Content Â© Sunderland Speedway Supporters - Ian Martin and Bob Ferry 2003-2013 - â¢ Â© 2013
Keeping Alive Memories of Speedway Racing at the Boldon Stadium, dedicated to the Memory of Vic Harding, Jack Millen, Colin Robertson, Vic Ridgeon, Bernie Aldridge, Pauline Dent and Elizabeth Martin
21st April 1964 7.45pm - A Historic Moment
The tapes went up on the first ever Speedway meeting held at the Boldon Stadium, a Challenge Match, under the banner of Bill Bridgett and Mike Parker. The 'Saints' team consisted of: Maury McDermott, Dave Collins, Graham Coombs, Gordon Guasco, Vic Ridgeon, Jim Airey and Ray Day. The opposition that night was the famous Newcastle 'Diamonds' who tracked two riders of special interest to Sunderland supporters. The first was Ivan Mauger who was to become a multiple world champion and secondly Russ Dent who would be the captain of the Sunderland teams of the 1970's.
There had been a bad thunderstorm during the afternoon and the Track was very wet. This meant that there were a number of accidents. Dave Collins came to grief and had to be carried off on a stretcher. Fortunately he escaped serious injury.
The opening Heat, at Boldon, which was won by Maury McDermott of the 'Saints' was a good start. Sdaly though, Sunderland went down to a 32-44 (CH) defeat that night and, for the record, Ivan Mauger scored a twelve point maximum. Top scorers for Sunderland were: Jim Airey 9, Graham Coombes and Maury McDermott 6. Even though the weather was inclement, a healthy crowd enjoyed their introduction to the art of Speedway racing.
Two days later the 'Saints' were in action at Sheffield (NL) where they were well beaten by the margin of 20-58, Gordon Guasco leading the way with 7 points.
A third defeat at home to Edinburgh 'Monarchs' 30-47 (NL) did little for the morale of Sunderland Supporters who were becoming used to supporting a losing side. Jim Airey a rider of great potential who would one day appear in a World Final led the way with 8 points.
Glasgow 'Tigers' (NL) was the next away trip - and another heavy defeat 28-50 Vic Ridgeon the top scorer with 7 points.
It was obvious that, by this stage, the 'Saints' needed strengthening. When Sheffield 'Tigers' came calling Sunderland had brought in former World Finalist and Belle Vue captain Ken Sharples. This seemed a good move as Ken had the experience and would be able to help the younger members of the team. It should be remembered that for both Jim Airey and Gordon Guasco this was their first experience of British Speedway.
The result was a defeat but the 37-41 (NL) scoreline indicated some improvement. Ivor Brown (Guest) 11, Guasco 6 and Sharples 6 suggested that when Ken got his eye in we would start to win some matches.
This nearly came to pass at Middlesbrough 3 days later with a 38-39 (NL) loss. The previously unbeaten guest Jimmy Squibb failing to score in his last ride after winning his first three. He received solid support from Sharples 8, McDermott 6, Guasco 5, Airey 5, Coombes 5 and Ridgeon 1. This was a much better performance and hopefully a sign of things to come.
12th May - a GREAT day. Glasgow 'Tigers' at Boldon. The 'Saints' proceeded to take the 'Tigers' apart 48-30 (NL) and go a long way to avenge the beating we took in Glasgow earlier in the Season.
Scorers on this memorable night were: Pete Jarman (Guest) 10, Airey 9, Guasco 8, Ridgeon 7, Sharples 6, McDermott 5 and Coombes 3. At long last Sunderland 'Saints' had tasted victory.
Four days later the 'Saints' went down by 34-44 (PL) at Cradley Heath Ken Sharples scoring 10 points.
A visit to our deadly rivals the Newcastle 'Diamonds' saw us again lose heavily 25-53 (NL). Sharples 8 points.
Middlesbrough 'Bears' at Boldon and the 'Saints' put on one of their worst performances of the season going down, at home, by the miserable score of 24-53 (NL). Only Jim Airey did reasonably well with 7 points.
