alongside the other big sports stories? I never even knew that the Morning Star were using any of the stories I put out on the Monarchs.
“I was in Moscow on holiday with a company called SovScot Tours and I remember we had a young guide with us, his name was Steve McQueen and he was about 21!
“It was only a four-page paper and there were one or two typing errors in the report, hopefully they weren’t in my original that I sent to the papers! It was taken straight from the press release except for the last couple of paragraphs about Bruce Penhall.”
Under the headline Monarchs’ challenge, the story was by-lined ‘By Nigel Tovey’ and I have to admit, 40 years on, it isn’t a name that I remember from the speedway beat that year.
But I do have a vague inkling that it might have been a pseudonym for a better known reporter, although I can’t be sure but all the indications are that speedway was a regular feature, as it was in so many of the daily
DICKIE DAVIES FOR an entire generation of speedway fans, World of Sport was the must-watch TV programme of the week, running from 1968 to 1985.
Every Saturday afternoon on ITV, up to 13 million viewers would tune in to see speedway on its first-ever regular slot on national television.
The suave and slick anchorman was Dickie Davies, who sadly passed away at the age of 94 on Sunday, February 19.
There was nothing quite like the excitement of Dickie reading the latest football scores, pausing with exquisite timing and then stating: “Now speedway and it’s over to our man at White City, commentator Dave Lanning.”
Speedway was first on our ITV screens for the 1972 World Final at Wembley and ran on World of Sport until the 1985 World Final at Bradford.
For the majority of hundreds of speedway slots afforded by ITV, Dickie was the man who introduced it.
In the days when there were just three TV channels and no 24-hour rolling sport channels like we are blessed with today, World of Sport was speedway’s greatest asset.
The viewing figures have never been matched in that magnitude of millions and papers of the day.
The story read: “After their points spree last Friday against unlucky Oxford, Edinburgh Monarchs speedway club face a severe test today against perhaps the only side who could yet pip favourites Newcastle for the League title – Weymouth Wildcats.
“Monarchs riders had their confidence boosted nicely in last week’s fixtures but they will need to be at their best to withstand the challenge of the Dorset club.
most likely never will. It made speedway stars household names and provoked hundreds of major stories in the national newspapers.
But Dickie was the reason the programme was such a hit. An unflappable and sophisticated presenter who simply everyone loved. No one ever had a bad word to say about Dickie.
The famous meticulous, almost bouffant hairstyle with the iconic white flash in his fringe, the bushy moustache and always a twinkle in his eye.
World of Sport was the maverick sports programme compared to BBC’s longer-established Grandstand. A wry smile was never far from Dickie as he introduced all different types of sports, including the wrestling of Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks, Eddie Kidd’s daredevil jumps and stock-cars.
But that willingness to be different and fun gave minority sports like speedway, ice speedway and darts a vital platform for the floating viewer.
Dickie introduced some of the most iconic moments in speedway history. In the first transmission of the 1972 World Final at Wembley, Barry Briggs lost a finger in a crash with Bernt Persson.
Then came England’s first World Champion broadcast on ITV with Peter Collins winning in Poland in ‘76 and then Michael Lee in 1980. That year also saw England’s first Grand Slam of the Pairs and World Team Cup titles.
Then came Bruce Penhall’s world titles, the infamous brutal clashes with Kenny Carter, especially in the 1982 final. The plethora of dramas surrounding Lee, fabulous England v USA Test matches and a wonderful sprinkling of highlights from around the regions of great Fours finals from Anglia TV at Peterborough and Coventry v Cradley classics on Central.
The last hurrah was Erik Gundersen’s sweeping victories from the back and then winning a run-off to take the 1985 world title at Odsal. World of Sport’s last transmission was just a few days later on September 28.
I was lucky to meet Dickie on several occasions as a family friend. He was as humble and charming in person as he came across on telly.
My late father Dave would often travel to the World of Sport studios on London’s south bank to dub commentary onto footage from far-flung outposts for ice speedway or longtrack.
“Leading Weymouth’s challenge will be the rider who is undisputed National League number one, Simon Wigg. He currently sports an 11-point average and even the few points he has dropped this campaign are mostly due to nonfinishes.
“He reached the British Final of the World Championship this season (and was by no means disgraced in that meeting) and is the next challenger for Steve Lawson’s Silver Helmet. His races with Monarch’s number one Dave Trownson (and they are programmed to meet at least twice) should be the highlight of the night.
“As if Wigg were not tough enough, Weymouth captain Martin Yeates is a Powderhall expert with no fewer than three previous 15-point maximums at the track.
“World Champion Bruce Penhall, who quit British champions Cradley Heath last week, could return to Britain to chase a £5,000 title.
“The 25-year-old Californian has signed to
That often meant the privilege of me sitting behind Dickie in the World of Sport studios with the army of typists relaying the latest football scores and news.
I recall with great fondness being at an ITV function at the Wig and Pen Club in London when I first met Dickie. The greats of London Weekend Television were all there; Head of ITV Sport John Bromley, football commentator Brian Moore, Dickie and fellow presenters Jim Rosenthal and Fred Dineage amongst many.
At just six-years-old, I was with my mother in the corner when Dickie approached and introduced himself by saying: “Hello Leona and Philip.” I couldn’t believe he knew who I was. But that was because he had previously checked our names before coming over. That summed up the man, oozing class, professionalism and the personal touch.
Dickie and Moore asked me what I wanted to do in life. I instantly answered, ‘a journalist like my father’. Both of them stated: “Always remember this motto and you’ll go far; ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’.”
I have never forgotten those words. Dickie was a big fan of speedway. There was a genuine fondness for all the sports that were on World of Sport. He also attended a few meetings with my father, including a couple at Reading.
It was a dreadfully sad week for sports broadcasting, losing the giants of Dickie and John Motson. But Dickie will always be synonymous with the halcyon days of speedway on terrestrial TV. A great presenter and an even greater man.
Report: PHIL LANNING
20 speedway star March 11, 2023