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Wembley Lions

The pre-war Lions


1929, Sir Arthur Elvin “ Mr Wembley Stadium” decided it was time for the `Lions to Roar`, and brought the newly arrived sport of Dirt Track racing to the Empire Stadium. From the start he wanted the best, and there could be no better man for the job of Team Manager that the `father` of Speedway, Johnnie Hoskins, but not everything started well.


Although other teams had already taken a lot of the top riders, Johnnie set about assembling a formidable team, The Lions. Captained by Buster Frogley and riding in red & white race jackets were, Vic Deale, Len Reeves, Nobby Key, Crawley Rouse, Bert Fairweather, Alf Chick and Jack Jackson.


The expect surge of fans did not happen, but Johnnie Hoskins using all the tricks he had learnt as a Showman in Australia, soon came up with an idea, a Supporters Club, and by providing extra ‘perks’ for the supporters, plus some non-speedway events during the meetings, it soon had the fan arriving.


The Lions finished fifth in the Southern League in their first season, the league was won by Stamford Bridge team known as the Pensioners.


1930 and the Lions found a league position they liked, the top! They won the Southern League.They also won the First London Cup. This year also saw the first London Riders Championship, held at Crystal Palace and won by Jack Ormston of Wembley.


1931 and the Lions did it again, Southern league Champions. They were also National Trophy Winners, beating Stamford Bridge.


1932 saw the Southern & Northern League being replaced by the National League.

A lot of the Northern teams dropped out, so there was also a National League Championship. Wembley came second in the National League to Stamford Bridge, but won the National League Championship. Wembley again won the National Trophy, beating Belle Vue, they also won the London Cup again.


NB (Some books only show the one National League, and that is the Championship one).


1933 was Wembley’s worst ever pre-war season, they came 6th, they were runner up in the National Trophy to Belle Vue. It was not all bad as they won the London Cup for the 3rd time out of four attempts.


1934 saw a lot of the top National League teams putting out second teams in the National League Division II as well as teams in Division I. Wembley had a team in each division and came second in both.  Belle Vue won Division One and West Ham won Division Two. Wembley again they won the London Cup.


1935 saw a National League that was more like a `London League` with Belle Vue, who won it, being the only non-London team. The final table was;

Belle Vue

Harringay

West Ham

Wembley

Hackney Wick

New Cross

Wimbledon


But Wembley still managed to enter the records book, when they pay the first ever £1000 transfer fee for Frank Charles from Belle Vue


1936 Wembley came second to Belle Vue, but still went in to the record books by staging the first ever World Speedway Championship, which of course had to be won by a Wembley Lion, the Australian captain of Wembley, Lional Van Praag. Lional was later to win an even greater award when he was awarded the George Medal for Bravery in World War Two.


1937 Saw the Lions second again, this time to West Ham.


1938 League Champions were the New Cross Rangers, second were West Ham and with equal Match Points were Wembley, who ended third by just 7.5 race points.


1939 and the Lions were on the hunt for another National League Title. Lying third, one point behind Wimbledon and two behind Belle Vue, the League came to a sudden halt owing to somebody’s plans to win a greater League, domination of the World!


By the time Speedway returned in 1946 it would be a different world, one that the Lions would take full advantage of.



Click images to enlarge

Written and submitted by

Robert Rogers

Click to read Wembley 1945-1956