1969

Team Transformed by the Super Swede

Season Review

Cradley had some solid foundations to build on at the beginning of 1969 following a year of real progress in ‘68. Roy Trigg and Bob Andrews had established themselves as firm favourites and solid heatleaders, and both returned to the line-up for a second season.
Graham Coombes, Ken Wakefield and Pete Wrathall all rejoined from the 1968 squad and they were joined by the club’s biggest signing to date. It was the year that Bernie Persson became a Heathen, moving to Dudley Wood from Edinburgh/Coatbridge.

team photo

L to R. Speedway Manager - Ted Flanaghan, Chris Bass, Ken Wakefield, Graham Coombes, Bob Andrews, Peter Wrathall, Bernt Persson, Team Manager - Russ Bragg - On bike: - Roy Trigg.

 It was the first time that a truly established world class rider had been attracted to the Cradley setup and Bernie was to become the next Black Country legend. As the end of one era passed with Ivor Brown’s winter retirement, a new one was just beginning.    Chris Bass was another signing at the beginning of the season, joining from Exeter, and he became a crowd favourite with a determined attitude. Chris Julian left the ranks and Lars Jansson stayed in Sweden, but it was generally a settled and familiar looking line-up that carried the baton from 1968 into ’69. The major difference was Swedish superstar, Bernie, who led the formidable top three. For the first time ever, Cradley had three genuine heatleaders. A new name joined the managerial team with Russ Bragg relieving Ted Flanaghan of his away-match duties when the stadium’s greyhound racing took precedent.

The hopes and expectations of the new season were boosted with an uncharacteristic victory in the opening match, and to make things even better it was a 46-32 romp at neighbouring Wolverhampton which kicked things off. Within a few weeks, the Heathens were firmly entrenched in a battle in the top third of the league table – rather unfamiliar territory to say the least. The strength in the top three of Persson, Trigg and Andrews was given solid back-up by the improving Ken Wakefield and battling Chris Bass in the middle order. The only initial weakness was at the bottom end of the team where Pete Wrathall was soon replaced by Geoff Penniket, who in turn made way for young Chris Hawkins. The next piece of the jigsaw came with a third change though, this time releasing Hawkins to bring in 19-year old Mike Gardner. The Londoner’s relatively quick impact further strengthened the charge to the top six of the league.

The Dudley-Wolves Trophy was brought back to Dudley Wood and as the season progressed the team forged themselves a healthy reputation around their home track. However, whilst winning at the Wood, there were few points being taken on their travels. Thankfully, there were also few injuries and at least a consistent line-up was being fielded for seemingly the first time in years.

The season will also be remembered for a couple of memorable matches, one at home and one away, but neither for the right reasons. The April visit to Newport ended in ugly scenes when Cradley riders and supporters stormed the referee’s box. When the home side had Jon Erskine excluded in heat 12, he was wrongly allowed to be replaced by Alby Golden, as the reserve had already taken his five permitted rides. Heathens fans had to be restrained from confronting the official, George Allan, and were eventually removed by police, but the incident then became farcical when both Cradley riders, Trigg and Andrews, were excluded under the two minute time allowance rule – as they too were still voicing their own protests in the ref’s box! The 5-0 to Newport seemed to have counted, only for the score to be changed afterwards and then the whole match replayed after an official protest by the Heathens management was upheld.

The second incident of the year to enter Black Country folklore occurred at Dudley Wood when Hackney visited in August, led by the notorious Garry Middleton. After the Aussie forced Mike Gardner into the fence in heat 12, Graham Coombes was first to retaliate by riding round the track to punch Middleton in the head. He was quickly followed by both Gardner and his father, with the home rider using his helmet to inflict another blow. Riders and officials poured out from the pits to either join in or break up the confrontation before order was restored. What happened next is the stuff of legend, but the rumours say that Middleton returned to his pit bay and pulled out a gun from his toolbox. He was eventually smuggled out of the stadium under a blanket in the back of manager Len Silver’s car, but still also required a police escort to evade the baying Heathens fans.

