Bamford’s Famous Five!

Swindon boss Alun Rossiter flanked by Charlie Gjedde (left) and Leigh Adams (right) after the Robins' 2004 success in the Elite League Pairs Championship (Photo © Les Aubrey)

Swindon boss Alun Rossiter flanked by Charlie Gjedde (left) and Leigh Adams (right) after the Robins’ 2004 success in the Elite League Pairs Championship (Photo © Les Aubrey)

Speedway historian Robert Bamford reflects on five memorable meetings at the Abbey Stadium in Blunsdon, the home of Swindon Robins.

1. Swindon v Ipswich (Gulf Oil British League), 9 July 1977.

It’s hard to believe now, but these were the days when the national newspapers actually printed the speedway league tables. Swindon were riding high in the Gulf Oil British League at the time and, after nagging my father, I finally got him to take me along to a meeting at Blunsdon just to see what it was all about.

Hence, the reason for the inclusion of the league fixture held on 9 July 1977, simply because it was my very first speedway meeting. That wonderful smell was the initial thing that hit me and then there was the noise…the atmosphere… and the racing.

Swindon eventually won a gripping encounter 41-37, with super Swede Jan Andersson recording 10+1 points, while the fast-gating Bob Kilby notched 10. Turning to the Witches, who proved a tough nut to crack, Aussie Billy Sanders registered 12+1 points and John Louis scored 12. I was immediately hooked and quickly became committed to the sport. There has been no known cure since!

2. Swindon 1967 v Swindon Soft Water All-Stars, 8 October 1988.

Something very special happened at the Abbey Stadium on 8 October 1988, when Barry Briggs brought back all the members of Swindon’s 1967 league title-winning side to race an exhibition match against the Soft Water All-Stars, a team made up of riders from the same era.

It was the All-Stars who won the meeting 34-32 and the fans simply flocked to the Abbey Stadium in their hordes, filling the place with its biggest attendance for many years. How they loved to see their former heroes in action, particularly Bob Kilby, who showed that he’d lost none of his lightning speed from the gate.

The result on the night was purely academic of course and aside from “Kilb” and “Briggo”, it was wonderful to see the likes of Mike Broadbanks, Martin Ashby, Mike Keen, Pete Munday, Frank Shuter and Peter Jackson sporting a Robins race-jacket twenty-one years after they had lifted Swindon’s last League Championship.

3. Swindon v Hull (Knock-Out Cup Final), 12 October 2000.

In 2000, the chase for top spot in the Premier League title race had seen Swindon frustratingly lose out to Exeter on race-points difference. However, in the Knock-Out Cup, the Robins enjoyed a marvellous run, beginning with a hard-fought first round aggregate victory over rivals of old, Reading.

Further success came with an even tougher 2-point quarter-final success over Berwick, while in the semi-final, the Robins easily saw off the challenge of Exeter. On 12 October, Swindon proudly hosted the first leg of the final against the self-same Hull side that had earlier disposed of them in the Premier Trophy semi-final.

But the Robins were in no mood for another defeat at the hands of the Vikings and rattled up an outstanding 59-31 victory, led brilliantly by 14-points from super guest Alan Mogridge and a tally of 12+2 from the mega-popular Paul Fry.

Six nights later, Swindon journeyed to Humberside for the second leg and although going down to a 6-point defeat, much to the delight of a large travelling contingent, they had won their first piece of major silverware in 33 barren years!

4. Four-Team Championship, 27 July 2003.

A big day out occurred at Blunsdon on 27 July 2003, with the staging of the Premier League Four-Team Championship, jointly sponsored by Suzuki dealers Pebley Beach and Artdeans.

Run on a balmy Sunday afternoon, a large audience saw the Robins use home track advantage to good effect as they stormed to victory in the semi-final ahead of Glasgow, Edinburgh and the Isle of Wight, led by a brace of wins from fans’ favourite Charlie Gjedde.

The final subsequently proved a tense affair, but spurred on by their ever-enthusiastic supporters, Swindon accumulated 25-points to come out on top and land the coveted trophy from Trelawny (22), Newport (21) and Glasgow (4), with Gjedde brilliantly taking his personal total of wins on the day to five out of five. Backing the Dane superbly were Paul Fry, Chris Neath and Olly Allen, as the quartet proved the masters of the Abbey raceway.

5. Elite League Pairs Championship, 11 April 2004.

Terry Russell’s arrival as club owner, under the banner of Go Speed Ltd., meant a return to the Elite League for the Robins in 2004 and after much hard graft during the winter months, the Blunsdon circuit looked resplendent, with its new air-safety barrier in place.

Indeed, it was to provide racing to drool over – a case in point occurring on 11 April, with the staging of the inaugural Elite League Pairs Championship, sponsored by Suzuki and supported by Pebley Beach.

In front of a packed audience and screened live by Sky Sports, the circuit stood up brilliantly to twenty-four heats, culminating in home duo Leigh Adams and Charlie Gjedde taking victory from the Belle Vue pairing of Jason Crump and Joe Screen in the final. The event was smartly organised throughout and a packed house subsequently wended its way from the stadium satisfied with an excellent showing from the Swindon duo.

29 June, 2015

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