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1971
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Shields Win the National Team Championship

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Captain Colin Caffrey with the NACSA Trophy

Winter Moves

            John Speirs was keen to have a ‘real go’ at the NACSA Senior Team Championship in 1971. He had seen, however, how easily Hampden Hawks had been ‘blown away’ by Edinburgh’s Bridgend in the previous season. Hampden in turn had been narrow runners up to his own Shields ‘Racers’ in the Glasgow League in the same season which strongly underlined the need to strengthen his squad for a possible NACSA campaign. In a careful study of NACSA rules, John discovered that while a ‘club’ was registered with NACSA, clubs themselves could have a number of ‘affiliated teams’. Here was food for thought!

‘Shields’ could enter two teams in their domestic competition, but then amalgamate them for the NACSA competition. ‘Shields’ therefore split into two teams, the ‘Raiders’ who would ride at Corkerhill and the ‘Racers’ who would remain at Woodrow Road.

His next step was to persuade Colin Caffrey, Hampden’s top points scorer, to ask for a transfer. He did so, rather dramatically citing ‘too much travelling for home meetings’, as the main reason for his request. Strangely enough, Colin was a regular spectator at most of the Hampden meetings following his move! 

Spring: Three Team Competition

            The Spring competition was to be run to a novel four man team format designed by Ronnie Young. There would be three teams in each meeting, each having two pairs of riders. Each rider would have four races and the meeting would be run over twelve heats – short, if not sweet! Hampden entered two fours, imaginatively titled ‘Hampden A’ and ‘Hampden B’. ‘Shields entered three fours, called ‘Racers’, ‘Raiders, and ‘Raiders/Racers Select’. They too must have been up all night thinking up names! Kingsway and Mill each entered a single foursome.

‘Raiders’ narrowly won the title from ‘Racers’, scoring a win in the second last round at Kingsway. The third Shields team filled third place and so things were looking really good for the Shields organisation.  Hampden suffered from entering two teams and Mill, with some untried juniors and only Bill MacMillan as a recognised heat leader, found that a tough season lay ahead for them once again. The results were:

 

Date      Track       HampA    HampB    Racers   Raiders    Rac/Raid     Kings      Mill

21 Mar   Corkerhill     14                            31          27

28Mar    Corkerhill     25             21                                           26

03Apr     Hampden    17                                          30                           25

04Apr      Corkerhill                                                 32              27                     13                 

07 Apr   Woodrow Rd.                 15         21            35

08Apr    Kingsway                                   31                                           26          15            

10Apr    Hampden        15       33                                                             24

11Apr    Corkerhill                                   27         18                                26

13Apr    Corkerhill                   20                                               29                       23      

14 Apr WoodrowRd. 16                           26                               27

17 Apr Hampden      25        25                                                                            21   

20 Apr Corkerhill                                                            35                       19       15

  Apr Kingsway                                                            29          17         22

24 Apr Hampden                  29         32                                                               11

  Totals:         112          143          168        188           144          142       98    

 

The final league table was:

 

TEAM

MEETINGS

1ST PLACE

2ND PLACE

3RD PLACE

POINTS

 

 

 

 

 

 

RACERS

        6

        5

        1

          0

      17

RAIDERS

        6

       4                           

        2  

          0

      16

RAC/RAID

        6

        3

        1

          2

      13

KINGSWAY

        6

        0            

        6

          0

      12

HAMP A

        6

        1.5

        1.5

          3

      10.5

HAMP B

        6

        0.5

        1.5

          4

        8.5

MILL

        6

        0

       1                        

          5

        7

 

The top ten scorers were:

 

(1)        John Speirs       11.67 points                   (6)       Chic Mackie                 9.41 points

(2 Eq)   Billy Russell      11      points                  (7)       Sandy Robertson           9.33 points

(3 Eq)   Colin Caffrey    11      points                  (8)       Mike Blair                     9.20 points

(4)        Stevie Mitchell  10.84 points                   (9)       Ian Morrison                 9.16 points

(5)        Hugh Rodgers     9.66 points                  (10)      Ronnie Young               9.00 points

 

Colin Caffrey led the maximum charts with three full scores. John Speirs had two full maximums and three paid while next was Stevie Mitchell with two full maximums and one paid. Billy Russell, Neil Grant and ‘Moosh’ Nicolson each had one full maximum. Dick Barrie scored one paid maximum

 

