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MIDDLESBROUGH SPEEDWAY British League Era 1965-1996


The stadium was situated next to the A19 flyover as you came down Stockton Road.  From Middlesbrough past Corder and Dunstable Road, and the college (not pictured).  From Stockton the road ran adjacent to the Thornaby to Middlesbrough railway line and was situated on the right hand side, immediately after the flyover.  

TRACK LENGTH: 306.5m/335 yards (1965-1966 & 1968-1985) 302m/330 yards (1986-1992); 295m/323 yards (1993-1996)

The stadium was sold for redevelopment in June 1996 to the neighbouring Macmillan College.  After five years of political infighting an IT centre has been built on the site of where the old pits and fourth bend grandstand were situated.  



NATIONAL LEAGUE PAIR CHAMPIONS 1980 - Mark Courtney & Steve Wilcock

KNOCKOUT CUP RUNNERS-UP 1980 to Berwick Bandits (We wuz robbed!)

NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONS 1981 - Middlesbrough Tigers


PRIDE OF THE POTTERIES 1985 - Gary Havelock

BRITISH UNDER-21 CHAMPION 1986 - Gary Havelock

GRAND SLAM CHAMPION 1986 - Gary Havelock

KNOCKOUT CUP RUNNERS-UP 1990 to Poole Pirates

WORLD CHAMPION 1992 - Gary Havelock (Bradford & England)


ACADEMY LEAGUE RIDERS CHAMPION 1994 - Andy Howe (Cleveland Bays)



Bears (1965-1966) The 1966 racejacket featured an 'M' in red and white.

FIRST MEETING: 22/4/65 Easter Trophy

1st George Hunter (Edinburgh) 14

2nd Dave Younghusband (Halifax) 13

3rd Eric Boocock (Halifax) 13

Other riders who took part in this meeting included Jim Airey, Clive Hitch, Norman Storer, Ray Wilson, Ray Cresp, Mike Watkin, Peter Kelly, Colin Pratt, Ray Day and Bob Jameson

Only three meetings were staged in 1965 as Middlesbrough had been refused entry to the newly formed British League by 'the Shawcross Report' (if anyone knows why we were  refused we would love to know).  Speedway was retained on 'open licence'.  The other two meetings being a World Championship round in May and a local derby against Newcastle in June.  Promoter Reg Fearman then pulled the plug and concentrated on Halifax, where the vast bulk of the team moved to.  Attendances for these meetings was moderate as people stayed away in droves after four comparitively successful years in the Provincial League.  The fans wanted league racing.  It was also the year that World Cup matches were staged at Ayresome Park.



Alan Jay 15, Ray Day 12, Kevin Torpie 8, Dave Gifford 6, Peter Thompson 5, Bill Landels 4, Vic Lonsdale 2


Clive Hitch 16, Frank Shuter 12, Mike Keen 9, Brian Leonard 7, Ian Champion 5, Alan Paynter 1, Tyburn Gallows* 0

Former Bears captain Eric Boothroyd staged  'open licence' meetings in 1966 on behalf of Mike Parker who then pulled the plug after 10 meetings.

*Tyburn Gallows (real name Ray Humphries) was quite a character by all accounts.  He had a very distinctive image and looked like Roger Delgado (The Master from Dr. Who).  He used to have a 'Ban the Bomb' sticker on the back of his bike until the Speedway Control Board stepped in and told him to take it off.  He once appeared with an effigy of Ivor Brown and set it alight in the pits, much to Reg Fearman's amusement.  His regular job was an assistant hangman for the Home Office.  There was a prison at Newham. That's where the name Tyburn comes from.  He had a terrible crash at Cleveland Park on the fourth bend in 1968 when both he and his bike cleared the safety fence and landed on the greyhound track.  Teesside team manager Henry Atkinson and Paddy Lonsdale (St.Johns Ambulanceman) were the first to arrive on the scene and Gallows turned round to Paddy and said:  "I thought I was a goner there, Paddy!".



Teessiders (1968-1972) We were known as the Middlesbrough 'Teessiders' in 1968 in some programmes.  Promoter Ron Wilson wanted the identity to reflect the area as a whole.  Middlesbrough used to be in Yorkshire with neighbouring Stockton-on-Tees in County Durham, but boundary changes created a new county called Teesside and then later Cleveland in the late sixties and early seventies.




