Express & Star

Bid to revive speedway's Cradley Heathens in Dudley borough is on

A consortium of businessmen and long-standing speedway enthusiasts are behind a bid to revive Cradley Heathens and bring them back to Dudley borough.

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Cradley Heathens in action

Geoff Collins, Paul Partridge, Chris Abbey and Dave Lucas have formed HNG Speedway to investigate the possibility of bringing the famous name back and claim to have the backing of Dudley Council.

Four sites have been identified and Geoff, who started watching the Heathens 57 years ago at the age of 12, said saving clubs like Cradley could be the difference between speedway surviving as a sport or not.

He said: "The way it is going with Wolves and Peterborough under threat we could be running with just four or five teams operating in the Premiership next season.

"It is massively important we don't just let these clubs fade away, speedway is a great family sport as can be evidenced by the crowds it has traditionally attracted and still does.

"Cradley Heath is obviously a famous name in the sport and used to attract big crowds – the name has been revived through groups like CRASH, Club CH and the supporters group but they always came up short with financial backing and planning experience, though they always gave 100 per cent in their efforts.

"I personally was involved at Coventry for 30 years and at Perry Barr selling bike parts and accessories and still attend meetings at Monmore Green doing the same. My three business partners have similarly been involved with the sport and we have a budget of around £300,000 to initially put into developing a venue.

"We have worked tirelessly, looking at around 30 potential sites and we have got it down to four possibles, all within the borough - and most importantly we have the backing of Dudley Council and have had a number of meetings with [council leader] Patrick Harley.

Cradley Heathens started life racing at Dudley Wood Stadium in 1947 and won two league titles in the 1980s and eight knockout cups between 1979 and 1989. Their green, red and white jackets were worn by the likes of Bruce Penhall, Erik Gundersen and Jan O Pederson during their heyday.

They were evicted from their traditional home in 1995 and the site redeveloped for housing. Despite efforts to revive the club at Birmingham and Wolverhampton, they are no longer racing.

Geoff said: "We have had meetings with Patrick Harley who is keen to develop a site for both football and speedway, possibly the two together. It is not going to be a large stadium or anything like that but the important thing is we can get a site with the help of the council as we have the finances and expertise in place."