‘Caff’s’ First Cap

            Stuart Potter, John Tait and Stuart Baxter had registered for Shields with NACSA, but the Scotland v England test match program for the meeting at Hampden on 30th May showed both Potter and Baxter as Bridgend riders and Tait as a Dunedin rider. This match featured the first Glasgow rider in a Scottish race-jacket for more than ten years when Colin Caffrey rode at number 8. In a closely fought meeting, the English riders gradually inched ahead and clinched the result with a five – one win in the penultimate heat when their best riders, Watling and Whiting finished ahead of Tait and Murphy.  The full scorers were:

 

 

                SCOTLAND                                                                                         ENGLAND

 

Stuart Baxter         0  2  X  1  2      5                        John Watchman           2  1  3  2  3             11

John Tait              3  2  F  3  1       9                   John Whiting               1  3  0  3  2          9 (+2)

Rab Grant              0  0  1  3  0     4  (+1)            Derek Garnet            3  1  1  0  1              6 (+2)

Stuart Potter          2  2  0  2  1    7  (+1)             John Watling                 1  2  1  2  3                 9

Jack Pinkerton      3  3  3  1  2      12                  Kevin Greenhalgh         0  3  1  2  3                 9

John Murphy        1  0  3  2  F        6                     Dave Parsons            2  3  1  1  F           7 (+1)

Allan Douglas      1  2  1                4  (+2)            Roger Ellis                       X  2  F                       2

Colin Caffrey         2  0  F              2                   Dave Wilson                    F  3  3                       6


Battling at Hampden

The two Shields teams dominated the Glasgow league throughout the season. Only Hampden managed a victory over the title-winning ‘Raiders’ in an epic meeting which is remembered by both sides to this day.

            On 10th July, Hampden, missing Neil Grant, David Earley and Frank McKinnon, hosted the Shields ‘Raiders’. Both teams could field only six riders, thus allowing the two lowest scorers on each side to have up to eight rides. The early heats were tied but Hampden took a four point lead when Nicky Nicolson team rode Dale Aitken to his first heat win on his Hampden debut. The advantage was cancelled out a few heats later when Billy Russell and John Paterson gained a five-one over the same Hampden duo, after Billy had ‘shunted’ Nicky at the first bend.

            Nicky and Dale gained their revenge three heats later when Nicky gave Stevie Mitchell the ‘heave-ho’ and set Hampden up for a five-one and a six points lead. This was not well received by the Shields contingent in general – and Stevie in particular, as he lobbed a congratulatory half brick in the direction of the Hampden pair. As Hampden tried to bring this to the attention of the Steward, Billy Russell attempted to minimise the damage stammering, ‘Wwwhat brick?’ This became a well-used catch phrase over the next month or so!

            Heat 12 saw Hampden increase their lead when ‘Moosh’ Nicolson and Ronnie Young scored a four-two over the previously unbeaten Billy Russell. Heat 13 virtually clinched the match for Hampden in a race few will forget. Dick Barrie and Mike Blair lined up on the inside gates against former ‘Hawk’ Colin Caffrey, whose efforts to pass Dick left Colin stretched out on the Hampden track. Feeling somewhat aggrieved at this turn of events, Colin was on the point of throwing his bike at Dick as he passed on the next lap. Dick was shouting, “Don’t do it, Caff, you’ll get thrown out of the meeting!" when brother Fred pulled Colin from the track and locked him in his van to cool down! With only three heats remaining, Hampden now led by 12 points. Despite conceding a five-one in the next heat, the final two heats were shared and so Hampden finished winners by 52 to 44 points.

            This was without doubt the most controversial meeting of the season and it was the only time a Shields team lost a match in 1971.

            Top scorers that day for Hampden were Mike Blair with 13(+2) from eight rides, Dick Barrie with 12(+1) from five and ‘Moosh’ Nicolson with 9(+1) from four rides. Billy Russell with 14 and Colin Caffrey with 9 were best for the Raiders. Mention should also be made of Hampden’s Dale Aitken who scored three heat wins in his 10 points from seven rides in an impressive debut.

                It was fortunate that the police car that had drawn up at the start of the meeting had moved off before the later heats! There were no hard feelings however as Nicky, Caff, Stevie and Billy all had a good laugh about it the following week at the speedway

NACSA Championship Bid

John Speirs was managing two teams in 1971, the ‘Racers’ and ‘Raiders’, both under the Shields banner to which all the Corkerhill boys had now gravitated. A combined Shields team would enter the NACSA Senior Team Championship.

