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One of the all-conquering Wembley Lions side in the early post-war boom seasons, Jimmy Gooch has died aged 82.

It is said that it took him 15 years to teach the big time and a one and only World Final in 1965. But his career was solid and steady more than spectacular, and he certainly got around. Jim began racing on army tracks in Germany just after the War. When he won the combined services Championship in 1949 it earned him a Wembley contract.

The wider speedway public first became aware of him through a weekly column in the old Speedway Echo magazine called Diary of A Novice which was usually ghost written by editor Eric Linden, who did quite a lot of that sort of thing then. But he confessed recently “sometimes I wrote columns after speaking to them and sometimes after not speaking to them’

Jimmy was thrown straight into world class racing in the National League – the equivalent to today’s Elite League. His Wembley team mates included such stars as World Champions Tommy Price and Fred Wiliams, plus outstanding internationals Bill Kitchen, George Wilks and Bill Gilbert, while also trying to make their way were Den Crosby, Buster Brown, Bruce Abernethy and Jack Gates. And he took time to establish himself.

By 1954 his scoring had topped the 100 points mark, but in 1955 he went to Second Division Swindon and then on to Bradford the season. Wembley shut down after the 1956 season and Jim went to Ipswich, eventually hanging up his leather in 1959.

He was tempted back when New Cross reopened in 1960 and by the following year he was second only to Spit Waterman in the Old Kent Road Scorechart. A move to Norwich saw him holding his won wit the likes of Terry Betts and Ove Fundin, but he was unceremoniously sacked after losing his temper with Fundin on night and ‘sorting out’ Ove by landing a punch – an action Jim described years later as ‘really out of order’.

He was transferred to Oxford and suddenly he started to shine, helping Oxford ironically to the league title. When the great speedway renaissance came in 1965, though by then a veteran, Jim upped his average to just under 10 and reached the World Final, finishing in 14th place.

He was also a World Team Cup finalist, there were 13 international caps, five league championships medals and three National Trophy winner medals.

Jimmy Gooch

By John Chaplin

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