Cradley Heathens fans' sadness as speedway club pull out of league action
"It was expected – people were dropping off and losing interest."
Disappointment – but not surprise – is the feeling of hundreds of racing fans as Cradley Heathens announce it will be pulling out of league racing next season.
The Heathens' battle to find a new stadium since losing its permanent home at Dudley Wood in 1995 has been a long and frustrating process for its directors, racers and supporters.
Discussions over the structure of the 2020 National League will continue into December, but the club have confirmed they will not be at the tapes next season.
But bosses are still hopeful that someone could step in to carry on the popular speedway team.
Former Cradley Heathens Supporters Trust chairman Spencer Billingham admitted he wasn't surprised to hear of the club's demise.
He said: "I was a member a few years ago, and chairman at one point, but my passion died. Partly because of the struggle to find a new home.
"I presumed this would happen, it was expected – so I'm not that sad about it to be honest. People were dropping off and losing interest.
"If they were to find a new home and get back racing again, I'd be the first one there without a doubt.
"But they had 10 good years, and going from one place in Wolverhampton to another in Birmingham just wasn't working.
"If they had their own track I reckon they'd get thousands of people in.
"I hope one day they'll be back."
Heathens director Nigel Pearson said he would support anyone who can help 'carry the famous Cradley Heathens name into a new home'.
The speedway club has previously raced at Dudley Wood Stadium before it was forced to close in 1995.
After a long-running dispute and public planning inquiry the stadium was eventually cleared and redeveloped for homes.
Supporters had worked to find alternative sites with both Dudley and Sandwell councils over the years to no avail.
Alan Lunt, deputy chief executive at Dudley Council said: "This is devastating news and a real blow to Dudley and the Black Country.
"We have helped in every way possible to identify a site for the Heathens to build a new stadium but we simply do not own a suitable site.
"I sincerely hope that this is not the end of the Heathens great history."
Sandwell Council said it was unable to make a comment in light of the news.