1981

First League Championship
...and Our First World Champion!

Season Review

What can you say about 1981? The Heathens hit the BIGTIME.
Some people will say that all the hard work had been done when Peter Adams moved in as promoter.  Dan McCormick had certainly laid down the foundations for this super team of the early eighties.  However Peter Adams re-shaped the tail end and guided the team the British League Championship.
How the adoring fans of the Heathens deserved this for their continued support over the years.
Adams first move was to persuade Aussie Dave Shields to return after a two year absence.  Then he bought Bent Rasmussen from Kings Lynn and added Arnold Haley to make up the team.  After nine matches in the League Cup Arnie had scored only four points and it became obvious that his British League days were over.  Arnie was dropped and in came another Aussie, John McNeil who had started his season with Swindon.
The top end of the Cradley team  remained the same as the previous year, how could you improve on Bruce Penhall and Erik Gundersen as heat leaders and with Alan Grahame and Phil Collins proving to be worth ever penny that Dan McCormick spent bringing them to Dudley Wood.

team photo

L to R. Back Row: Derek Pugh (Promoter),Alan Grahame, Erik Gundersen, Phil Collins, Peter Adams (Team Manager); Front Row: John McNeill, Bruce Penhall, Bent Rasmussen, Dave Shields.

 

What a season it was, Cradley had the longest run of unbeaten victories in the league with sixteen consecutive wins.  They lost at Swindon on June 13th then totalled twenty straight wins in all matches before taking Wimbledon to a draw on October 1st. In all they won twenty six out of thirty matches.
Amazingly they did not fare so well in the Cup matches from a total of fourteen matches in the League Cup they lost only three times but failed to qualify for the Final finishing behind Coventry in the Group 'A' section.  In the KO Cup Quarter Final they drew at home to Ipswich and lost away by twelve points. They reached the Final of the Midland Cup against Coventry but also lost by a dozen points at Brandon.

On the Individual side things were as good as they get.  Bruce Penhall was crowned Speedway Champion of the World at the Empire Stadium, Wembley in front of 91,000.
He was America's first post-war Champion and returned to Dudley Wood in a helicopter to be presented with a telegram from the president of the United States Ronald Regan congratulating Bruce on his achievement.

 He was voted "Rider of the year", "Overseas rider of the year" and "Personality of the year" by SWAPA (Speedway writers and photographers association) Cradley were voted "Team of the Year" and Peter Adams "Administrator of the Year".
Bruce also won the Inter-Continental Final and the American Final on the way.  In the British League he won the Yorkshire Television Trophy, the Blue Riband at Poole and the Brandonapolis at Coventry.  With his former Cradley team-mate Bobby Schwartz they won the World Pairs Championship in front of 70,000 fans in Katowice Poland and he topped the British League averages almost from start to finish of the season.

Erik Gundersen made it to the top upping his average to over ten points, finishing fourth in his first World Final and second to Penhall in the Inter-Continental Final, He became Midland Riders Champion and was an ever-present in the Danish National side which won the World Team Cup in Olching, West Germany.

Alan Grahame and Phil Collins were a bit in the shadow of the two heatleaders however from the fifty eight official team events Alan Grahame amassed a grand total of 589 points, more than either of the two World Finalists and Alan and Phil were probably the best English pairing in the League....


programme 1981

Riders Performance Chart

1981 Cradley 'The Heathens'.

Rider Matches Rides Points Bonus Total Aver
B.Penhall
23
96
261
5
266
11.08
E.Gundersen
28
115
289
6
295
10.26
Al. Grahame
30
124
251
36
287
9.26
Ph. Collins
29
119
181
35
216
7.26
D.Shields
30
104
143
16
159
6.12
S.Wigg
1
5
4
3
7
5.60
B.Rasmussen
30
109
103
25
128
4.70
J.McNeill
30
83
64
11
75
3.61
D.Perks
1
3
2
0
2
2.67

statistics taken from the Cradley Speedway database for BL matches only.