Another loss at Wolverhampton saw Sunderland slipping back into the all too familiar pattern of defeats. The 'Wolves' ran out winners by 26-52 (PL) with only Gordon Guasco showing any form with 7 points.
Perhaps the highlight of the season for the long suffering 'Saints' fans arrived on May 26th in the match against the Newcastle 'Diamonds'. After the debacle against Middlesbrough the previous week not many people would have backed the 'Saints' against Ivan Mauger and his cohorts. Sunderland won this encounter by the narrowest of margins 39-37 (NL). Mauger once again showed his liking for the Sunderland track and scored maximum points. The scores for the 'Saints' were: Ivor Brown (Guest) 9, Sharples 9, Airey 7, McKee 6, Coombes 4, Guasco 3 and Ridgeon 1.
Wolverhampton at home - and - our second win on the trot 41-36 (PL). This was more like it. Colin McKee led the way with 11 points, Airey 10, Collins 6, Sharples 6, Coombes 4, Ridgeon 3 and Paul Sharples 1.
This amazing turnaround was followed by a loss at Edinburgh by 21-57 (NL) Eric Boothroyd (Guest) 9 points. There seemed to be no consistency among the Sunderland riders. All of the main riders seemed capable of getting a decent score but unfortunately not all at the same time.
June 9th and the end of the road. The Cock O' the North Trophy our first and last Individual Meeting. The Meeting was won by Ivan Mauger.
The result paled into insignificance with the news, announced during the interval, that Sunderland Speedway would close down for good after the meeting. It was said that some Open Meetings may be held later in the season. This never happened.
They said the Track closed due to lack of support, but I wonder. I attended most of the Saint's matches. I remember being shoulder to shoulder with other supporters and I do not remember lack of numbers. That we had a weak team is evidenced by the results. Perhaps had we had a stronger team from the start the crowds would have been bigger. We had quite a lot of poor weather that year but people still turned out in force.
I quote the Sunderland Echo of May 27th 1964. " Before a gate of 8,500 - the biggest gate of the season Sunderland 'Saints' beat Newcastle 'Diamonds' 39-37. Two weeks later on June 9th Sunderland closed. It was to be another seven years before the sound of Speedway machines were to be heard again at the Boldon Track.
Perhaps we will never know the REAL reason for the Sunderland closure. But that is another story.........
Whilst browsing the history section of the Wolverhampton 'Wolves' website I feel I now know the REAL reason for closure.
Wolves were a struggling Team in the Provincial League. Something had to be done, apparently Wolverhampton Speedway was a big money maker for the Promoters Mike Parker and Bill Bridgett. So how to solve the problem?
The answer was close Sunderland and share out the Riders. Colin McKee, Jim Airey and Gordon Guasco were signed by Wolves and Newcastle 'Diamonds' signed Ken Sharples. The improvement at 'Wolves' was immediate and spectacular - they went on to finish third in the League. The 'Diamonds' for whom Ken Sharples was a revelation went on to win the League.
It would appear from this that Sunderland 'Saints' were sacrificed in order to improve the prospects of the other two teams under the Promoter's banner.
I don't think 'Rain Offs', there weren't any, OR Attendances 8,500, at the penultimate Meeting, (Source: Sunderland Echo) reasons given at the time were an issue.
* Ivan Mauger rode nineteen races at Boldon - and won the lot.
* Whilst Sunderland have had a Speedway Team for only five years in total they have managed two father and son pairings:
1964 - Ken and Paul Sharples.
1973 - George and Terry Barclay.
*NL = Northern League
*PL = Provincial League
*CH = Challenge
***UPDATE*** - Janurary 2008
Bob Ferry has been in contact with Dave Collins in South Africa, Ian Martin has spoken to Vic Ridgeon a couple of times. Ray Day attended one of our Reunions and both Bob and myself were talking to Colin McKee at the last WSRA Dinner at Coventry. They all seem to be reasonably fit and healthy - long may it be so. THEY were the people who introduced Bob and myself to Speedway all those years ago. I would like to thank them so very much for that. Speedway became a lifetime interest/hobby.
Ian Martin, Colin Mckee and Bob Ferry
Speedway Stars & News Article - June 19th 1964