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The Russians at Wembley

Tell us about your introduction to speedway

My introduction was by accident. In 1962 I would have been about 15. I had been to see a couple of stock car meetings and frankly could not understand what could be interesting about four motorbikes doing only four laps. Two or three of my school mates were going to the Firs to watch Norwich and it was a case of go with them or be left on my own. Well, I was hooked, and after that day tried to see every match at Norwich.


Tell us about your favourite meeting of all time

There have been so many. It's hard to choose just one. The night four Russians took on full strength Norwich must be one of them, the first ever Russian test at Wembley stands out, although the USSR was outclassed except for Igor Plechanov and Boris Samorodov. I could say every match that I saw with Peter Craven, or Ipswich winning the double...


Tell us about your favourite rider of all time

This is hard too. I will have to give a short list. Peter Craven and Ronnie Moore for sure. Terry Betts, Igor, Sandor Levai, Olle Nygren. Choose one from those.


Tell us about your favourite track/stadium

My favorite tracks were Norwich and Rayleigh for the quality of racing, with Ipswich close behind. West Ham was too big and wide. Long Eaton was a grotty stadium, but I liked the racing. Hackney always smelt of paint or chemicals (but racing was good in Len's time). I really like Somerset, good raceway in an age when some are not too good. King's Lynn is another very good track, as is Sheffield. For atmosphere it would have to be Wembley on World Final Night (good racing too if Len Silver prepared the track). Poole is another favorite, friendly folks down there.


What are the best things about speedway?

The best thing has got to be the fans. Nice people, friendly and well behaved always. I think the sport should be really proud of the nature of its supporters. We are a big family. Going to Wembley on World Final Night was an experience that I doubt GP will ever match. 90,000 fans milling around, all the different team colours, and everone entirely friendly. I lost my car keys there one night and about a dozen fans from all over the place really tried to help me out. Someone even gave me a key that kind of fitted my ignition, and which he didn't need any more. Thanks mate if you read this, I got back to Norwich about dawn the next day.


What are the worst things about speedway?

Falling crowds, tracks that are too slick and an obsession with covering every inch of the riders and bikes with ads. I feel sure there would be more on the terraces if there were firm rules that every racer had to wear a proper racejacket with the team colours writ bold upon it. The sense of identity is important, and the promoters do not seem to realise this. Look at the boys from the 70's. Bees, Stars, Aces, each with a racejacket you could see across the stadium.


What one thing would you do to improve speedway?

I would really insist upon good racing tracks. Dirt on them, smooth, and with more than one racing line. Starting at Norwich as I did I never realized what some supporters had to put up with, where just staying on seemed to be an achievement. Look at the recent GP from Slovenia. That track was so poor a raceway that I was losing the will to live by halftime when, thankfully, somebody other than from the inside grid got a win. Get the track right, get the atmosphere right, make it belonging, make it fun and the terraces will fill themselves.


Tell us about a rider you wish you'd seen

Well if I really have to choose probably Aub Lawson, but Jack Young, Tom Farndon, Vic Duggan and Split Waterman would all come close.


What does the future hold for speedway?

Hard to say. Hoepfully there will one day be a new and successful track in London and, of course, a brand new track in Norwich. I do hope that promoters will promote and entertain. I remember when announcers and some promoters were worth the entry price alone. You felt part of a big, cheeky and sometimes ireverent but partisan family. Let's bring that back. Alternatively it could be banned on account of people gathering and emitting the 'deadly CO2 toxin' in their breath - but I hope that commonsense will return to the world before that happens.


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This article was first published on 26th November 2009

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