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About Merlin

  • Birthday April 1

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    All sorts - loved the 60s
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  1. Merlin

    Emil Kramer

    I still remember the shock when I first heard of Emil's death. Emil used to stay with me before flying out of Edinburgh Airport to return to Sweden on Monday afternoons after riding in Scotland at the weekend. A great guy and top class rider. My thoughts are with all who suffered as a result of his premature demise. R.I.P
  2. I gather that the 2.5% British rider average reduction for the new season has been dropped for all other than those who are within three years of having ridden in the National League.
  3. To say that this meeting was 'awful' is a bit harsh. It's true that some of the racing was not that exciting but there was always interest in the 'qualifying for the final' situation which meant that the top scoring seven riders were all still in contention prior to the semi-final and final. The loss of Oliver Allen was a bit of a blow as the serious challengers to Rory Schlein were a bit thin on the ground. As it turned out nobody got near him all night after the second bend. However of the non-home riders Lee Complin and Sam Simota were always worth watching and gave it plenty of effort and the evening was blessed with just about the warmest night experienced at the Dale for a long time. It was like you'd come to the wrong venue when you entered the stadium! Wolbert's effort in heat 8 was one of the highlights while the semi-final was probably the other. A good crowd turned out and nobody other than the unfortunate Allen was injured (and I gather that there was thankfully no lasting damage to him). With 22 heats on offer and the weather in such benign mood it was a very enjoyable evening out. A big thanks go to the behind the scenes guys for the efforts they put in by installing all those extra speakers around the ground. I believe that they were there from early morning onwards. Like Paulco I am no great fan of individual meetings although some of the Grand Prixs have been excellent this year (though not the Cardiff one unfortunately). There have been some great Scottish Opens in the past and, strangely enough, this one would have been better if Rory had not been so dominant. If I'm being honest I'd have to say that a rider or two from Glasgow would probably have spiced it up too although, as it turns out, neither Joe Screen not James Grieves (the likely invitees) would have been fit enough to ride.
  4. "I tell you what - there's absolutely no doubt about that!"
  5. Merlin

    Brummies 2011

    Very, very sorry to see Birmingham depart the Premier League in which they and their fans have been tremendous assets. I wish them all the best of luck in the Elite League and hope they are as appreciated there as they were in the Premier League.
  6. The answer seems to be "Yes". Their board is set up with the team line ups updated as at this morning.
  7. Merlin

