Shawfield Speedway

             A brief history of Speedway

                  at Shawfield Stadium

                        by Jim Henry

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Opened in 1898, Shawfield Stadium was home to Clyde FC until 1986, and since 1932 has been used for greyhound racing. It also hosted boxer Benny Lynch's successful defence of his world championship flyweight title in 1937 in front of a crowd of 40,000. 

The stadium was also home to the Glasgow Tigers speedway team between 1988 and 1998. Here, Jim Henry, who was Clerk of the Course at Shawfield in 1996, tells us the history of speedway at the stadium during those years.

The first time I visited Shawfield Stadium was way back in the winter of 1968 / 1969 as a freshman University student. I tagged along with a couple of pals who were from Perth and supported St Johnstone to watch the match versus the resident Clyde FC. I remember standing opposite the stand thinking – they could never fit a speedway track in here. The footballers had to stand near the dog track that encircled the pitch to take throw ins.

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Above, the Glasgow Tigers speedway team, 1994. Left to right: Mick Powell, Robert Nagy, James Grieves, Nigel Crabtree, Stewart McDonald, David Walsh. Kneeling - Jesper Olsen

Photo, Mike Patrick © John Somerville Collection

Fast forward about 20 years and the talk of the speedway steamie was speedway was going to Shawfield. Since 1968 the Glasgow Tigers had been a bit nomadic. Turfed out of White City, near Ibrox at the end of that season to allow the construction of the M8 they moved to Hampden Park for the start of 1969 and stayed there until the end of 1972.

In 1973 the Tigers moved to Albion Rovers ground in Coatbridge and spent until mid-1977 when they were kicked out to allow the introduction of a greyhound track. They went to the dog track in Blantyre and stayed until they were turfed out to allow the construction of the East Kilbride Expressway. The resilient Tigers moved next door into Craighead Park and remained there until the end of 1986.

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Above, aerial photo of Shawfield Stadium taken in 2020, Glasgow Tigers having last raced there in 1998. Traces of the red shale speedway track can still be seen showing through the grass surrounding the football pitch. 

Image courtesy of Eye in the Sky Glasgow

There was talk of Tigers moving to Roseberry Park near Shawfield but it didn’t happen and Tigers attempted to run at Workington in Cumbria but gave up, becoming the Workington Tigers until that venture closed. 

 

The move to Shawfield was viewed as potential boost for the stadium owners and proposals were formulated which would see Clyde FC playing on a reduced sized pitch inside the speedway track.

 

I recall seeing the proposed track “pegged out” and it meant the football pitch was narrowed and corner areas would be shared with the grass, lifted for the speedway then laid down for the football. Clyde FC gave the owners the ultimatum – speedway or us – and the outcome that speedway was favoured and Clyde moved on.

 

The track was reconfigured resulting in longer straights and tighter bends than that originally envisaged.

Right, Shawfield Speedway programme for the Glasgow Tigers season-opening match against Middlesborough Bears, 21st. March 1993. Courtesy of Jim Henry

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The track was opened on Friday 15th April 1988 by Councillor Jennings and the Radio Clyde Tigers launched in the track with a 50-46 defeat of their biggest rivals, Edinburgh Monarchs. Tigers raced in the lower division and the were well served by comeback man Kenny McKinna, top Tiger of then 10-year Testimonial man Steve Lawson and David Blackburn.

 

Others who played a strong supporting role were Martin McKinna, new Aussie Shane Bowes, Phil Jeffrey and a Tiger from White City days Bobby Beaton who retired at the end of the season.

 

Tigers had mixed fortunes in the league, were put out of the Knock Out Cup and the league Best Pairs but had runners up spot in the Four Team Tournament, Kenny McKinna as third placed man in the individual league riders’ championship and Steve Lawson became Scottish Riders’ Champion. Tigers took 10th league spot in a 16 team league.

Left, Steve Lawson, member of the Glasgow Tigers team, 1988. 

