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Crayford Kestrels 65 - Workington Comets 12

Steve Naylor (red) in action in the first meeting
of the double header

July 15th 1980 was a dark day in the history of Workington Speedway. The Comets visited Crayford and failed to beat an opponent in any of the thirteen heats. To add to the ignominy they didn't even manage to achieve the 'minimum' score of thirteen from the meeting.

The Comets were a poor side in 1980, their promotion were honest enough to admit that they couldn't afford to attract quality riders, there was no points limit to ensure an even distribution of talent in those days, and as a result they had to form a side of kids and cast-offs. Throughout the entire season they won only two league matches, home clashes with Canterbury and Milton Keynes, and finished fourteen points adrift at the bottom of the National League table.

The trip to Crayford, who were nothing more than a mid-table side, was a catastrophe from start to finish. The Comets were missing both Ian Hindle and Mark Dickinson from their regular side and had to use their already thin resources to cover four rider replacement rides.

A predictable 5-1 loss in the first heat, to the powerful Alan Sage and Paul Woods combination, was followed by the fateful 5-0 deficit in heat two. The Comets pair of Greg Irving and Alan Armstrong, making his first and last appearance for the Comets, both fell and were excluded by the referee.

The remaining eleven heats saw the Kestrels finish in first and second place on each occasion. For the most part the Kestrels made the gate and stretched their lead as the races went on. The result was seven maximums for the Kestrels and complete humiliation for the Comets.

Workington promoter Eddie Thornborrow was, unsurprisingly, upset after the meeting and said: "Yes, I'm despondent. The way I have tried to do things is not going to crack it. All Crayford had to beat was a bunch of sixteen year olds, by 1981 most of them will be stars. At the moment we've got First Division teams in the National League riding against my juniors."

Peter Thorogood, general manager at Crayford, was jubilant: "I doubt whether that score will ever be equalled, let alone beaten and, as much as we are delighted to have set the record, I must admit it was somewhat nerve racking seeing my side line up for each heat, especially the nearer we were getting to it. Now that we have achieved it, I don't want another match like that again, the racing was so processional and going for the record was the only thing which kept the fans interested."

The night was an expensive one for the Crayford promotion. The Workington meeting was the second part of a double-header, the Comets following the Berwick Bandits onto the track. The promotion had to pay out one hundred and twenty two points worth of pay to the home riders on one evening. This expensive night was one of the key reasons for the promotion selling up at the end of the season, the other contributory factor was a spell of horrendous weather that forced numerous cancellations.

For the record the points scorers were:

Steve Naylor 12; Paul Woods 12; Les Rumsey 11+1; Alan Sage 9+3; Laurie Etheridge 8+4; Mike Pither 7+2; Alan Johns 6+3

Ian Robertson 4; Wayne Jackson 3; Des Wilson 3; Kevin Clapham 1; Tony Brooks 1; Alan Armstrong 0; Greg Irving 0


This article was first published on 3rd December 2004


  • Bryn:

    "As Max Boyce would say, "I was there!". Whilst, in hindsight, it was pretty dire, as the meeting progressed tension levels in the Crayford side of the pits rose to almost unbearable levels with none of the Kestrels wanting to be THE man to drop a point.

    A further point to note is that Tony Brooks was, in fact, a Crayford junior loaned to Workington on the night as their No.8."

  • Chris Young:

    "Little bit of trivia regarding this Crayford - Workington match is that Alan Armstrong who failed to score is my Uncle. He has no recollection of this particular meeting."

  • Tony Brooks:

    "I notice that the only time my name is mentioned is the big defeat by Crayford when I was put on loan in the Workington team, never rode in a team before I think I had only done a couple second half rides. Very new to the sport. I had no experience of setting a bike up for speedway . The bike I bought was set-up for large tracks, while Crayford was one of the smallist in the country.

    I had no help from the Crayford team nor management unlike other riders I raced with in my junior Grasstrack days the likes of Kevin Smith, Martin Hagon, Simon Wigg, Sean Wilmot. I remember trying to find out the gearing for the away tracks but was always given wrong information. Traveling across the country after working in London just for eight laps around a track for the junior team. In the junior speedway league I was for 2-3 years one of the top scorers . I managed to become the highest scorer in a Crayford debut and still to my knowledge hold it to date This is never mentioned by speedway journalists.

    I also designed the programs and posters badges for the club as I was studying to be a Marketing Designer. I worked outside of racing to promote the club and the sport to talking to the fans. I had a engine used by another team rider without my permission while the management looked on. After all this and becoming one of the top juinors I'd had enough and decided to leave a negative team and sport.

    Other clubs could bring on juniors but not Crayford I had interests from other clubs as I did very well on other tracks winning more away than at Crayford, but the management wouldn't help me at Crayford. Dave Jessup and Gorden Kennet in the end said they wanted to help me and could see my potential. But too much time had past trying to cope on my own and I left the team and the sport, leaving the way for Martin Goodwin.

    Now I watch Speedway on Sky and hear them talk about the lack of English talent, well now you have some idea why our riders have stopped winning, why they are at the back with poor engine setups. I crashed a lot for trying hard, I wanted to be the best, All top riders had their crashes but most get help from fellow team members and make it to the top, but they're not English. "

  • Tony Webb:

    "Tony I remember you at crayford and your father. I ran Shaleway spares at the time. I now live in Australia where i have been for 30 years. the Crayford days are still very clear to me. I remember you as a very organised and dedicated prospect, in fact I was surprised that you did not make the headway, you had the potential. Nowadays I am a historian and published author and editor for the Australian Speedway vets. Our youngsters come on because they are encouraged from a young age, Britain could learn from Australia!"

  • Tony Brooks:

    "Tony, yes I can remember you at your van, at Crayford you run a very good business always had what I needed and very helpful. Thank you for your kind comments.

    You may tell by my comments that I feel very sore how I was treated and other English juniors by managers. And now I still see it today, most english teams are made up of our friends from abroad they always have had a better mindset towards the sport and that goes to most sports like Football, Cricket Rugby etc. I could see this coming when I was riding, even grass track has suffered. Our problem is we start as a hobby and not a business, then riders suffer the down falls of it then won't hand down their experiences, shame.

    I remember buying a Norwegian bike cover from you cos it was going cheep! the following week I rode at Wimbledon and the Norwegain rider there for wimbledon watched me ride, ready to help I bet? Hope things have gone well for you in Aus and once again thank you for support back in those days."

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