    Wayne Briggs

    Only too happy to oblige. This is what I wrote. The Provincial Speedway Riders’ Championship Final Saturday, September 28, 1963 A Personal Experience 1. It was six o’ clock in the morning and I was still wiping the sleep from my eyes. But it was time to fire up the old Mini and collect Stuart, David and John for the 250 mile drive from Edinburgh to Manchester for the Provincial Speedway Riders’ Championship at the old Belle Vue stadium on the Hyde Road in Manchester. We planned to get there as early as possible so we could find a cheap bed and breakfast place to stay the night to avoid having to face the long drive back tonight. You never know there might be reasons to celebrate! 2. The other three lived only a couple of minutes away so we were soon on our way. It was a beautiful September morning and we were in good spirits – particularly Stuart who was a George Hunter fanatic. Edinburgh had two riders who had qualified for the final – George Hunter and Doug Templeton – although neither could be considered favourites for the Championship with Ivan Mauger (Newcastle) and Jack Kitchen (Sheffield) both in the field but Stuart would not hear of any result other than a George Hunter win and his enthusiasm soon wore off on the rest of us. 3. But a bit about the event first of all. This Championship was the highlight of the old breakaway Provincial League (breakaway from the National League that is), our World Final if you like. Qualification was no easy task because each rider had to compete in three qualifying rounds, each one a 16 rider, 20 heat affair, to gain enough points to get to the Belle Vue final. The Provincial League in 1963 comprised 13 teams – Cradley Heath, Edinburgh, Exeter, Hackney, Long Eaton, Middlesbrough, Newcastle, Poole, Rayleigh, St Austell, Sheffield, Stoke and Wolverhampton. 4. In the previous year, 1962, the Championship had also been held at Belle Vue. In 1961 it had been held at Harringay in London and in 1960 (the inaugural year of the Provincial League) at Cradley Heath. The format for the final was unusual to say the least with 24 riders qualifying for the event, each of whom would have only four rides after which the top four scorers would go forward to the final. 5. The qualifiers were: Ivan Mauger (Newcastle) 43 points, Colin Pratt (Stoke) 43, Ross Gilbertson (Poole) 41, Ray Cresp (St Austell) 40, Clive Featherby (Sheffield) 40, Charlie Monk (Long Eaton) 40, Jack Kitchen (Sheffield) 38, Les McGillivray (Rayleigh) 38, Cliff Cox (Exeter) 36, Jimmy Squibb (Exeter) 36, Rick France (Wolverhampton) 35, Geoff Mudge (Poole) 34, George Major (St Austell) 32, Eric Boocock (Middlesbrough) 31, George Hunter (Edinburgh) 31, Ron Bagley (Sheffield) 30, Ivor Brown (Cradley Heath), 30, Brian Craven (Newcastle) 30, Maurie Mattingley (Wolverhampton) 30, Ken Adams (Stoke) 29, Maurie McDermott (Rayleigh) 29, Douglas Templeton (Edinburgh) 29, Norman Hunter (Hackney) 28 and Trevor Redmond (St Austell) 28. Unfortunately Brian Craven (brother of Peter Craven who died of injuries sustained in a crash at Old Meadowbank) had been injured and was replaced by John Hart of Cradley Heath who was first reserve. The other meeting reserve was David Younghusband of Middlesbrough. 6. The previous year the event had been won by Len Silver of Exeter (the same Len Silver whom now promotes at Rye House) with Wayne Briggs (Barry Briggs’ brother) of Edinburgh runner-up and Brian Craven of Newcastle in third place. With Len Silver having failed to qualify and Wayne Briggs and Brian Craven out with injury none of the three were returning to contest the Championship. Incidentally the prize money was – 1st £40, 2nd £20, 3rd £10 and 4th £5. A measure of the popularity of this event can be gauged from the fact that all the stand tickets were sold out within weeks of going on sale and some 20,000 attended from all over the country. 7. Back to the trip then. While Stuart was the livewire of the four of us he had one terrible problem which made him hard to live with – well on long car trips anyway – and that was flatulence. With a general diet of hamburgers, baked beans, chips and Coke he could concoct a smell that could clear a room faster than a Max Bygraves record! In the confines of a Mini with four occupants it was next to lethal and once or twice I had to pull in to the side of the road making emergency stops to let us clamber out before we lost conciousness. Still I was used to it but not immune from it unfortunately. David was pretty laid back – he was sort of foot loose and fancy free – his feet were attached with sellotape and if it was free he fancied it (courtesy of Round the Horne). He relished the chance to exercise his expertise in sarcasm usually at our expense while John stoically said little. Indeed John never said a great deal. He was the kind of guy who lit up a room whenever he left it. I often wondered what they thought of me! We were the best of friends nonetheless – out mutual bond being the love of speedway. 