Photo, Mike Patrick © John Somerville Collection 

Backroom changes saw experienced manager Neil McFarlane returned for 1989. Tigers had team topper Kenny McKinna back and he had both his brothers, Martin and Charlie alongside him. Steve Lawson was again the number two Tiger and Shane Bowes stepped up to become the third man.

 

Tigers fared a bit poorer than the year before in all competitions except for Kenny McKinna’s runner up slot in the individual league riders’ championship. Tigers missed out to Edinburgh in both 1988 and 1989 Scottish Cup events, both staged in 1989. In the league Tigers ended ninth out of 18.

1990 dawned with another new Aussie, Jason Lyons, joining the Tigers along with Sean Courtney who started the first of two stints as a Tiger. 

 

They retained the McKinna brothers, Lawson and Bowes. Steve moved ahead of Kenny who, in turn was ahead of Bowes. Tigers commemorated the city’s staging of the Special Olympiad and Tigers upped their game to take fourth place in the league.

 

They also won the National Series event, for the top nine league teams, by beating Middlesbrough and Berwick in the qualifying events before going on to beat Wimbledon and Stoke.

 

Success in the Knock Out Cup, the Fours, the Pairs and individual events. However, they did add the Scottish Three Team Tournament from Edinburgh and Berwick plus the Scottish Cup.

Right, Shawfield Speedway programme for the Glasgow Tigers match against Long Eaton Fina Invaders, 21st. September 1997. Courtesy of Jim Henry

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Big changes took place in 1991 when Tigers were allocated Mick Powell from Edinburgh. Mick would be one of the best Tigers at Shawfield after mastering the track which could prove difficult for many riders.

 

Charlie McKinna was left out to accommodate Mick and Martin McKinna was dropped in a reshuffle. As a result of a dispute Kenny too left and the unthinkable a season before became a reality. Martin did receive a testimonial.

 

Experienced Mark Courtney joined Tigers alongside brother Sean and James Grieves and Stuart Coleman had their debut season. Steve Lawson and Shane Bowes were again a bit part of the 1991 Tigers.

In the curtain raising tournament, the Gold Cup Tigers fared poorly, but in the Sunbrite League, they eventually finished second to Arena Essex with Shane Bowes topping their averages ahead of Steve Lawson and Jason Lyons.

Left, James Grieves, member of the Glasgow Tigers team, 1991. 

Photo, Mike Patrick © John Somerville Collection 

The Knock Out Cup again eluded them losing the final to Arena Essex, as did the Fours, while the Pairs event was not staged. Tigers traded the Spring Cup and Scottish Cup with Edinburgh, winning the latter on aggregate.

Promotion changes saw Douglas Hopes follow on from the Peter McBride led promotion in 1992. Robert Nagy from Hungary, along with a fellow countryman who was dropped after only a few meetings, was brought in on the strength of his one appearance in 1991 and other newcomers were Neil Collins, one of the big speedway family that included world champion Peter and world runner up Les, and Tim Korneliussen. Steve Lawson dropped down the scoring chart to fourth behind Nagy, Bowes and Collins.

Tigers finished third in the eleven team league, made the finals of the Fours, went out of the Knock Out Cup to Edinburgh, progressed well in the BSPA Cup beating top league Cradley Heath before losing out to Ipswich in the next round.

Right, Robert Nagy, member of the Glasgow Tigers team, 1992. 

Photo, Mike Patrick © John Somerville Collection 

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The Spring Trophy and Scottish Cup went to Edinburgh and Tigers were runners up to Berwick in the Scottish Three Team Tournament. Nagy and Bowes qualified for the league riders’ championship and Robert gave Tigers their first individual champion for quite a while. Robert’s win saw him race in the top league individual championship scoring a creditable 7 while five rides away from a World Final place he faltered at this big hurdle.

