It's All About You... Steve Baker
Tell us about your introduction to speedway
My parents are responsible for my introduction to speedway as they were regulars at Dudley Wood many years before I was born. I was taken to the speedway for the first time in the early sixties although my first recollections of the racing are from the late sixties when I recall seeing Ivor Brown riding for the heathens. His white shirt over his leathers is imprinted in my mind and for some strange reason I always wished he would miss the start so that I could see him get covered in dirt!
Tell us about your favourite meeting of all time
Difficult to pin it down to one meeting so I would like to mention three.
The first would be Cradley v Reading KOC 1980 second leg at Dudley Wood particularly the last race where the Heathens needed a 4-2 to draw on the night to win by two overall. Bruce Penhall managed to pass Jiri Stancl after a terrific scrap and Mike Sampson managed to keep Bernie Leigh at the back to secure the points. Also a memorable night for ex Heathen Bobby Schwartz who got an immaculate 21 point maximum.
The second meeting would be the 1981 world final, no other comments necessary other than I was in the crowd surrounded by Halifax supporters which made it rather interesting!
The third meeting was the 1995 fours at Peterborough although this is for more sentimental reasons rather than the racing. It was a terrific day and the last big meeting the heathens won before the sad demise of Dudley Wood.
Tell us about your favourite rider of all time
Phil Collins is my favourite rider. I saw him develop from a pretty raw talent when Cradley signed him for a large fee in the late seventies to a top class rider in the eighties. He was such a spectacular rider to watch and he never knew when he was beaten. It was such a shame when he moved to america in his mid twenties as I think he could have gone right to the top in the sport.
Tell us about your favourite track/stadium
My favourite current track is Somerset. I think it is a superb racing track and the owners have done a super job in creating a smashing little stadium in a relatively short space of time. With regards to defunct tracks I am of course biased towards Dudley Wood which was a lovely shape and produced very good racing and I don`t think anything comes near Hyde Road for a pure out and out speedway racing track. As for stadiums Cardiff takes some beating!
What are the best things about speedway?
As a speedway supporter of many years its a difficult question to answer, as I like all aspects of going to a meeting, its all part of the package. The smell, the excitement, the drama, the banter between fans, it all adds to a great nights entertainment. I had a raging arguement with a Newcastle fan at the British GP a couple of years ago but at the end of the night we shook hands and wished each other a safe journey home. In how many other sports would that happen, not many I think.
What are the worst things about speedway?
Stupid rules, there are too many. Speedway is a very simple sport, four riders, four laps its not rocket science! Scrap the rule book, start again don`t complicate matters, make it easy for Joe Public to understand you might get more people to come and watch.
What one thing would you do to improve speedway?
I really think the leagues need to be restructured. The elite league is simply not an elite league. I think we should be looking at an amalgamation as we had in the mid nineties. It was suggested that it didn`t work then but it was much better to see a different team at your local track each week than the same one over and over again during the season. If you had say twenty tracks in a league with one top star in each maybe we could attract some of gp riders to come back to the british league. I think it would attract people to go to watch Gollob or Pedersen if they knew that they would only appear once at their local track during the season.
Tell us about a rider you wish you'd seen
Peter Craven. I was only three when he lost his life so I only have pictures and reports of how good he was. I would have loved to have seen him blasting around Hyde Road.
What does the future hold for speedway?
I would love to say the future is bright but unfortunately I don`t think it is. We have a brilliant sport but unless there is a major overhaul soon I fear for its longevity. The promoters need to stop thinking about themselves and look at the big picture for a change. Lets face it, if the fans vote with their feet then everyone within the sport is out of a job. So my message to the bigwigs at your annual conference is think about the guys who pay your wages, us the fans, without us you won`t exist , so grab the bull by the horns no more pussy footing around with minor rule changes and lets get our wonderful sport moving forward again.
This article was first published on 2nd September 2010
"Watching Flyer Phil Collins blasting round and under riders at Dudley Wood was worth the admission alone and his team riding with Big Alan Grahame was an art form - happy days never to be repeated."
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