The next move was a stroke of genius, or a stroke of luck …or maybe both! Sadly John is no longer with us to confirm exactly how it arose.

Possibly he got the idea from Jackie Pinkerton who rode for the Sighthill club in Edinburgh. Initially it looked as though he would be unable to enter the NACSA Individual Championship competition as his club had not registered with NACSA. Jackie got round this by registering with Kingsway who had affiliated. He went on to qualify for the final and appeared as a Kingsway rider in the Individual Championship Final program. 

John Speirs had entered his combined Shields team in the NACSA Senior Team Championship. He now turned this ‘Pinkerton Move’ to brilliant advantage by signing three Edinburgh (and Scotland) riders - Stuart Baxter, Stewart Potter and John Tait and then registering them with NACSA in time to ride for Shields in their semi-final match.

 

The Way to the Final 

Shields had already enjoyed some unexpected good luck when they were awarded a ‘walk-over’ win in their quarter-final match, at Carrs Wood track against Tamworth, who managed to produce only four riders for the event.

A hastily convened – and unofficial – match was then organised in which the four Tamworth riders and four local lads defeated the Shields team. But Shields were through to the semi-finals!

John’s signing of the three Edinburgh riders paid off in full in the semi-final tie with Ivy House at Offerton.. It was a closely run meeting.  Shields emerged narrow victors by 51-45.

A place in the final was beckoning.

 

The final was to be staged at Uxbridge, which was a huge track by Glasgow standards. In the weeks leading up to the final, practice sessions were arranged at the Kingsway track with the starting gate positioned at one end of the straight, simulating the long drive to the first bend.

The final took place on the 19th September. Glasgow Tigers raced at Wembley the night before. Hampden juniors ‘Moosh’ Nicolson and Neil Grant were competing in the NACSA Junior Individual Event immediately prior to the Senior Team Championship A gala weekend was in prospect for all the Scots.

 Wednesfield’s Path

In contrast, Wednesfield had a tougher route to the final. After a landslide 68-28 away win over Whitley, they only just managed to defeat Leicester 48-45 in a home tie, but they had a more comfortable time beating Uxbridge 53-43 in the quarter-final at Hungerford. In the semi-final tie at Leicester their opponents were Blackley, favoured by many as likely winners. Wednesfield triumphed by a single point!

Shields were no doubt the underdogs. While many ‘down south’ were asking “Who are these guys?” the Wednesfield riders knew well enough! They had sent a team of four to the Festival Event held in Glasgow just a few weeks previously. They knew Shields’ strength.

Piping Hot Start

Lachie McDougall piped out the Shields team who were managed on this auspicious occasion by Iain Morrison. Wednesfield had replaced Bob Bradley with Chris Bates but had also changed the riding order of their 5 to 8 riders. Were they panicking?

The first three heats were shared. Corkerhill boys Billy Russell, Stevie Mitchell and Colin Caffrey showed absolutely no signs of nerves, gaining second places in each heat, assisted by their Edinburgh based partners.

Heat four brought the first breakthrough when a lightning fast gate by Stewart Potter saw him join John Speirs in the lead coming out of the second bend. This pair were far too experienced to lose such a lead! Shields led 14-10.

 Exclusions Galore

There were some controversial stewarding decisions in the next two heats. Four riders were excluded by steward Len Baldwin. Shields won heat five 5-0 and Wednesfield gained a 3-2 advantage in the following race. Shields now led 21-13.

In heat seven yet another rider, Wednesfield’s Keith Gibbons, was excluded allowing John Tait and Colin Caffrey to score a 5-1and so extend the lead to 26-14. Another jet propelled gate in heat eight gave Stewart Potter and Stevie Mitchell a 5-1 over Joe Williams and Chris Bates. The score was now 31-15 and the championship was well within Shields grasp.

The Aces Fight Back

The experienced John Speirs calmed his riders after Wednesfield took the next two heats 4-2 and 5-1 cutting the lead to 37-27. He pointed out that, with only five heats remaining, they had a huge margin to defend, particularly with the additional benefit of three inside gates. This was to prove correct. In Heat twelve Stewart Potter outgated the previously unbeaten Roger Ellis and led him all the way for a 3-3 draw. Points were again shared in heat thirteen when Chris Pedley was excluded.