As it would turn out, 1993 would be a glorious season for the Tigers backed by new sponsors in the shape of Alfred McAlpine. The team carried almost all before them in the league and on September 24 they had clinched the league championship before the season ended. This was their first win in their history. Not only did they scoop the league they won the Knock Out Cup as well,  beating Swindon in the final.

 

Tigers added Nigel Crabtree and David Walsh and this pair boosted the team effectively replacing Neil Collins and the retired Steve Lawson. It is ironic that Steve should not feature in this historic year as he had often carried the Tigers single-handed in his time in Scotland. Robert Nagy and Shane Bowes also gave great service as did Jesper Olsen and the rising star, James Grieves. The year was not a clean sweep as Tigers did not win the Fours and the individual championship but they regained the Scottish Cup at the expense of Edinburgh.

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It would be difficult to top this season, but Tigers with most of the team from the year before, Bowes excepted, managed to repeat the highs of 1993. Thanks largely to great efforts by Nigel Crabtree and David Walsh plus Nagy and Powell they retained the league and Knock Out Cup trophies, a noteworthy success especially in speedway circles. It took until a wee bit later in the season to secure the league.

Left, David Walsh, member of the Glasgow Tigers team, 1994. 

Photo, Mike Patrick © John Somerville Collection 

Other riders in the squad played their part including Jesper Olsen, injured mid-season and replaced by returnee Sean Courtney, James Grieves and Stewart McDonald. The Knock Out Cup event saw the two Scottish rivals go head to head in the final. A narrow defeat at Powderhall set up the return and Tigers powered to a big win at Shawfield placing the icing on the red and white cake. Despite retaining the two majors, Tigers failed to take the Fours or provide the individual league champion but had Crabtree and Walsh take runners up spot in the Pairs.

1995 saw big changes in the league set up as the two leagues amalgamated. Tigers had another new sponsor, Weir Toyota and a new star in American Charles “Dukie” Ermolenko, the brother of better known one time World Champion Sam.  Together with Walsh and Shane Bowes plus Olsen, Grieves and Courtney, the team, without Crabtree and Nagy ended a creditable seventh in the league. Ex top flight Cradley Heath put them out of  the Knock Out Cup and they failed to qualify for the final of the Fours. Despite taking both the Spring Trophy and Scottish Cup from Edinburgh who were facing the end of the Powderhall era, Tigers promotion was running into financial problems.

The dark clouds that had been gathering over Shawfield rained down and Tigers were out of the speedway scene.

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With no Tigers team, and Edinburgh with a team and no track, it seemed a logical marriage of convenience that the Monarchs should move to Shawfield. Unfortunately, it was the worst of both worlds as Tigers faithful did turn out in any great numbers to watch the Scottish Monarchs of 1996 even with Mick Powell and ex-Tigers’ favourite Kenny McKinna. Many Monarchs fans were not prepared to travel to Glasgow to support their re-branded team and the net result was a financial disaster for the Edinburgh promotion.

 

The Scottish Monarchs had a reasonable team including American Mike Faria, Swede Robert Erikson supporting Mick and Kenny. The team ended twelfth in the league and crashed out of the Knock Out Cup early doors. 1996 saw the arrival of laydown (inclined from the vertical) engines, a watershed in speedway history as big as the reintroduction of four valve engines in the mid-1970s.

Left, Shawfield Speedway programme for the Scottish Monarchs' British Premier League match against Sheffield Star Tigers, 30th. June 1996. Courtesy of Jim Henry

1997 saw Edinburgh Monarchs lifeline move to Armadale in West Lothian and the possibility that Glasgow would have no speedway moved the owners of the stadium to invite experienced Neil McFarlane back to spearhead the re-birth of the Tigers. Back came Mick Powell, with Sean Courtney, Neil Collins, and Stewart McDonald who formed the backbone of the team backed by youngsters Will Beveridge and Grant MacDonald. Finishing sixth in the league they qualified for the play offs but went out to Edinburgh in round one. The Scottish Cup went east too and little progress was made in the Fours or the Pairs. Success had evaded them in the early season Premier League Cup tournament. At the end of the season the black clouds were back.

