My favourite ever Ipswich Witches team... KEVIN LONG
As we continue our popular Witches 1-7 feature, this time we hear from Kevin Long, centre green presenter at Foxhall.
My first-ever speedway meeting was towards the end of the 1972 season, and instantly I was hooked and still am, some 47 years on!
I've followed the Witches all over the UK and some riders internationally as well.
I've served on the Supporters' Club committee and through my involvement was invited to present the End of Season event in 1997. From there the promotion invited me to be centre green presenter for the 1998, a role which I am still enjoying today.
Over those 21 years, I've had to take a couple of breaks because of work commitments, but was delighted to be invited back this year; and what a year it is proving to be.
I have chosen my seven riders, based not just on their riding abilities but also for the interaction I have had with them off track with the microphone!
1. JEREMY DONCASTER (c)
I first met Jeremy when he was working at Davey Bros on Foxhall Road, in fact I bought my first moped from there (a Honda 50cc) which Jem then instructed me how to ride.
When at college (as part of the Student Association) we were out collecting for charity when the news had broken about Jeremy signing for the Witches. In typical Donc fashion he said "yeah mate, might as well give it a go!"
I followed Jem to all his international meetings and World Finals, and was there to see him finish third in the World in Munich in 1989.
2. JOHN LOUIS
No self-respecting Witches fan could not have JL in their team.
The most bizarre time we watched Tiger in action was when he was defending the Golden Helmet against Phil Crump at Newport. My Dad drove us (in his gold Ford Capri 3 litre) and it was raining (double wiper speed) most of the way.
JL arrived late (owing to traffic) and was defeated 2-0 by Crump. We then turned round and came home! We didn't even stop for the main meeting which was Newport vs Exeter!
3. KIM JANSSON (Everybody!)
Kim was a presenter's dream; always available for interview and fantastic with the crowd.
He loved nothing more than to win a race (with heat 8 becoming his speciality) and then celebrating with the fans, fist pumping on the stock car track.
I've been privileged to host some of his Golf Days and despite his life taking a different direction, he is one of the most positive people I have ever met.
Just recently becoming a father, I couldn't be happier for him
4. TOMASZ GOLLOB
You have to pinch yourself to realise how lucky we were to have the 'Dark Warrior' in our team when we did.
I remember doing the airport run one Friday to take Tomasz to Stansted. I picked him up from John Louis' house at about 5am and he got in the car and immediately reclined the seat and then slept the whole way, instinctively waking up when we hit the airport.
He got out and said, "thank you Kevin, see you Thursday!"
5. PREBEN ERIKSEN
One for the older viewers!
When John Berry first started to introduce overseas riders into the team, Preben was one of the first to wear the Witches race jacket. A no-nonsense Dane, who soon developed into a Foxhall fans favourite and took the Number 1 race jacket from John Louis in 1979.
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I enjoyed his aggressive riding, and remember him hurtling through the Foxhall fence with Kenny Carter, during a particularly hard fought Star of Anglia one year.
6. SCOTT NICHOLLS
I go far enough back to remember Scott and Leigh Lanham doing interval exhibition rides at Foxhall before either could take a team spot.
Scott has ridden for a host of clubs, but has always represented the Witches with pride and distinction.
A great team man, and while nowadays he is more 'Silver Fox', he will always be the original 'Hot Shot!'
7. SHANE PARKER
Last (but not least!).
Shane was a master of the art of team riding and gain valuable points for the Witches with his track craft. It is, however, more for his off-track antics that he gets his inclusion.
Three weeks into the job of presenting, I received my first dowsing from Shane (when he took exception to something I said on the mic) - at Scott's testimonial he turned the tables and gave ME a rhyming introduction!
I was sad to hear of a recent health scare for Shane, and hope he is very much on the mend.
But at the end of the day..... Whether Red, Blue or Green or something much darker; there really is only one SHANE PARKER!
Chris Louis, Robert Mikowiak, Danny King, Tony Davey
ALSO.... from STEVE MASTERS
Loving these features - made me think back through the ages.I was a massive fan growing up through 70s and 80s. Think my first meeting was in '73 when I was six!
Here goes my fav-ever Witches 1-7
1. JOHN LOUIS: My absolute hero growing up, saw him take third at Wembley World Final in 1975 (the run-off against Ivan Mauger was the longest minute of my life)!
2. SANDOR LEVAI: The Hungarian tryer, couldn't believe someone with such a exotic name and country of birth would come to Ipswich!
3. BILLY SANDER: Watched Billy develop from raw reserve to best in world heat leader, was in Germany in 1983 when he should have been crowned world champ. Remember sobbing in the car when I heard of his tragic passing in 1985.
4. OLLY NYGREN: Very early memories of him winding up the opposition, every team needs a wind-up merchant!
5. JOHN COOK: Complete Californian showman, never seen anybody else ride quite like him with his customary horizontal left leg stopping the opposition!
6. TONY DAVEY: Underrated, and electric from the tapes, once he hit the front that was pretty much it.
7. TOMASZ GOLLOB: Because he's Tomasz Gollob!
Ted Howgego, Mike Lanham, Andy Hines and Kevin Jolly.