Tigers (1973-1988) We were known as Teesside Tigers until 1978 and then reverted back to Middlesbrough in 1979


Bears (1989-1996) The nicknamed changed again for the beginning of the 1989 season until the club's demise in 1996.

The 1989 racejacket featured probably the most insulting design ever. A stupid looking Bear with a baseball cap turned sideways in one corner of a red and white racejacket!


1965 Three Open Licence Meetings promoted by Reg Fearman

Middlesbrough's application to stage British League racing in 1965 was turned down by the 'Shawcross Report'*. I've never discovered the reasons why because it was before my era but if anyone could shed any light I would appreciate it. Promoter Reg Fearman had staged Provincial League racing between 1961 to 1964 and attracted good crowds initially but by '64 they had begun to wane.  Friday night racing was experimented with and a brief success but things soon changed back to Thursdays. He was forced to look elsewhere and the whole team were moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire and raced at The Shay. Halifax won the British League in 1966 and five of the riders who won it for them were regulars in Middlesbrough's Provincial League side. Sadly Fearman only operated three meetings before pulling the plug. The fans wanted league racing and voted with their feet. He had staged two individual meetings (the Easter Trophy and a World Championship qualifier) plus a challenge match against Newcastle. The Middlesbrough side featured Eric's Boocock & Boothroyd, Dave Younghusband and Clive Hitch.

* Terry Gardner sent an e-mail regarding this topic.  Apparently crowds at Cleveland Park in 1964 began to dip quite alarmingly and a change of racenight was experimented with.  Fixtures were raced on Friday evenings, initially a success but soon began to taper off.  Meetings returned to Thursday evenings.  The season finished early and in one away match at Long Eaton (another Reg Fearman track) Eric Boocock actually rode FOR Long Eaton against his Boro teammates!  Halifax became available and Fearman moved the riders to The Shay for the beginning of the newly formed British League.  As we all know, Halifax won the British League in 1966 with riders made up of former Middlesbrough stars: Eric Boocock, Eric Boothroyd and Dave Younghusband.  It took a long time to get over that!

** Henry Atkinson, former Middlesbrough team manager between 1968 and 1972, told us that Reg Fearman needed attendances of 3000 to break even.  Crowds were averaging around 2500 during 1964.

1966 - Ten Open Licence Meetings promoted by Eric Boothroyd (on behalf of Mike Parker)

Undaunted by the task ahead of him former Bears rider Eric Boothroyd not only had to fight the speedway authorities but apathy when he staged ten open licence meetings. You couldn't knock his enthusiasm nor his persistence.  The Middlesbrough side was made up of 'loanees' for the evening but Boro fans wanted to watch league racing and stayed away in droves.  The racjacket featured a large 'M' in red and white.  The last meeting took place between a Middlesbrough side and a Clive Hitch Select in July 1966, Parker informing Boothroyd that no more meetings would be taking place.  An independent 'Cavalcade of Speed' meeting promoted by Mike Parker took place later on that year but this was nothing to do with the speedway promotion.


1968-1974 British League Division Two

FIRST MEETING: 30/5/68 British League Division Two (13 heats) Att: 3,000


Graham Edmonds 10, Graham Plant 9, Tom Leadbitter 9, Paul O'Neil 7, Dave Hardy 3, Terry Lee 3, Lex Fielding 2


Brian Whaley 15, Brian Black 9, Roy Williams 5, Tom Blackwood 2, Wayne Barry 1, Mark Hall 1, Colin Robertson 1

Ron Wilson was the promoter, he also promoted at Division One Leicester. The beginning of the modern era of speedway at Cleveland Park.  Berwick were deadly rivals for the first three seasons until Sunderland came along in 1971!


GRAHAM EDMONDS was a King's Lynn loanee  who only made three appearances before injury curtailed his season.  New Zealander Allan Brown was his replacement.  Edmonds, from Ashill, Norfolk, now runs his own haulage business and has interests in King's Lynn speedway. He made a comeback with KIng's Lynn's second team in 1969 but struggled to make an impression.

