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Irish Eyes Were Smiling
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A Matter of Opinion....John Strudwick....22/02/2003

John has been an Eastbourne fan for more than 30 years. His 12 year old son is showing some promise as a rider.

What has surprised you most since your son took up racing ?

The most surprising thing for myself and several other parents who have kids of the same age group (10-14 and riding 125-200cc full size bikes) is the total lack of interest shown by promoters and riders to kids at what I would call the grassroots. There are a lot of promises and no action, there are so many kids that look as if they could make it with the right help and support (it's not all about money). Any one of them could be the next Mark Loram, it is such a shame to see so much talent and so little interest. On the bright side there is a tremendous amount of kids getting into speedway at the moment, (and they are not all boys) with just a little support from others, English speedway will be the best in the world again, SO COME ON GET BEHIND THE KIDS. It would be so good for the sport's future to have riders and promoters giving just a little time to these kids.

Eastbourne fans seemed to be outraged when Wolves piped them for the League, after time to reflect what do you think the current attitude is?

I don't think that the fans at Eastbourne were outraged, it was a case of shock that the team couldn't pull back an 8 point difference at what has for many years been "Fortress Arlington", and with the dismal performances of Wolverhampton on their previous visits to Eastbourne, on the day Wolverhampton came to win, Eastbourne thought they had already won. As for the attitude now, well as with most speedway fans all over the UK they get down when their team lose a big match, but we all look forward to the next visit. So I think there will be a lot of interest on March 25th when Wolverhampton come to Arlington, as for me I don't care who wins I just want to see good racing. I don't know of a single speedway fan who deep down inside does not like the thrill of a last heat decider. On a final note although Eastbourne lost the play offs this year I consider them to be an excellent way to keep the league alive until the end of the season. I can remember too many seasons when the title was decided by early August with the rest of the seasons racing consisting of incomplete teams and uninterested managers going through the motions, just look at the crowd sizes at all the play off events, it certainly gets my thumbs up.

What is your view on riders 'doubling up' and 'doubling down' ?

This is one of the best ideas that SCB have come up with in years, it allows for something I have said for many years should happen a "squad system". This will let riders who only want to dip their toes in to the elite league the chance to do so without total commitment, and the chance to still earn a good living from the premier league. I seem to recall reading something Stoney Stonehewer said in an interview that, all the time he rode in the premier league he had a good living and a job for the next season but in the elite league you don't know if your going to be in the team next week, let alone next season. As for going the other way Elite to Premier, it will only improve the rider who is good enough for Elite but lacks the confidence or equipment to ride at that level. On a personal note I think there is a lot more room for the two leagues to get together to improve British speedway and knock those Aussies of the podium.

There are a number of good young riders in the Elite League, who will be the next to join Richardson, Crump and Sullivan at the top of the GP Tree?

The ones to watch are Ryan Fisher, Billy Janeiro and David Howe (now he has moved from Peterborough). The Two Americans because the times I have seen them racing they never seem to give up, they are born racers and I think this year we will see Billy come of age, just watch him in 2003. David Howe is one rider that everybody seemed to shout about but never showed the flair in particular away from Peterborough, then last year he took a big gamble in my opinion and moved to Wolverhampton. What a changed rider both on and off the track, his interviews when on sky tv are good (more than I can say for a certain eastbourne rider) he is more than happy to chat in the pits, and his riding has matured. I think he was the rider who was the key to Wolverhampton winning the play off this year. If he progresses at the same rate as last year then it will not be too long before he is in the GPs. I wish him the best of luck in 2003.

Are you enthusiastic about the British League Cup ?

This is one of the thing I am looking forward to this year even more so than the elite league. With elite teams having to drop to a 35 point limit and premier league at full strength, and with more of the premier leagues top riders getting rides on elite tracks, it would be of no surprise for me to see a few upsets or even a premier team winning the British cup. It will be good for the elite league tracks to see a different set of teams racing, All I can say is BRING IT ON.

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