 43-33 the score, ten points up and three races to go … nearly there … keep calm!

 Victory!

The championship was clinched in the next race when John Tait and Fred Caffrey took a 3-3 . Shields were national champions! For the first time a Glasgow team had won a national championship!

Wednesfield gained some respectability with a 5-1 from Roger Ellis and Alan Guest, their best riders, over John Speirs and Colin Caffrey after John was excluded – the ninth exclusion of the afternoon!!

Stewart Potter won the nominated race from Wednesfield’s Roger Ellis and Joe Williams. The final score was 50-44. Shields name was added to the National Team Champions list, which included Sighthill Hammers and Ecurie Alba from Edinburgh and Blackley Flyers and Offerton Devils from Manchester.

Bert Harkins presented the trophy to Colin Caffrey, providing an appropriate end to a Glasgow dominated afternoon.

 

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Bert Harkins presents Colin Caffrey with the NACSA Trophy

NACSA Team Competition is for Juniors, too….but not for Hampden!

 In addition to Shields entry to the Senior Team Championship, Hampden had entered the Junior equivalent. Their line up included  Moosh Nicolson, Neil Grant, Mike Blair and David Earley. They looked forward to taking part and received a bye in the first round and drew Offerton at home in the second round. Alas, the match was scheduled for the second Sunday of the Glasgow Fair holiday, a time when three of the Hampden top riders would be on holiday. Attempts were made to persuade Offerton to change the date but, not surprisingly, to no avail. In a last ditch attempt, Jimmy Cobain sent a well-argued appeal to the NACSA Council, pointing out that Glasgow ground to a halt during this period and that many people were forced to take their holidays at this time. This too fell on deaf ears and Hampden reluctantly withdrew from the competition. 

…but the NACSA Junior Individual is for us!!!

The Hampden juniors however, got to take part in the NACSA Junior Individual Event. Moosh Nicolson, David Earley and Frank McKinnon were fortunate to be given byes into the semi finals but Neil Grant and Mike Blair were not so lucky. Both were drawn at the Carrs Wood quarter-final from which Neil qualified with 10 points. Mike scored 8, which meant he was first reserve for the semis.

The draw for the semis saw Frank McKinnon, the youngest, drawn to race at Oldbury while the other four were all allocated to the other semi at Ivy House. With Frank having no transport he was forced to withdraw.

Neil Grant , David Earley and Moosh Nicolson travelled to the other semi at Ivy House.

Mike Blair was reserve for this round but elected not to travel. He saved himself an unnecessary journey, as all the listed qualifiers appeared on the day. The round was won by Steve Mills of Denton with 14 points. Neil was runner up with 13 points and ‘Moosh’ Nicolson scored eleven to finish third. Great performances!

Indeed Neil might possibly have won the event but chose to sit in third place behind David Earley in their fourth race. This gave David an outside chance of reaching the final. Unfortunately David had gate four in his last race, which he needed a win to qualify and failed to gain the necessary points. 

Stormy Journey Back from Ivy House

John Speirs was also at Ivy House that day, taking part in the Senior Semi-Final. His draw gave him two gate 3’s and a gate 4 in his first three races from which he mustered only one point, and despite scoring 4 points from his two final rides, didn’t manage to qualify for Uxbridge. He did however take the opportunity to weigh up Ivy House’s three heat leaders, Cockroft, Taylor and Carter and also to view Wednesfield’s Alan Guest – all of whom would be encountered in the Senior team events.           

The journey back from Halifax was notable for an amazing electric storm in the Gretna area which resulted in John Speirs lying in the back of Nicky’s car with his anorak over his head. 

We’re off to Uxbridge for the Final

   The Junior final was held at Uxbridge on Sunday September19th and preceded the Senior team final. Both ‘Moosh’ and Neil opened their score with second places in races featuring the event favourites, who ultimately finished in the top three positions.

   Neil finished behind George Russell, who won the event with 15 points, but ahead of Steve Casey who would be the runner up with thirteen points – the only points that Steve dropped all day. ‘Moosh’ finished behind Steve Whitehead who went on to finish third.

   Thereafter the Hampden lads enjoyed differing fortunes. Neil managed only one more point to finish with three – however the experience was to stand him in good stead in the following year. 

