Wolves History

 

Wolverhampton Speedway 1979/80/81

The following season saw the improvement continue.  Nielsen was by now a top-liner, young Swede Hasse Danielsson had come on a ton and the middle order had been boosted by the signing of Bruce Cribb.  Even George Hunter was back, signed on loan from National League Oxford.  It’s a pity that an end of season injury crisis lowered Wolves’ league position to 11th.

‘Goodyear for Wolves’ screamed the headlines as speedway entered the eighties with the team securing probably (at the time) the biggest ever team sponsorship in the sport.  Unfortunately the team was too often a one-man band, with Hans Nielsen having to carry the burden of the points scoring.  New manager Mike Blackburn came under constant terrace criticism and when mild-mannered Jim McMillan publicly criticised the management Wolves fans knew that there were serious problems.

The close season saw Mike Parker, after twenty seasons of promoting the sport in the town, sell to Birmingham promoter Dan McCormick, and Wolves were moved into the lower National League.  McCormack had figured that a powerhouse Wolves side would bring back the fans who had been denied any sort of success over the last few years.  Unfortunately, the venture failed badly as (a) the new race days of Sunday and Thursday proved unpopular and (b) with Nielsen at Birmingham, Olsen at Coventry and Cradley Heath having their first-ever championship team, Wolves were the West Midlands’ poor relation.

Despite a bright start to the season, McCormick and assistant promoter Chris Van Straaten opted to cut their losses in June by selling skipper Les Rumsey and Steve Crockett to Weymouth and run double headers to clear the fixtures out of the way.  Soon after Billy Burton went to Ellesmere Port and Neil Evitts moved up into the Birmingham team.  It’s a good job that Bruce Cribb was riding as well as he was, a real rock for the rest of the team to rely on.  One can only wonder what spirit existed in the team during its last few away meetings.  Defeat at lowly Workington in September could surely be regarded as much as a low point to Wolverhampton’s speedway team as Wolverhampton Wanderers’ famous defeat at Chorley a few years later.

In the following close season, Mike Parker attempted to buy the club back from McCormick, who described his offer as ‘peanuts’.  The deal eventually fell through.  Parker responded by threatening to run a pirate league, along similar lines to the 1960 Provincial League, with tracks such as Norton Canes and Workington participating.  When the Speedway Control Board made threatening noises against Parker, he wisely withdrew his idea.  Speedway was, therefore, dead at Monmore Green, with only Supercross (a hybrid form of Moto Cross) being held at the stadium other than greyhound racing.
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Mark Sawbridge

 

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