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HAVE YOUR SAY Workington Comets magnificent seven

Workington Comets’ incident recorder and timekeeper MARK ROBSON is in a perfect position to judge who should be included in the outfit’s best ever line-up, having followed the club from the very start in 1970.

With Workington Comets competing in two eras of speedway, there are many great riders who have worn the blue and white colours with pride.

Starting in 1970 and running through to 1982, the club was re-launched in 1999 and is still wowing crowds at Derwent Park.

There are many riders from both eras that could easily fit in a best ever Comets side.

Carl Stonehewer and Lou Sansom would probably make every line-up, but the other five places are up for grabs.

Four of Workington’s first era riders have made the cut and three from the new-look side.

Unfortunately there is no place for Rusty Harrison – the man second in the all-time appearance list while Terry Kelly, who enjoyed two spells between 1975 and 1977 and 1980 and 1981, also missing out.

Carl Stonehewer is the top points scorer and highest appearance maker in the history of the club.

In 2008 he achieved a long-held ambition of winning a seven-man trophy as Comets clinched the Young Shield.

That year he rode in 32 matches, finishing with an average of 7.42.

Stoney, as he was known, became the team’s first rider to qualify for the British Grand Prix, and won the Premier League Riders’ Championship, Premier League Pairs and Premier League Fours.

Mark said: “Stoney’s record speaks for itself and it was great to follow him round Europe as it was a special time for the club.

“He was such a dependable rider and when the chips were down he would come out and win the last race.

“He was a good man for the team and supporters and he put the club first.”

Lou Sansom is widely regarded as the greatest Comet of all time.

He had two stints with the club from 1970-1973 and 1975-1976, scoring 1,960 points and 109 bonus points in 214 matches in his first spell alone.

He also recorded 36 full and 11 paid maximums and topped Comets’ averages in three of the six years he rode for the club.

During that time Sansom increased his average almost each season; peaking in 1973 with 10.51, although he lost the division two riders’ championship after a run off.

In fact, 1973 was his golden year in which he topped the division two averages and scored 20 full and two paid maximums from 42 matches.

Known for his style, immaculate equipment and his famous black and white chequered helmet, Mark said: “Lou was the Stoney of the first era.

“He was always immaculately turned out and could ride both the big and small tracks.

“He was a very good gater and his best moment was when he was riding against John Louis of Ipswich in the 1976 Inter League Cup.”

Mal MacKay’s overtaking manoeuvres were thought to be some of the most spectacular of all time.

He lined up in Comets’ first ever match at Derwent Park in 1970 against Berwick and scored 14 points in a narrow defeat.

He became a solid heat leader between 1970 and 1974, but his last two years were blighted by injury, including two broken legs.

He retired in 1976 and moved back to Australia.

It is believed that if he had not suffered his injuries, Mackay could have gone on to be the highest scoring Comet ever.

Mark said: “Mal, Lou and Taffy Owen were the three mainstays of the team during the 1970s but were all different.

“Mal was my favourite because he always rode round the outside which was his favourite manoeuvre but also had a few fights with various people.

“He always had black leathers with a rugby shirt on top which was a little different.”

Steve Lawson – dad of current rider Richard – had his first spin round Derwent Park at the age of 14.

Two years later he made his debut against Bradford, but only rode in 12 matches in 1974 on an average of below two, a stat he doubled the following year.

Lawson’s breakthrough came in 1976 when he added more than five points to his average and progressed from reserve to heat leader.

After a broken arm he left Derwent Park in 1977 to join Glasgow where he enjoyed a long and distinguished association with the Scottish club, and was the first name in their Hall of Fame last year.

Mark said: “Steve was a home-grown rider and he modelled himself on Lou Sansom.

“He was very good and held Comets together in his last year with the club.”

James Wright joined Comets in 2004 and enjoyed a productive first season scoring 231.5 points from 49 matches at an average of 5.50.

He increased his average to 7.51 the following year finishing second behind Stonehewer and also helped Comets reach the Premier Trophy final.

In 2006 he moved up to No1 in the averages and won the Premier League Fours, topping the averages with 9.53.

He was voted Rider of the Year and also won the Premier League Riders’ Championship.

He returned to Workington in 2011, and although putting in some impressive performances, could not recapture the form he had shown earlier in his Workington career and was sacked in August.

Mark said: “At his best James was one of the best riders round Workington as he could go inside and outside.

“It was great to see him start out at the bottom and work his way up.”

Taffy Owen had already been riding for seven years before Ian Thomas signed him as captain in 1970.

During his six-year spell at Derwent Park, Owen became a permanent fixture in the heat leader slot and averaged more than eight-and-a-half points over 199 races at Workington.

Mark said: “Taffy was such a consistent factor in the Workington side during the 1970s.

“He was always a good rider and heat leader and there or thereabouts at the front.”

Workington signed Simon Stead when he was British U21 champion with Thomas breaking the Premier League transfer record to bring the then 20-year-old to Derwent Park.

In his two seasons at Workington he won the Premier League Pairs in 2003 and Premier League Fours in 2004, but missed out on the Premier League Riders’ Championship in 2004 after being controversially excluded riding against Andre Compton, who went on to be crowned champion.

He has made several appearances at Workington since leaving Comets, mainly in the Cumberland Classic which he has won on three occasions.

Mark said: “For a long time Simon was the fastest man around Derwent Park and it was just a shame about his injuries in 2004.

“However, he came back later that year and went on a fantastic run and in his second year was just awesome.”

l Do you agree with the riders Mark has chosen? Let us have your best ever Workington Comets team – either log on to www.timesandstar.co.uk or write to John Fuller, Times & Star, 23 Oxford Street, Workington, CA14 2AN or email john.fuller@cnmedia.co.uk

Have your say

1 Carl Stonehewer
2 Lou Sansom
3 Taffy Owen
4 Mal Mackay
5 Rusty Harrison
6 Peter Karlsson
7 James Wright

Posted by Tony on 30 November 2013 at 17:27


Posted by james on 28 November 2013 at 23:04

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