The 'Heathens' take on Division 2
Embarking on their first season in the Second Division, after two years in the league below, Cradley were careful to make changes to their team and back-up staff. Out went Ken Sharples, back to parent club Belle Vue, and the recovering Jimmy Wright, loaned to Oxford. The reliable Eric Irons was a less welcome departure, after announcing his retirement.
R. Bill.Spencer (Mechanic) Les Beaumont, Gil
Craven, Bill Clifton, Jack Arnfield, Dudley Marchant (Team Manager)
manager, Les Marshall left to concentrate on his duties at Birmingham, who
had been promoted to the First Division. A small influx of riders would
ready the squad for tougher challenges ahead: Eric Williams was signed on
loan from Wembley, Jack Arnfield from Harringay and Geoff Godwin from
Newcastle, while Les Tolley and Jim Pain had shown enough talent to emerge
from the winter training schools. A chief mechanic, Bill Spencer, was
brought in from Birmingham to head up operations at the newly built Dudley
Wood workshop and last of all Dudley Marchant was named as new team manager.
Completing somewhat sweeping changes, the club nickname was renamed during
this season as Cradley would finally become 'the Heathens'.
It was not the new names who would capture the limelight in 1949, but the continued rise of Alan Hunt. Eager to prove himself in the higher division with his Heathens, 'Whacker' did not disappoint. He began with a number of top scores, lowering more track records including that of Dudley Wood again, and was soon posting maximums against revered opposition. Young Roy Moreton also demonstrated marked improvement in the first half of the season but was then transferred to Coventry in August. Jack Arnfield and Gil Craven missed the start of the season while still en route from Australia and New Zealand. Arnfield quickly made up for lost time and scored solidly, while Craven was slower to rekindle his excellent form of 1948. The club once again fought their way to the third round of the National Trophy, despite being forced to a replay in round two after a 105-105 aggregate draw against Walthamstow. Norwich eventually ended their hopes to reach the final as Cradley threw away a 26-point first leg lead.
Home and away victories over Coventry in mid-season were tempered by heavy defeats including a 64-18 drubbing at Fleetwood, where both sets of riders complained about an unfit track, and a 62-22 hammering at Bristol, where they failed to manage a single heat victory. Some good home form was enough to keep Cradley in mid-table though and they even began to set their sights higher still by once again inviting higher-division opponents to Dudley Wood. A challenge match against Birmingham attracted a record crowd of 24,000. Eventually, away performances improved, led by the revitalised Craven and the continually outstanding Hunt. In one of their last matches as 'the Cubs', the riders gave high-flying Sheffield a scare at Owlerton where the Tigers were damn near invincible and then earned 'three cheers' on the centre green from the Bristol promoter, after giving the league table topping hosts a stern test at their Knowle Stadium. All visitors were given short shrift at Dudley Wood however, including both Sheffield and Bristol. Finally, late season victories on their travels to Glasgow (Ashfield) and third placed Norwich, secured the Heathens fourth place in Division Two.
As newcomers to the league, Cradley did themselves proud. Hunt was a revelation, finishing second in the overall league averages behind Bristol's Billy Hole. Craven and Williams had increased their scoring power after slow starts to complete a solid top three while Arnfield had proved himself a successful acquisition. Despite great progress from young Les Tolley, there was less support from the rest of the team with Godwin disappointing and both Phil Malpass and Les Beaumont struggling to make the step up to the higher grade of racing.
Riders Performance Chart
statistics taken from
the Cradley Speedway database for NL matches only.
for a more comprehensive look at Cradley's statistics for 1949 we receommend The Speedway Researcher - statistics by Nigel Nicklin & Roger Beaman -
Final League Table
1949 National League Division
Round 1 - 1st leg - Cradley
Round 2 1st leg
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