Into the 70's
Despite making great progress in 1969, the season of 1970 turned out to be another which promised a great deal for Cradley and eventually delivered more disappointment. Once again there was only a little tinkering with the team which had been bonding well over recent seasons.
Although the changes were few, they were still significant and
the main talking point was a straight swap which saw heatleader Bob Andrews
sent to Hackney in exchange for Colin Pratt. The other major signing was
Jimmy Squibb, who could only be described as ‘experienced’, as he joined
the Heathens at the ripe old age of fifty. Russ Bragg took over as full time
L to R. Team Manager Ted
Flanaghan, Mick Holmes, Roy Trigg, Jan Simensen, Mike Gardner,
It was a slow start for the team, hampered by bad weather which
caused cancellations and postponed meetings. Pratt was one of the slowest of
all, but he did gradually get going. Within a few matches he had begun to
sort out new machinery, became accustomed to the Dudley Wood track and
started to score the points expected of him. Despite his improved form and
the regular scoring of Bernie Persson and Roy Trigg, the team looked as if
it had a rather long tail. Mike Gardner, Chris Bass and Ken Wakefield all
struggled through the first few weeks and Squibb didn’t manage to weigh in
with as many points as expected.
The only real effort to change things around was the signing of
Jan Simensen, a Swede who came on the recommendation of Persson, and
replaced Wakefield at reserve. The move had some effect with a much more
fruitful Summer period, but by then Cradley has already slumped to the
bottom of the league.
Just as the team form had appeared to improve, a devastating blow was delivered. Pratt had taken over as captain from Trigg and he had truly found his form, beating the likes of Ivan Mauger and Ole Olsen at Dudley Wood – both of whom were incredibly formidable opponents in the league at that time. On 14th July, he was involved in the Lokeren disaster, one of speedway’s greatest tragedies. He was part of a West Ham Select team who were travelling back through Belgium from a European challenge match, when their minibus crashed. Five men were killed and Pratt suffered a broken neck and cracked kneecap which immediately finished his racing career.
Cradley’s season was ripped apart by the news and they simply
stumbled through to the end of the season, riding mostly away from home and
losing the vast majority of those. There were more incidents of note such as
when Garry Middleton was booked as a guest against Wolves with inevitably
ugly scenes unfolding in the Dudley Wood pits. Riders allegedly argued and
fought with both team-mates and opponents. A few weeks earlier there had
been another bad-tempered affair this time at Wolverhampton. Mike Gardner
was brought down by Mick Handley in the final race which cost Cradley a draw
and prompted the Heathens fans to storm the track and pits area. Handley
stood up to them and police had to be called to restore calm. In the end the
Monmore men took the honours in the Dudley-Wolves Trophy and won at Dudley
Wood by a point in the final home league match of the season to rub salt in
Cradley finished 15th out of 19 in the league. Bernie
Persson established himself as the true number one around the Wood and was
well supported by Trigg. The loss of the third heatleader Pratt was too much
to overcome however, and although Simensen had helped to turn the tide, the
rest of the team had not really pulled their weight. It was back to the
drawing board for the winter months.
Riders Performance Chart
'The Heathens' 1970
statistics taken from the Cradley Speedway database for BL matches only.
Final League Table
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