway nut! My biggest gripe in the sport is supporters that moan about things such as track preparation when, in reality, they haven't got the first idea what they are talking about. Nobody realises the amount of sheer hard graft put in by a track curator (in our case, Gerald Richter) and other track staff across the country - voluntarily. When fans return to their warm homes after a meeting, and sit with their feet up and a cup of tea, then in all probability the track staff guys at your local club are still at the track; putting fencing, airbags, equipment and vehicles away - often in freezing cold and/or wet weather (rant over)! Anyway, here's my Hackney Dream Team!

Galvin Jessup

Barry Thomas
MR HACKNEY SPEEDWAY HIMSELF. Became my idol as a young lad at my first meeting - and I've loved 'Thommo' ever since. So many memorable times watching this guy. A unique riding style with a never-say-die attitude, I don't think I've ever watched a more exciting speedway rider. Watching Thommo lead the recently revived Hackney Hawks out at Lakeside and doing four laps bought a tear to my eye. THE MAN IS TRULY A LEGEND - words cannot express what I truly think of him; nor the hours of entertainment that he bought to so many of us.

Jens Rasmussen
Jens was one of 3 Danes wearing the Hawks body colour in '82 & '83 - along with Bo Petersen and Finn Thomsen. Another great trier who knew how to pass. His race against Peter Collins at Belle Vue (Hyde Rd) in the second half 'rider of the night' race in 1983 was the best 4 laps of speedway I've EVER witnessed. The lead must have changed about 20 times (I kid you not!) with Raz pipping PC on the line.

Andy Galvin
From a mascot for the Crayford Kestrels to a star of the Hackney Kestrels, to see Andy develop into such an exceptional rider is what Speedway's all about. To see the speed that he'd come up inside an opposing rider to overtake (yet never put that rider under threat of being knocked off/fenced) was a joy to behold.....and epitomised speedway racing at its very best. He also featured in one of the best races I ever saw at Waterden Road - it was 1987. Together with his partner (Alan Mogridge) they twice passed (and subsequently beat) Erik Gundersen in a vital heat - Erik wasn't very pleased. It was the greatest piece of team riding I've EVER witnessed.

John Titman
By the time John came to Hackney from Leicester, his best years had possibly passed him by. There were to be no more World Championships for Tito BUT that really didn't matter. What John bought to Hackney was pure consistency, reliability, teamwork, guts and determination. A team of John Titman's, even in this day and age, would win you the league.

Dave Jessup
Never a Hackney rider but one of those riders that even if he was riding for Wimbledon, Kings Lynn, etc. you just had to admire DJ. A very quick trapper but also knew how to line opponents up for that all important overtake if required. Always very fair, he was a true gentlemen on a speedway bike whilst also being extremely competitive - a guy that you could never dislike - even though he'd often go through the card and beat your own teams' heat leaders. Possibly (along with Bengt 'Banger' Jannson) the unluckiest guy never to become World Champion.

Ole Olsen
A rider that you'd always love to hate - but still love him anyway (if that makes sense)! A true character of the sport whose record of success speaks for itself; and such an inspirational rider who has helped so many of the Danish riders progress onto the speedway world stage. Funniest moment ever though was when he had Bo Petersen off at Hackney. Bo, who was tall enough to 'walk' onto his bike, ran into the pits to have it out with Ole. Olsen saw him coming and strapped his helmet back up. Ole had an orange helmet and where the helmet colour had come off, his blushing face made his head look like a satsuma! Bo literally lifted Olsen off the floor with one hand - his other finger wagging at Olsen as us fans that ran to the pits got our first full-on lesson of Danish swear words. Ole's little legs were kicking away like something off of a cartoon as Bo lifted him off the ground! Anyway, a rider I would have in my Dream Team any day of the week.

Any of those riders who have lost their lives
No particular name here - just any speedway rider that has lost his life in the interest of entertaining us all with the sport that we collectively love so much. I saw 3 boys lose their lives at Waterden Road (or shortly thereafter from injuries sustained); Vic Harding (Hackney), Denny Pyeatt (Reading) and Paul Muchene (Wimbledon). Along with EVERY Speedway Rider that has lost their life in this great sport, let us remember them, and their families, forever in our prayers. Each and every one is a HERO - and more than worthy of a place in ANYONE'S DREAM TEAM. May they all Rest In Peace.

 

This article was first published on 29th December 2011

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