GRAHAM PLANT was the son of former 1940s Bear Wilf Plant.  Graham was from Melton Mowbray and went on to be a surprise winner of the first ever Second Division Riders' Championship at Hackney in September 1968. He joined Leicester and then Halifax before a moderate spell with Milton Keynes at the end of his speedway career.

TOM LEADBITTER was an accomplished all-round motor cyclist proficient in speedway, grass track and motocross (scrambling).  From Lichfield, Staffordshire, Tom was a big success in his first spell with the club.  Sadly Tom is no longer with us.  He died from a heart attack in May 1995.  He joined Leicester and later Wolverhampton before rejoining Teesside in 1975.  He rode for Bristol in 1977 and then concentrated on grasstrack racing where he had considerable sponsorship from Strongbow Cider. He later turned up appearing in Vintage Grasstrack meetings.  He was one hell of a character!

PAUL O'NEIL was  a Belle Vue loanee from Tasmania, New Zealand.  He never quite mastered Cleveland Park and was allowed to leave.  He later rode for Crewe, Halifax and Barrow. 

DAVE HARDY was an electrician from the Halifax area.  He made a few appearances for Belle Vue. 

TERRY LEE was from Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, where he ran a bike shop for many years.  He began riding in second halves at The  Shay, Halifax and had two spells at Middlesbrough, retiring  in 1971.  Former Bear David Walsh, also from Sowerby Bridge, bought his first speedway bike from Lee.

LEX FIELDING later made a few appearances for Berwick.

BRIAN WHALEY was the son of Glasgow promoter Les Whaley.  He actually joined the Teessiders in 1970 for a brief unsuccessful spell having left the country to work on the US Apollo.  Promoter Ron Wilson obviously remembered his debut but his return was a disaster and he was soon dropped from the team.  He moved on to Sunderland in 1971 but struggled to maintain a four point average.



(two of the mainstays in the Ron Wilson era both left the club in 1975)

Bruce wanted to devote more time to his garage in Leicester so weekend track Boston signed him, though he retired at the end of that season.  Dave was involved in a bad crash with Newcastle's Robbie Blackadder and never returned. 


1975-1990 National League

Ron Wilson promoted speedway at Middlesbrough for 11 seasons, his better years occurring between 1968 and 1974.  Latter years were unkind to him as a number of seasoned campaigners left the club and were never adaquately replaced (in my opinion).  Supporters grew suspicious when he announced as early as 1976 he was looking to build a track closer to his home in Leicestershire ( the year that Teesside Tigers finished bottom of the league).  Bletchley Greyhound Stadium was mentioned but in the end he went to Milton Keynes. Leicester builder Wally Martin co-promoted with Wilson in 1978 before taking sole control in 1979. Wilson began his new track at Milton Keynes in 1978 whilst still operating at Leicester's Blackbird Road.



Wally promoted at Cleveland Park between 1978 and 1984 and within three years of taking over had won the National League championship.  Wally then sold his licence to former rider Tim Swales at the end of 1984. Tim initially was the promoter on his own but in 1989 a consortium became involved with running speedway at Middlesbrough. The consortium involved people like Ken Knott (who had his own business Kebrico Toys) and the Chiltons (accountants). There were others too. 1991-1994 British League Division Two Tim was the exisiting chairman of the BSPA (British Speedway Promoters' Association) and decided to sell up. He had tried in vain to introduce speedway racing to Hartlepool's greyhound stadium in 1992 (Stoke's Hartlepool based Paul Pickering even took his bike down to the track for noise tests). The stadium had staged stock car racing intermittently over the previous two decades but the local newspaper ran a particularly vehement campaign AGAINST the introduction of speedway racing and the stadium was eventually demolished and the site now stands empty (next door to the town's football stadium).