8. In these days there was no M6, only the A6. Anyone who has crawled up Shap behind a convoy of lorries watching the temperature guage in case the engine began to overheat will know what torture this was. The relatively few miles could take as much as two hours to complete even on a good day. We made good time this particular Saturday morning and were soon wheeling our way into Manchester and to Belle Vue. 9. What a place Belle Vue was. Apart from a custom built speedway track – the best I ever saw – the Belle Vue complex had an amusement park which claimed to have (at the time) the fastest gravity ride in the world. It was called the Bobs and was not the sort of ride you wanted to take after several pints of lager. Underneath you could always find a collection of coins and other things including the odd lost lunch!. There was also a Zoo and gardens while the King’s Hall had wrestling every Saturday night and also staged concerts, bingo etc. Every Saturday at 10pm there was a fireworks display on Fireworks Island. It was a great place to visit and a fabulous speedway venue now sadly gone. 10. Having checked out the stadium we set off to look for a bed and breakfast place within our frugal budget (we brought a new meaning to the word ‘frugal’). We found one off the Hyde Road which consisted of a series of dormitories each containing about a dozen beds, none of which ever got cold judging by the turnover. It seemed to be well patronized by lorry drivers and other such passing trade and was not one you would recommend to valued friends! 11. After making our reservations we headed off to the centre of Manchester for breakfast and a look around and then on to Old Trafford where we watched Manchester United play Tottenham (I think). United won 2-0 if I remember correctly and it was back to Belle Vue for the main event. We were early into the stadium and headed for the third bend to join the other Monarchs supporters and watch the proceedings. By start time the stadium was filled to capacity and the noise and colours of the fans from all the tracks gave the place an atmosphere to match Wembley in its halcyon days. The excitement built and then we had the usual preliminaries including a grand parade of the competitors. Ian Hoskins was the centre green man and was absolutely superb in his presentation of the meeting. 12. And so we were off: Heat 1: Mauger, Squibb, George Hunter, Norman Hunter 73.6 Heat 2: Bagley, France, Hart, McGillivray 74.0 Heat 3: Templeton, Pratt, Cox, Adams 74.8 Heat 4: Kitchen, Mattingly, Gilbertson, Major 73.2 Heat 5: Cresp, Brown, Mudge, Redmond 74.4 Heat 6: Featherby, Boocock, McDermott, Monk ef 74.2 13. A bit of a mix for us! George Hunter didn’t make a good gate and had to settle for third place but Doug Templeton put the smile back on our faces by winning heat 3. Poor Charlie Monk had engine failure in heat 6 while lying second. Ivan Mauger and Jack Kitchen had got off to their expected opening heat wins and Ivor Brown who was never popular with us (I can’t for the life of me remember why) managed a second place much to our disappointment. There used to be an advert on TV for Hovis bread which had the slogan “Don’t say brown, say Hovis” . We rather cruelly changed this to “Don’t say Brown, say *****” The word we substituted for Hovis began with ‘sh’ and rhymed with night. Rather childishly we took great delight in taunting the Cradley fans every time Ivor Brown made an appearance but it was always in fun if not in the best possible taste. 14. The next six heats went as follows: Heat 7: Kitchen, Mauger, Cresp, Bagley 73.4 Heat 8: Gilbertson, George Hunter, Brown, McGillivray 74.2 Heat 9: Squibb, Pratt, Major, McDermott 74.8 Heat 10: Mattingly, Featherby, Norman Hunter, Adams 74.4 Heat 11: Mudge, Hart, Boocock, Cox 75.2 Heat 12: France, Templeton, Redmond, Monk ef 75.0 15. Well the big two were out in heat 7 and it was Jack Kitchen who saw off Ivan Mauger. George Hunter managed a second place in heat 8 and Doug Templeton kept the Monarchs’ flag flying with a second place in heat 12. So after two races each only Jack Kitchen had the maximum 6 points with Ivan Mauger, Jimmy Squibb, Rick France, Doug Templeton, Maurie Mattingly and Clive Featherby all on 5 points. 16. The next 6 heats after the interval, during which the beauty queen competition was held, finished: Heat 13: George Hunter, Featherby, Bagley, Major 74.4 Heat 14: Mauger, Mattingly, Boocock, Pratt 74.8 Heat 15: Gilbertson, Cresp, McDermott, France f.rem 75.0 Heat 16: Kitchen, Cox, Redmond, McGillivray ef 75.2 Heat 17: Templeton, Brown, Norman Hunter, Hart 76.2 Heat 18: Monk, Mudge, Adams, Squibb f.rem 74.8 17. We were ecstatic – wins for both George Hunter and Douglas Templeton had us in dreamland and gave both a good chance of qualifying for the final. While Ivan Mauger and Jack Kitchen continued to dominate. Charlie Monk finally got his bike going and won heat 18. Now, with just one race left each, Jack Kitchen led the field unbeaten on 9 points with Ivan Mauger, and Douglas Templeton on 8 and Ross Gilbertson, Maurie Mattingly and Clive Featherby on 7. 