He ‘Gotaway’ With It…

   Moosh’ started to overbalance at the gate in his second race and ‘went for it’ just as the tapes flew up, much to the amusement of steward Dave Blinston. Other stewards might have ordered a rerun, or even an exclusion, but Dave was quite content and ‘Moosh’ won comfortably.

   A third place from gate four in his third race, however, was followed by a first bend fall in the next, ending his challenge. Possibly he was unlucky that no rerun was ordered but this probably evened up his earlier good fortune!  In the end he finished with 7 points, which made him one of five riders on joint sixth place

 Match Race Activity

Both the Senior and the Junior Match Race Titles were successfully reintroduced in the 1971 season. The holder was required to defend his title against the opposition’s top scorer in every meeting. If the holder were absent from his team’s fixture, then the top scorers from both teams would compete.

            The Senior title certainly did the rounds. Billy Russell,  John Speirs, Colin Caffrey, ‘Chic’ Mackie, Bill MacMillan, Neil Grant and Nicky Nicolson all being holders at some point. Nicky recalls, “I was challenging John Speirs at Hampden and had won the toss. My gating was pretty poor and I decided to take the outside gate, just to ‘wind John up’! This was very successful, for John spent the next ten minutes trying to persuade the steward to make me take the inside gate. However, the psychological approach didn’t really work, for John gated well and won comfortably. In my next attempt at the title I again won the toss, took the inside grid, beat ‘Chic’ Mackie and took the sash home. My mum came in, saw the sash and said, ‘Look what Ronald (‘Moosh’) has won!”

            The Junior title was exclusively retained by Hampden riders, although ‘Moosh’ lost it to George ‘Ditcher’ Christie, who in turn lost it to Mike Blair at the next defence. It was subsequently found that ‘Ditcher’ was over age and his challenge was voided. No doubt he had inadvertently got his age wrong – no doubt! Mike, ‘Moosh’ and Neil Grant all held the title. It passed to and fro among them as they missed meetings due to holidays, etc. among their unsuccessful challengers were Malky Cooper (Kingsway), Doug Hewett and John Paterson (Shields) and Mike Kennedy (Mill). 

Change in League Rules

League racing was very much overshadowed by Shields momentous NACSA victory. In the absence of conclusive evidence, it is believed that Shields ‘Raiders’ won the league from stable mates ‘Racers’. Hampden came third, Kingsway fourth and Mill last.

            A new reserve replacement rule had been introduced at the beginning of the season. This was designed to assist teams who were short of the necessary eight riders. It allowed a team to share the rides, of up to two missing riders, between their two reserves. There was an additional clever condition: the team manager of the opposing team would nominate the two riders who would ride as reserves and so get up to eight rides. If they also competed in the nominated riders heat, this would effectively prevent two heat-leaders from getting the extra rides.

            The rule worked well in that there were considerably fewer ‘dead’, drawn heats, but unfortunately it was a huge disincentive for encouraging the introduction of juniors. A team manager, faced with the choice of tracking two juniors, who were unlikely to score more than a point or two between them, or using two experienced riders as reserves, usually picked the latter option. 

Festival

The Edinburgh Festival Event was again staged in Glasgow. On the August Bank Holiday teams from Horspath, Bristol, Leicester, Wednesfield, Bridgend and Dunedin visited the city.

            Bridgend won the four teams event and Wednesfield got first hand experience of their NACSA final opponents.

            The individual event that followed saw the culmination of a weekend long feud between Harry Glover and John Tait, They disappeared through the advertising hoardings near the third bend and were excluded from the rest of the meeting for fighting!

            Neil Grant made his Scotland debut, wearing the Saltire race jacket in the Scotland v English League meeting which concluded the afternoon’s racing. 

The Party’s Over

If Dick Barrie is to be believed, Rod Stewart’s ‘Maggie May’ was played almost continuously at Nicky Nicolson’s 21st birthday party, shortly after the season finished. It was, however, the ‘B’ side of this record, ‘Reason to Believe’ that seemed more appropriate for Glasgow Cycle Speedway at this time. The news that Glasgow Corporation, perhaps impressed by Shields NACSA win, were to provide Mill ‘Wheelers’ with a track at Queen’s Park recreation grounds gave us good “reason to believe” that this was indeed a platform from which we could build to even greater heights. For the following season there would be five teams and five tracks

            Sadly, it wasn’t to be. The ‘Rolling Stones’ ‘The Last Time’, also played at Nicky’s party, was to prove a more accurate prediction about the sport .