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Happy 90th birthday Wolverhampton speedway

By Charlotte Callear | Attractions | Published:

Speedway has a rich history in Wolverhampton and was introduced to the new greyhound stadium at Monmore Green in May 1928, when league racing did not exist.

The first big meet was between Englishman Ivor Creek and American Lloyd 'Sprouts' Elder but Elder's car failed to start.

A Wolverhampton team raced around the track for the first time in July 1929 against Warrington and Wolverhampton-born Tommy Deadman, who was employed by the Sunbeam Factory, was the biggest star at the time.

After two mediocre seasons and poor crowds, they closed for 20 years.

It was revived again in 1951 but the Wasps, as they were then known, only won a miserable five meetings out of their 36 league encounters and finished at the bottom of their league.

Down the road, the Cradley Heathens lost £6,000 during the season and were looking to close but instead merged with the Wasps before moving into the Second Division.

The team was led by Brian Shepherd, before he retired at the end of the season, and Harry Bastable, before he was bought by Perry Barr and moved to Division One.

Seven years of silence at Monmore and speedway was relaunched in Wolverhampton where they were in the second tier of British speedway.

Wolves made a push for the title in the 1963 when they were defeated by local rivals Stoke but it was overturned after a Speedway Control Board ruled that Middlesbrough used a rider called John Mills illegally in a meeting against Wolves earlier in the season.

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But devastation hit in 1963 as the stands caught fire, resulting in the track's closure and major renovation as a new stand was built with modern glass fronted restaurant.

In 1965, the Provincial League and the National League merged, putting Wolves into top-tier league racing for the first time and they have remained there ever since except for three years in the early 1980s.

Legends have raced around the track including speedway stars Ole Olsen to 'Super' Sam Ermolenko. Olson arrived at Monmore Green at the start on 1970 and won the World Championship final in 1971 and 1975 but the team did not finish any area than seventh in the league during that time which was 1973.

In the same year, the club went against Leicester and won the Midland Cup final, for the first and only time. He made 179 appearances and a total of 2,248 points.

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In 1986, Wolves signed American 'Super' Sam Ermolenko who went on to become the club's all time leading scorer and won a world championship final in 1993. He made 542 official appearances and 6,434 points.

Chris Van Straaten took over the club and they climbed to third place in the British league, making it the highest finish for 22 years.

They should have won the league title in 1992 when they were thirteen points clear at the top by the end of August but five of their eight riders were lost to injury in the season's final two months and they lost out to Belle Vue.

Tragedy has also struck the venue over it's many years with the deaths of riders such as Gary Peterson during the 1975 Midland Cup final and severe injuries including when Swedish rider Fredrik Lindgren suffered head, neck and back injuries in August 2011.

In 2001, they were sponsored for the first time by Parry's International who back them to this day.

The team have enjoyed their most successful period over recent years, becoming Elite League champions in 2002, 2009 and 2016.

Charlotte Callear

By Charlotte Callear
@CCallear_Star

Reporter based at the Express & Star's Wolverhampton head office

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