18. Then came the last six vital heats of the qualifying stage: Heat 19: George Hunter, Mattingly, Cox, France 75.0 Heat 20: Mauger, McGillivray, Mudge McDermott 74.8 Heat 21: Kitchen, Featherby, Squibb, Templeton 74.8 Heat 22: Cresp, Major, Adams, Hart 75.8 Heat 23: Brown, Monk. Bagley, Pratt 75.8 Heat 24: Boocock, Gilbertson, Redmond, Norman Hunter 75.8 19. Another great win for George Hunter but disaster for Doug Templeton who finished last in heat 21 and failed to make it to the final. Jack Kitchen and Ivan Mauger continued on their winning ways and both were through to the final on 12 and 11 points respectively. But pandemonium broke out when the organizers realized that there were five riders tied on nine points for the final two places. Now the rules stated that the first way to break a tie was by heat wins. George Hunter, Ross Gilbertson and Ray Cresp all had two heat wins while Maurie Matttingly and Clive Featherby had one each. So Mattingly and Cresp should have been eliminated. The second tie breaker was by the fastest heat winning time. George Hunter’s fastest time was 74.4, Ross Gilbertson’s was 74.2 and Ray Cresp’s was 74.4. This meant that Ross Gilbertson should have been the third qualifier and a run-off should have been needed between George Hunter and Ray Cresp since they had both won two races and had identical fastest winning times. 20. There was a long delay while they tried to sort matters out. The riders hated the ‘fastest winning time’ rule because the earlier heat winning times tended to be better than those later in the meeting as the track changed. The officials then decided to settle matters by the toss of a coin but the riders were having none of that and staged a walk out. Pandemonium broke out as a lot of people were not happy to put it mildly. Matters were finally resolved when it was agreed to put all five riders who finished on 9 points into the one race with the top two going through to the final. So we had a five-rider semi final which finished: Semi final: George Hunter, Gilbertson, Cresp, Featherby, Mattingly 21. What excitement as George Hunter leapt from the gates to leave the other four riders in his wake. The race seemed to last an eternity but George made no mistakes and was through to the final along with fellow Scot Ross Gilbertson. It had made the long journey from Edinburgh so much more worthwhile to have one of our riders in the final. So George Hunter and Ross Gilbertson joined Jack Kitchen and Ivan Mauger in the final. This was justice really because Ross Gilbertson should have qualified on heat wins and fastest winning time and George Hunter and Ray Cresp should have had a run off for the last final place which is effectively what the semi-final turned out to be. 22. The tension was unbearable waiting for the final to start. We were all shaking especially Stuart who must have gone through a pack of cigarettes before the final started. Could George Hunter upset the odds by beating the awesome Mauger and Kitchen? Up they came to the tapes and then with an almighty roar the tapes went up and George Hunter made a fantastic start. He was well into the first bend ahead of the field. On that first bend Ivan Mauger and Jack Kitchen diced for position which gave George Hunter time to build up an incredible lead. Going past the tapes at the end of the first lap we all knew he only had to keep going to win the title. Alas going into the first bend of the second lap George’s bike developed a fuel leak and ground to a halt while the rest of the field led by Ivan Mauger charged past. The Final was won by Ivan Mauger with Jack Kitchen second and Ross Gilbertson third in a time of 74.8. 23. We were speechless leaving the stadium at such a cruel letdown. Stuart was inconsolable. The rest of us weren’t far behind. We had a couple of drinks and wandered round the amusements rather aimlessly before returning to our already warm beds for the night where sleep was hard to come by through a combination of despair and the horrendous snoring of the other occupants of the dormitory. A herd of trumpeting elephants couldn’t have competed with the noise. 24. In the morning we went down for what was laughingly described as breakfast. It comprised of two rashers (is that the word? Perhaps shavings might have been more apt!) of what had once been bacon. It had clearly been subjected to a holocaust of fire and spitting grease before being presented to us in a totally cremated state. Not only was it black but it disintegrated into ashes when you tried to get a fork into it. The ‘egg’ which accompanied it had attached to its base what appeared to be a strange mixture of rubber and brown crinkly cellulose which was completely indigestible but, worse still, it was inseparable from the yolk which was just about recognizable but hard as a brick. The toast was black with brown overtones and the tea so weak it had to be helped out of the pot - not exactly your first course on a menu of international cuisine of gourmet cooking. More the sort of offering you might expect cooked in the galley of a motor launch ploughing through a force 10 gale mid-Atlantic. Still you get what you pay for! 25. Ah well – back home in silent reflection of what might have been. Even Stuart kept his bowels in check for the journey which is just as well – we were not far from assassination mode. These were the wonderful sixties and days of sheer speedway joy.
