Hawkeye Says Step Forward Dave Erskine
Big Dave Erskine with Dave Kennett and Paul Parish, Laurie Etheridge and Barry Thomas in the background
Pictures with kind permission from John Sommerville Collection. Thousands more pictures from John's vast collection can be found by clicking this link
If there is one role in speedway that fails to get the publicity it deserves it is that of team manager. Indeed, if a team loses the match points by a tight score line, invariably spectators will point the accusing finger at the team manager for not making what they consider to be the best use of the reserves, or perhaps, for using a tactical substitute at what they considered to be an inappropriate time. On the other hand, if a team should win by a point or two, it could well be that the success was attained because of the shrewd brain of the team manager. However, does he get the credit? No way! Perhaps Dave Erskine is a little more fortunate than most, in so much that both Len Silver and myself give him public acknowledgement via this programme from time to time, but I know that we're still guilty of praising the riders and forgetting the poor old team boss. As a matter of interest I've recently browsed through a number of other teams programmes and so scarce is any mention of a team manager, one could be excused for thinking that they just haven’t got one. Having opened this column with a plea for more publicity for team managers, I was quite amused to read the national newspapers the day after our recent visit to Reading in a four team tournament. Did you see who was listed as our top scorer with seven points? That's right, a certain D. Erskine. Perhaps Dave himself felt that he was being pushed into the background and decided on a piece of self-recognition after all, it seems to work for Malcolm Allison and he's only a team manager, or should I say was a team manager.
Dave Erskine was born at Barking in 1941. He spent his schoolboy days in the area and on leaving school he went into the shipping and transport business as an office junior. Dave has pursued this line of business all his working life and is now a senior executive with a large company and indeed, for a while he ran his own shipping and transport business. At one time, Dave's profession involved him in a tremendous amount of travel and this, coupled with his team manager's duties meant that his motor car was virtually his office.
Mr. and Mrs. Erskine, senior, first took their son to speedway at West Ham on Good Friday 1946. Although mum was only loosely interested in the sport, dad was quite a fanatic and Dave was soon to share his father's views. He became a staunch Hammers supporter and followed the side until their first post-war closure at the end of the 1955 season. Dave followed West Ham on their travels and was also a regular visitor to all the London tracks.
He then switched his allegiance to Norwich and used to travel to the Firs Stadium almost every week where his idols were the former West Ham star, Aub Lawson, and of course, the legendary Ove Fundin.
Together with a friend, Dave became interested in Hackney when the track opened for post-war racing in 1963. Although West Ham re-opened the following season, he kept faith with The Hawks and in the mid-1960s he became more involved behind the scenes and began to help out in a variety of ways. The team manager's post at Hackney was held by Alec Ford from 1963 to 1966 and for 1967; Maurice Morley joined our set-up in the position of general manager, which also embraced the role of team boss. It transpired that Morley's stay was to be a short one and he resigned at the end of his first season. It seemed the natural thing to do to offer the team manager's post to Dave Erskine and the big fellow duly accepted, taking up his duties for the 1968 season, when he only just failed - on race points - to manage the team to the British League championship.
Away from the speedway scene Dave is very much the family man. He met his wife Teresa at a time when she was working for Hackney Stadium and they married in 1968, setting up home at Hornchurch. After three years in Essex, the Erskine’s moved to the other side of the Thames to a house at Abbey Wood where they still reside today. Incidentally, Mrs. Erskine' is a speedway fanatic and to quote. Dave "She’s even more enthusiastic than I am. I can endorse that as a few weeks back I stood behind Teresa as she shouted a few words to Barry and Zenon and I thought to myself: "If only we had a few more like that, the atmosphere in this place would be absolutely fantastic." Perhaps I can arrange for her to become a cheer leader or something similar. On second thoughts that might be difficult since she would need a baby sitter. Eldest child Tracy (already a speedway convert at the age of six) would be no problem, but somebody would be required to keep an eye on James Erskine who is nearly two and is not quite capable of looking after himself at present.
The highlights of Dave's team managing career came when Hackney won the Speedway Star Knock Out Cup in 1971 and the British League near miss of ‘68. His burning ambition is to go one better and pull-off the league title with another KO Cup success thrown in for good measure.
Daves victorious 1971 KOC winning team. L to R: Hughie Saunders, Bengt Jansson, Eddie Reeves, Garry Middleton, Dave Kennett, Barry Thomas and Laurie Etheridge.
Dave Erskine is a busy man. Speedway to him is a hobby and the amount of travelling he has to do in this respect and in his business means that there is little time for any other relaxation. Dave is fortunate that his family follows his enthusiasm for speedway and travel with him to all the meetings.
Having been a speedway fan for thirty years, means that Dave has seen all the star names since world war two hostilities ceased. Whilst appreciating the skills of the likes of Duggan, Parker, Moore, Briggs and Mauger, etc., he still believes the greatest of all was Ove Fundin. He will not be satisfied until England produces another World Champion and points to Peter Collins and the Morton brothers as being the riders most likely to bring such an honour back to his home country. However, he did make mention of Keith White, a rider he is delighted to have under his wing at Hackney and who he believes is making such rapid progress that anything in the world of speedway can come within his reach.
For my part I don’t believe that there is a better team manager in speedway than Dave Erskine. He knows the rule book inside out and what is more, he has the backing of the Hackney riders. He doesn't suffer fools gladly and is quick to get on the telephone and debate points with referees if he thinks they are failing in their duty. He frowns on referees who either don't know or are incapable of applying the rules as they stand today and if I told you in print, his views on two or three of our licensed officials, I'd be sued for libel. Yes, folks, the interests of Hackney are in safe hands with Dave Erskine at the helm and in the not too distant future, it may be a new-look slim-line team manager. His wife's told him he's got to lose a few stones in weight, so he’s been out and bought himself a track suit and some squash kit. Even if the Erskine fellow sheds some of his bulk he'll still carry plenty of weight in another sense of the word.
Hackney 1973 L to R: Len Silver, Geoff Maloney, Laurie Etheridge, Dave Erskine, Hughie Saunders, Barry Thomas, Terry 'Burt' Busch.Kneeling Barney Kennett and Dave Kennett and Beng Jansson on the bike