Dream Team : George Cox
I've been a Speedway fan for longer than I care to remember. I used to travel regularly to tracks around the country and made many good friends this way. I restrict myself to the more local (to London) tracks these days. Here is my Dream Team.
Briggo was the top rider throughout the 1960s. He was as famous then as many footballers are today. On track he was a formidable opponent and it was a feather in cap of anyone that managed to beat him. I was surprised recently to read that his preparation wasn't always that professional. He always seemed to be better equipped than his rivals, perhaps his talent just made it seem that way.
I used to watch Ken race for West Ham in the mid-sixties. He captained the side that won the first ever British League and his scoring was a major contributory factor towards that success. He used his experience to outfox younger opponents and never seemed to hit mechanical problems. To a young man (as I was at the time) he seemed to be ancient, in retrospect he probably wasn't as old as he seemed. He was still racing a decade later and had lost none of his class.
I pick him solely for his performances in 1965. He had come close to being crowned World Champion in the early 1950s when he lost a run off for the title. By the early sixties his form had deteriorated and he was racing at reserve for Newport. Suddenly his form returned in 1965 and he finished top of the Newport averages. I've always admired him for reversing that decline. I believe he lost his life in a track crash in Australia, that would probably have been sometime in the early 70's.
Another favourite from Custom House (West Ham) days. He started racing at an early age, certainly earlier than was customary back then, and quickly established himself at Hackney. He moved over to West Ham when the provincial league ran 'black' in 1964. If he'd raced for Hackney he would have lost his licence and been unable to race on the grasstracks. He went on to become a World Class performer who spent a year as the World's number two. He still races on the grasstracks and came close to an Elite league return just a couple of years ago.
Whoever nicknamed him the "Wizard of Balance" hit the nail on the head. He was sensational to watch (particularly around Belle Vue) and is undoubtedly the best English rider of all time. He was a popular visitor at all tracks and was idolised in Manchester. He was killed in a crash at Old Meadowbank in the early sixties. If fate hadn't intervened then I think he would have won more World Titles.
In many ways Collins was Peter Craven mark two. Craven was the better rider but Collins was the next best thing. He had a tremendous amount of ability and often showed amazing courage. He won the 1976 World Championship (in Katowice) and would have won more titles if he'd been able to gate. I admired him most when he defended his World Title despite having a broken leg. He almost did it as well. Persistent injuries forced him to retire in 1986.
Gordon was the number one when I was a regular at White City. I don't think that he ever got the recognition he deserved, he was a brilliant rider. He was a diabetic but he overcame this to race into his forties. I would often go down to Eastbourne to see Gordon race and he always made the journey worthwhile. I last saw him race at Milton Keynes when he had a short spell with the Knights.
This article was first published prior to October 2002
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