  8. Edinburgh's Kalle Katajisto rides in this meeting.
  9. My first post was not misleading. It was factual. All that happened was that you nearly burst a blood vessel as you read it in your usual paranoid fashion as an attack on your beloved Tigers. I subsequently hypothesised on why Glasgow might have approached Wolbert as early as Friday for Monday's match something which you might have done had you not gone so ballistic. But it was nothing more than a hypothesis although I thought it might have been a credible one at that. I am not party to the thoughts of the inner sanctum at Glasgow speedway so who knows whether it hit the mark? It's a 'well done' from me too to the Diamonds who have not only climbed to second in the table but have narrowed the race points difference between themselves and Edinburgh over the weekend should it come down to a tie on league points. Well done to Wolbert too for a fine effort for the Tigers. He has certainly got back his late season form of last year. I sincerely hope that injuries are not going to play a major part in the race for the title which is still very much alive. Since Jason King was only considered 'doubtful' for last night's match I trust that his injury is not too serious. Some of the posts on here were a bit more alarming though. As for Glasgow what now? We have a big match coming up at Ashfield on Sunday and, from what has been said, they may have injury worries over McGowan, Grajczonek and Dicken, all of whom managed only three rides each last night. Presumably Joe Screen will be OK if his injury is nothing more than mild concussion (although that's not to be dismissed as of little importance).
  10. Aye you're right Paulco. It's a pity I mentioned the conversation in question but paranoia rules these days. I didn't expect certain parties to get all het up about it. Sad really! I too hope that Kevin Wolbert shows his liking for the Brough Park circuit. He has been impressive there in the past. Unfortunately I can't see Glasgow keeping it close even if he goes through the card unbeaten. But there again, haven't Glasgow won at Newcastle already this season?
  11. I think you're reading too much into this - see previous post just before yours. It may be that Glasgow were simply making contingency arrangments for the possibility that McGowan may not have been fit for Monday and that there may have been another absentee. It just occurred to me at the time it was strange that he should be approached on the Friday about a match on the Monday for a team which was at full strength on the Sunday. If, for example, McGowan and Branney had been missing today then, even if Screen had been fit, Wolbert could have guested for McGowan since his average is lower and Glasgow could have used R/R for Branney.
  12. rubbish stirring....what rubbish stirring? I reported a conversation which actually took place - I don't make that sort of thing up! and resent the implication that I did. Kevin said that he might be riding at Newcastle on Monday night when I asked him about where he would be this coming week. He also said that he would here all week so would be at King's Lynn on Wednesday, Armadale on Friday, Stoke on Saturday and Ashfield on Sunday. I was surprised to say the least that Kevin thought he might be at Newcastle. He said he thought it was for McGowan (with emphasis on the thought) but it may be that Glasgow were worried about being two riders short (apart from Screen) with McGowan reportedly only half fit and perhaps one of the others also not fully fit - (Dicken, for example). However I can well understand you being a bit touchy these days after Glasgow's recent dismal results.
  13. I spoke to Kevin on Friday night after the match against Somerset at Armadale and he told me he might be riding for Glasgow at Newcastle today (Monday). I wonder how he knew then? Mind you he thought it was Travis McGowan he was replacing! Strange....I understand he's on his way to Newcastle even as I post this.
  14. Merlin

    Christian Hendry

    Was there not a swop deal between Newcastle and King's Lynn which saw Christian go to King's Lynn and Jason King (who became a King's Lynn asset when they bought out Mildenhall) go to Newcastle? I thought that Christian went home to Australia. I haven't seen his name on any speedway news since. He was very unlucky with injuries. On his day he was a very exciting rider to watch.
  15. The start marshall! What was he doing on the apex of the first/second bend. Must have been quite a sprint over there from the start! And what eyesight to point out one rider's line on the track. Instead you should try reading the report in the local Newcastle newspaper and the report of the match on your own official website on that heat. No mention there of Tully nor did the referee agree with you. But you keep believing your own spin. I certainly don't. And the Scunthorpe incident? Was that the fault of a Scorpions' rider?

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