Some West Ham Memories
I have such wonderful memories of the Hammers, long after when me and my dad used to go to New Cross speedway when I was but a nipper (probably aged about 7/8) of course my favourite rider then was Ron Johnson, but there were a host of other fantastic riders from teams such as Wembley, White City and Hackney. Then there were the "stars" like Split Waterman and Tommy Price (later to become The Hammers manager). Those certainly were the days of exciting speedway and "yes" I remember buying my "Larkins" peanuts from the roving vendors.
Fast forward to my real era in speedway, the 60s with a whole new generation of new style riders, "foot forward" as opposed to trailing, I guess this new breed seemed to impress me more so because of the faster bikes that carried the likes of the great Barry Briggs, Ivan Mauger, Nigel Boocock, Colin Pratt, Ove Fundin, Gote Nordin, Martin Ashby, Olle Nygren....this list goes on and on.
There were so many terrific riders in that era, I often wonder...how would today's riders fare against those from the 60s, later I will put out a team of 7 riders (all nationalities) just for fun and you can pick your modern day riders to beat my old timers.
Anyhow just to reflect upon my happy days spent at the Custom House, so many memories it's hard to know where to start.
Perhaps it might be best if I just mentioned the great riders that graced the Custom House under the Hammers banner and that way I may bring back some memories for other speedway fans to dwell on...
So let's start with the late great unselfish and sadly missed Ken McKinlay. Next...Norman Hunter (didn't like getting his leathers dirty). Sverre Hardfeldt, was always zapping around the outside of the track and was a great rider. Reg Luckhurst, steady back-up rider dependable and quite good on the grasstrack circut as well.
And who can forget another one-time skipper Bjorn Knuttson, one of the fastest riders not to break track record, I remember when he used to have (I think) a 30yard handicap at the start, but by the first bend he'd be up with the other riders.
Alfie Hagon, good old Alf, didn't win a lot of races (nursed by Ken many a time), but I do always remember the time when Alf was the "fastest man" at the Custom House. He had won (I think it was) the "world standing start drag race bike" of course Alf brought the bike to a meeting but cautiously rode the "monster" around the track at hardly ticking over speed, to much cheering and applause from the fans.
Malcolm Simmons, or "sparky" as we nicknamed him on account of the sparks that came off his metal boot piece, what sad, sad news about "Simmo" recently, now up there with his old skipper Ken.
Tony Clark, always a trier and rarely gave up in a race, took a while to get recognised as a good rider but got there in the end. Well I hope some of the mentioned riders come back into someone's memories, they do mine.
Anyway, as promised, my team of all-time stars (you'll have to dig deep to beat this squad). (1) Barry Briggs; (2) Ivan Mauger; (3)Ove Fundin; (4) Gote Nordin; (5) Sveere Hardfeldt; (6) Ron Moore; (7) Bjorn Knutson.
There you go friends....cheers.
This article was first published on 29th June 2014
"Unfortunately Tony Clarke died recently as well...."
"Enjoyed your article. May they r.i.p. Think I saw them all including West Ham visit Exeter, my home. Sverre was great as many of the other guys, of course. Simmo was brilliant around Exeter as was, Phil Crump, Mike Lee, Gordon Kennett and others too many to name, but they live on in my memory box. Would love to have gone to the Custom House."
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