Daz Sumner - Jamie Luckhurst - Paul Bentley   

1995-1996 British Premier League

York businessman Malcolm Wright took over sole control at Cleveland Park. Wright was a former Hull Vikings fan who had become involved at Cleveland Park in 1994. It would be fair to say that without his financial input there would have been no league speedway in Middlesbrough. The amalgamation did teams like Middlesbrough no favours and the league was hilariously unbalanced. Unfortunately Wright suffered some of the worst attendances experienced during the modern era. This was not his fault but the league's. Having agreed to release one heat leader each the former British League Division One clubs including Bradford, Cradley Heath, Eastbourne and Poole did a u-turn on the eve of the season and refused to release riders so that teams were of equal strength. Middlesbrough, together with Exeter and Sheffield were sacrificial lambs to the slaughter. We only had five riders on press and practice day in 1995, our only decent signing being Shane Parker from Ipswich. Things were so bad after a handful of meetings we couldn't even track a competitive team within the constraints of the league's averages that dictate team planning and the club was close to going under. Thankfully common sense prevailed and the Bears were allowed to come back - and what a meeting, a last heat decider against the seemingly invincible Cradley Heathens Billy Hamill and Greg Hancock. From that moment on the whole club was galvanized into avoiding the bottom spot.


Wright persevered and managed to put together an attractive enough side for the 1996 season when halfway through the season came the major bodyblow - the land on which the stadium stood was to be sold immediately to the neighbouring Macmillan College for redevelopment. The college said that once the current speedway season was over then there would be no more speedway or greyhound racing as the stadium would be demolished and built upon. With a change of government and the demise of the Teesside Development Corporation, Macmillan College never fulfilled its promises. It did demolish Cleveland Park but then all it did was landscape the third and fourth bends of the old speedway track and made it into a car park with a fence round. On the site of the first and second bends (and the old pits) the College authorities still hold car boot sales on Sunday mornings.  After FIVE years an IT centre has been built on part of the old stadium.

LAST MEETING: 19/9/96 British Premier League (Att: 1,800)


Shane Parker 15, David Walsh 10, Scott Robson 9, Antonin Svab 9, Stuart Robson 6, Jesper Olsen 5


Bobby Ott 14, Joe Screen 12, Sean Wilson 10, Andy Smith 4, Rene Aas 1, Jonathan Swales 1, Paul Pickering 0


Despite the name change to the New National League in 1975 it was still the second division of speedway racing. In 1995 the two leagues amalgamated into one league. The move was a complete failure and in 1997 the leagues reverted to their previous incarnation, only they were now known as the Elite League and the Premier League. The addition of an Academy League in 1994 (speedway's third division - grassroots level) changed its name to British League Divison Three and then the Conference League. Middlesbrough had a junior side that competed in the Academy League in 1994 (Cleveland Bays)when Sittingbourne pulled out at the last minute. They were to stage further meetings in 1995 but after a match against Mildenhall, which was a financial disaster for promoter Malcolm Wright, the Bays withdrew from the league.


557 Steve Wilcock (1976-1987; 1989-1991)


STEVE staged a testimonial in 1985 against a team of ex-Newcastle riders.  A crowd of 3000 turned out to support him.
Steve was the greatest ever post war rider to turn out for the club.  Originally signed 'on-loan' from Bradford in 1976 (along with Aussie Andy Cowan) and based in Mirfield, West Yorkshire.  He was a one club man for 15 years apart from one strange season in 1988 when he was farmed out to Rye House on loan.  He rode a few times in the top league for Belle Vue and Coventry but preferred riding at a level where he felt comfortable financially. He was a model of consistency throughout the 1980s and in his final season in 1991 some of his overtaking manouevres were absolutely unbelievable.  In one match he went into the first bend stone last and came underneath THREE RIDERS exiting out of the second bend in the lead! 
Steve Wilcock was a god to Middlesbrough supporters.

Steve pictured at practice day in 1979

398 Martin Dixon (1978-1982; 1985-1989; 1996)

Another great stalwart of the 1980s.  Began his career in 1977 by falling off or conking out on several occasions.  Began to make a big impression in 1978 and from that moment on was never out of the team until he left to join British League Halifax in 1983. He was part of the 1981 National League championship winning team. He moved to King's Lynn in 1984 and then returned to Middlesbrough in 1985 when promoter Tim Swales paid 15,000 for his services. He stayed a further five seasons, which included a bad elbow injury on1988 practice day.  After a fallout with Ken Knott he was allowed to join arch rivals Newcastle.  He rode at Brough Park for two seasons and then moved to Nottinghamshire track Long Eaton where he regained his confidence.  He celebrated a 25-year testimonial at Swindon during the 2001 season and will be riding for Glasgow in 2002.