Back on track, Cradley fought out the rest of the season by usually winning at home and losing away, which carried the club to a seventh place finish – their best ever in the top flight. The top three stars finished with a combined average of almost 27 points per match, Persson & Trigg both clocking over 9.00. The Heathens, led by the new super Swede, had at last earned themselves a reputation as a force to be reckoned with.


programme 1969

Riders Performance Chart

'The Heathens' 1969

Rider
Matches
Rides
Points
Bonus
Total
Aver
B.Persson
29
119
277
4
281
9.45
R.Trigg
35
156
351
5
356
9.13
B.Andrews
35
149
287
19
306
8.21
C.Bass
35
135
151
31
182
5.39
G.Coombes
35
123
119
26
145
4.72
K.Wakefield
36
119
101
24
125
4.20
M.Gardner
22
67
61
9
70
4.18
P.Wrathall
3
8
4
1
5
2.50
M.Holmes
1
2
1
0
1
2.00
G.Penniket
3
8
3
0
3
1.50
C.Hawkins
12
27
9
1
10
1.48

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


Final League Table

British League
Team
PL
W
D
L
BP
For
Ag
Pts
Poole
36
26
1
9
--
1518.5
1284.5
53
Belle Vue
36
23
1
12
--
1533
1268
47
Wimbledon
36
23
2
12
--
1555.5
1248.5
46
Halifax
22
22
2
12
--
1483
1244
46
Leicester
36
21
2
13
--
1493
1312
44
Sheffield
36
19
1
16
--
1467.5
1336.5
39
CRADLEY
36
18
2
L
--
1376
1426
38
Glasgow
36
17
3
16
--
1423
1380
37
Kings Lynn
36
18
0
18
--
1413
1390
36
Swindon
36
18
0
18
--
1391
1408
36
Coatbridge
36
17
1
18
--
1390
1418
35
Exeter
36
16
0
20
--
1378
1425
32
Newcastle
36
15
2
19
--
1348
1450
32
Coventry
36
14
3
19
--
1419.5
1383.5
31
Oxford
36
15
1
20
--
1290
1436
31
Wolverhampton
36
13
1
22
--
1311
1494
27
Newport
36
13
1
22
--
1256
1546
27
West Ham
36
11
3
22
--
1276
1527
25
Hackney
36
10
2
24
--
1229
1573
22

Dudley Wolves Trophy
1st leg - Wolves 41 Cradley 37
Roy Trigg 12, (G)John Boulger 9, (G)Malcolm Brown 7, Chris Bass 5, Ken Wakefield 4, Erol Brook 0, Mike Gardner 0.
2nd leg  - Cradley 42 Wolves 36
Roy Trigg 12, Bob Andrews 8, Bernt Persson 7, Chris Bass 5, Ken Wakefield 5, Mike Gardner 4, Graham Coombes 1.


Cradley win 79-77 on aggregate


Cradley Hosted a full International meeting in June  - Great Britain v Sweden with a win for the Brits 63-45

The Alan Hunt Memorial Trophy was won by 
Bernt Persson

 

KO Cup

Round 2 - Cradley 41 Glasgow 37
Bob Andrews 10, Roy Trigg 9, Graham Coombes 8, Bernt Persson 8, Ken Wakefield 5, Chriss Bass 1, Chris Hawkins 0
 
Round 3 - Cradley 41 Swindon 37
Chris Bass 10, Bernt Persson 8, Roy Trigg 8, Bob Andrews 6, Mike Gardner 6, Graham Coombes 2, Ken Wakefield 1

Semi-Final-Cradley 36 Wimbledon 42
Bernt Persson 12, Roy Trigg 10, Ken Wakefield 6, Mike Gardner 3, Grahame Coombes 2, Bob Andrews 2, Chris Bass 1

Wimbledon went on to beat Sheffield 94 - 62 in the Final


Midland Cup
Round 1 - 1st leg
Oxford 39 - Cradley 39
Roy Trigg 12, Graham Coombes 10, Bob Andrews 10, Ken Wakefield 3, Mike Gardner 2, Chris Bass 1, Chris Hawkins 1.
Round 1 - 2nd leg
Cradley 45 - Oxford 32
Bob Andrews 12, Bernt Persson 12, Roy Trigg 8, Chris Bass 4, Ken Wakefield 4, Mike Gardner 3, Graham Coombes 2.
Cradley win 84-71 on aggregate
Semi-Final 1st leg
Cradley 37 Coventry 41
Roy Trigg 12, Bob Andrews 10, Chris Bass 7, Mike Gardner 4, Grahame Coombes 2, Ken Wakefield 2, Mick Holmes 0
Semi-Final 2nd leg
Coventry 47 Cradley 31
Roy Trigg 11, Bernt Persson 9, Bob Andrews 8, Chris Bass 2, Ken Wakefield 1, Grahame Coombes 0, Mike Gardner 0.
Coventry win 88 - 68 on aggregate
Coventry then beat Leicester 82 - 74 in the Final


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