This time the clouds had a silver lining in the shape of long time Glasgow diehard and ex-rider Jack “Red” Montieth. Jack had been an occasional Tiger in the 40s and 50s, had been in the early Tigers team that re-opened White City and took every chance to ride with fellow veterans when it arose. He was renowned for his never-say- die and often hair raising track action and his bold exploits like writing to the Russian President asking if he could send some speedway bikes to Glasgow.

Jack and his committee managed to raise £20,000 and to find the saviour in the shape of Brian Sands, an Edinburgh supporter who owned a number of bowling alleys.

 

Brian retained Sean Courtney, Mick Powell, and added the fire power of Swede Dalle Andersson, and Zimbabwean Dave Steen plus introducing youngsters Will Beveridge and Brian Turner. Finland’s Kai Lau Laukkanen was introduced later in the season to boost the team.

 

The team went out of the Premier League Cup despite a good on track showing torpedoed by promotional problems at Stoke. The team finished seventh in the league and progressed over a couple of rounds in the season ending Young Shield tournament for the top teams. Fours success evaded them and they did not contest the Pairs.

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Above, a dramatic photograph of Glasgow Tigers David Walsh and Mick Powell on both sides of Oxford's Rene Madsen riding the first bend at Shawfield during a race meeting in 1994.

Photo, Mike Patrick © John Somerville Collection

Late 1998 moves saw the Tigers promotion secure a lease of Saracen Park which had been the home of Ashfield Giants 1949 – 1953 following the subsequent closure of the dog track, gave Tigers the training facility they wanted. Unfortunately, this resulted in the Shawfield owners and the Tigers parting company and Shawfield fell silent. The situation had not been helped with the gradual reduction in spectator accommodation which had originally allowed watching the action from all but the first and second bends (southern end of the stadium) being reduced, eventually, to a small flat area along the home straight (western edge) and the first bend restaurant. This seriously reduced the crowd capacity of the stadium.

 

The last closure, that of the superb viewing facilities provided by the old wooden stand, was forced on the owners by new fire safety rules. The continued use was deemed to be an unacceptable fire hazard by the powers that be in the wake of the Bradford Disaster. 

The last meeting at Shawfield was staged on 18th October 1998 when the Tigers beat the Isle of Wight Islanders 51-39 in the first leg of the end of season Young Shield event for the top teams. Tigers lost 58-31 in Ryde on 23rd October in the second leg to go out 82-97 on aggregate.

1998 saw the end of another chapter in the history of the Glasgow Tigers, the most successful in their history. Tigers moved on to Saracen Park (now Peugeot Ashfield Stadium) for the start of 1999.  Tigers have raced there since then and won the League there in 2011. Speedway action takes place on Friday evenings during the summer and it is well worth a visit.

This article is dedicated to the late Peter Colvin, a much missed Glasgow Tigers fan and historian.

Jim Henry, July 2021

 

Acknowledgements:

 

Thanks go to Matt Jackson, fellow speedway historian and The Speedway Researcher web site for compiling a list of the men who wore Tigers colours in the Shawfield era.

 

Thanks also to John Somerville who willingly provided the excellent photographs from his archive which feature throughout this article.

We are grateful to Moira Colvin for reading over the article and highlighting a few necessary corrections.

Links:

The Speedway Researcher website: contains results and information from all the speedway tracks in the UK and much more.

Click here

The John Somerville Collection: an archive of speedway photography containing over 180,000 images from as far back as 1928. The images in this article attributed to that collection can be purchased there.

Click here

The Glasgow Tigers website: includes details of the team, fixtures and results. Tickets for race meetings can be purchased on the site. 

Click here

 

© 2021 by Rutherglen Heritage Society.