371 Pete Reading (1968-1980)

A grasstracker from the East Midlands market town of Retford who once had the audacity to knock future team manager Tony Coupland off his bike as he went past him!  Began his speedway career by taking part in winter training schools at Long Eaton's Station Road.  When promoter Ron Wilson mentioned he was opening a track in the north east Reading was one of the first to sign - even though he had no idea where Middlesbrough was and when he did he couldn't understand the accent.  Whilst he was never a number one rider he was a reliable and consistent middle order scorer for many years, his best seasons occuring in 1972 and 1973.  However, one never quite knew how Pete was going to perform.  One week during the 1975 season he was dropped from the team, the following week he was re-instated and went out and equalled a long standing track record! He celebrated a testimonial in September 1977 (the first Second Division rider of the British League to do so).  His career came to an abrupt halt in 1978 when riding at Kingsmead, Canterbury.  Barney Kennett fell off in front of him leaving him nowhere to go.  Poor Pete was in a bad way and his recovery was painful.  He began to make his speedway comeback by using the facilities at Felton training track in Northumberland.  He made a few appearances in 1980 but it was all too plain to see that he had lost his nerve, shutting off where before he would have gone full throttle.  Pete left Cleveland Park quietly intent on riding for a club closer to home.  Scunthorpe was mentioned but he quickly disappeared from the scene.  He now works as a school caretaker in his home town.

321 Geoff Pusey (1979-1985; 1987-1988)

216 Dave Durham (1968-1975)


Interesting to note that TOM LEADBITTER has the highest average of any rider in the modern era although he only rode in 141 meetings for his 8.69 average. 
A couple of surprises in discovering both MARTIN CUSWORTH and ASHLEY NORTON made over 100 appearances.  The most consistent was STEVE WILCOCK who scored over 5,000 pts to average 8.28.  Other 8pt men include MARK COURTNEY who averaged 8.52 from 195 apps and BRUCE FORRESTER who averaged 8.15 from 167 apps 

1970s Favourites 




MIDDLESBROUGH Teessiders were founder members of the British League Division Two in 1968 and outlasted them all, though Berwick have tried to claim an unbroken run!  Belle Vue, Canterbury, Crayford, Nelson, Plymouth, Rayleigh, Reading, Weymouth were the other tracks. 

CANTERBURY's TYBURN GALLOWS (Ray Humphries) had a spectacular crash on the old pits bend in 1968.  He lost control of his bike coming round the third bend and crashed into the safety fence at speed on the fourth bend ending on the greyhound track.  He tried to make a comeback with various southern clubs but drifted away from the sport in 1970.

MIDDLESBROUGH's GRAHAM PLANT was the first ever winner of the Second Division Riders Championship at Hackney, September 1968.  His victory was something of a surprise as Crayford's Mick Handley was expected to end a spectacular season.

IN 1971 Teesside team manager Henry Atkinson completed a unique double.  He masterminded Rochdale Hornets first home defeat of the season and two weeks later whilst standing in for Rayleigh Rockets team manager Peter Thorogood he emerged triumphant again in the final heat.  The two defeats were Rochdale's only home reverses all season!

THE largest attendance at Cleveland Park during the 'modern' era took place in August 1976 when a crowd of 8,000 watched the Northern Riders' Championship

ANOTHER big crowd of 5,000 turned up to witness Middlesbrough Tigers clinch the National League title on Sunday 4th October 1981 against arch rivals Newcastle. The original staging on the Thursday before had been postponed because of a waterlogged track.

THREE riders completed testimonials with the club.  Pete Reading (1968-1980), Steve Wilcock (1976-1987 & 1989-1991) and Geoff Pusey (1979-1988)

More To Follow

 Statistics supplied by


3 The Mews, Gastons Road, Malmesbury, Wiltshire SN16 0BE

Speedway Traxion is a monthly 16 page A5 size publication that charts the progress of teams during the British League era from 1965 to the present date.  Issue 16 (February) featured Middlesbrough/Teesside/Cleveland Bays, Cowdenbeath and West Ham.  Each issue costs £1.50 inclusive of postage. 

First and last meetings are covered as well as all the rider statistics (appearances, points)


UPDATES and more detailed statistics will follow very shortly.

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