Final League Table

British League
Team P W D L BP For Ag Pts
CRADLEY 30 26 1 3 -- 1339 983 53
Ipswich 30 21 4 5 -- 1250 1085 46
Swindon 30 19 3 8 -- 1222 1089 41
Belle Vue 30 19 1 10 -- 1239 1086 39
Coventry 30 18 0 12 -- 1232 1103 36
Birmingham 30 13 1 16 -- 1163 1174 27
Halifax 30 13 1 16 -- 1149 1188 27
Hackney 30 12 2 16 -- 1182 1157 26
Poole 30 12 2 16 -- 1128.5 1208.5 26
Sheffield 30 13 0 17 -- 1120 1214 26
Reading 30 9 7 14 -- 1129 1208 25
Hull 30 10 4 16 -- 1068 1245 24
Eastbourne 30 10 3 17 -- 1094 1244 23
Kings Lynn 30 10 2 18 -- 1182 1158 22
Leicester 30 11 0 19 -- 1117.5 1221.5 22
Wimbledon 30 7 3 20 -- 1042 1293 17

Midland Cup
Semi-Final-1st leg Cradley 46 Swindon 32
Erik Gundersen 11, Bruce Penhall 10, Alan Grahame 9, 
Phil Collins 6, Dave Shields 5, Bent Rasmussen 4,
John McNeil 1.
Semi-Final-2nd leg Swindon 44 Cradley 33
Bruce Penhall 12, Alan Grahame 9, Erik Gundersen 7,
Phil Collins 4, John McNeil 1, Bent Rasmussen 0,
Dave Shields 0.
Cradley win 79-76 on aggregate

Final - 1st leg
Cradley 39 Coventry 39
Erik Gundersen 12, Bruce Penhall 11, Alan Grahame 9,
Phil Collins 3, John McNeill 2, Dave Shields 2,
Bent Rasmussen 0.
Final-2nd leg Coventry 45 Cradley 33
Bruce Penhall 12, Alan Grahame 12, Dave Shields 5,
Erik Gundersen 3, Phil Collins 1,, Bent Rasmussen 0,
John McNeill 0

Coventry win the cup 84-72 on aggregate


Cradley hosted an International Test Match in May - 
England 69 U.S.A. 38

The Golden Hammer was twice rained off. The first attempt in August after 14 heats with Bruce Penhall unbeaten with 9 points

  League Cup
Section 'A'

Team P W D L For Ag Pts
Coventry 14 12 0 2 755 588 24
Cradley 14 11 0 3 747 597 22
Belle Vue 14 7 0 7 648.5 693.5 14
Sheffield 14 7 0 7 641.5 702.5 14
Birmingham 14 6 0 8 666 677 12
Hull 14 5 0 9 653 691 10
Leicester 14 4 0 10 652 690 8
Halifax 14 4 0 10 608 732 8

Section 'B'

Team

P

W D L For Ag Pts
Kings Lynn 14 10 1 3 708 633 21
Reading 14 10 0 4 740.5 600.5 20
Ipswich 14 9 0 5 745 595 18
Poole 14 7 0 7 685.5 654.5 14
Swindon 14 7 0 7 662 679 14
Hackney 14 5 1 8 621.5 718.5 11
Eastbourne 14 5 0 9 636 704 10
Wimbledon 14 2 0 12 563.5 777.5 4

Final - 1st leg - Coventry 68 Kings Lynn 28
Final - 2nd leg Kings Lynn 42 Coventry 54
Aggregate - Coventry 122 Kings Lynn 70


K.O.Cup
Round 1-1st leg Eastbourne 49 Cradley 47
Erik Gundersen 15, Alan Grahame 9, Phil Collins 9,
(G)Bo Petersen 8, Dave Shields 4, Bent Rasmussen 2,
John McNeil 0.
Round 1-2nd leg Cradley 60 Eastbourne 36
Erik Gundersen 17, Alan Grahame 12, Phil Collins 10,
Dave Shields 8, Bent Rasmussen 7, John McNeil 6,
Dave Perks 0.
Cradley win 107-85 on aggregate

Quarter Final-1st leg Cradley 48 Ipswich 48
Bruce Penhall 15, Erik Gundersen 12, Alan Grahame 10,
Phil Collins 6, Dave Shields 3, Bent Rasmussen 2, 
John McNeil 0.
Quarter Final-2nd leg Ipswich 54 Cradley 42 
Bruce Penhall 15, Alan Grahame 15, Phil Collins 8,
Bent Rasmussen 2, John McNeil 2, Dave Shields 0, 
Erik Gundersen 0.
Ipswich win 102-90 on aggregate



Match to Remember:
8th August 1981: Coventry 26 Cradley 52

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