BOB Radford takes a look the Robins riders of the past, who put the club on the map.
BRIAN Brett was a young man who took several years to break through to heat leader status in speedway – but then didn’t stay around for very long.
Born in 1938 he grew up near Rye House, and had early rides there from 1956, before moving to Southampton. He won a team place at Swindon at the start of the 1961 season.
He was a harum scarum, very likeable rider, with the good looks and cheeky smile that fitted the swinging 60s so well. Bretty had progressed at a steady, but unspectacular rate – until one magical night on June 13 1964 when he became a star
The seven-team National League was in its dying embers, but had all of the world’s top stars. Swindon, with the recently signed Barry Briggs, faced Norwich, led by the superb Swede Ove Fundin.
The track record had been jointly held by several top line stars for some time, but it wouldn’t be Briggo that got it first. Bretty went out and twice beat Fundin, recording a new best time of 71.6. Briggo of course soon started to lower it later.
Brian had enjoyed the friendship and mentoring of Mike Broadbank, and later that year represented Great Britain at Wembley against the USSR. Despite also reaching the British Final in 1964 and becoming a top scorer for the Robins, Brett announced at the end of that season that he was to retire to concentrate on his Industrial Cleaning business, and his family near London.
He stuck to his decision at the start of the ’65 season, and Swindon recalled Broadbank, who had previously been allocated to Oxford under the new rider control system, in the new 18 team British League.
Soon when Newcastle promoter Mike Parker came with a request to solve the injury situation partly created by Ivan Mauger’s fractured ankle, it was an offer Brian couldn’t refuse. He went on to become the Diamonds top scorer for the year, and the top British rider in the World Final, scoring nine points and securing sixth place at Wembley.
Brian travelled up to the north east by train each Monday from his home in Hertfordshire, and stayed with the Diamonds until he once again announced his retirement at the end of the 1966 season, aged just 28. He was tempted back for the second time to join Cradley Heath in June1967, after which he walked away from the sport.
I was lucky to get to know him a little, and on his last ever visit to Blunsdon Mike Broadbank sat Brian down by me upstairs in the lounge, as someone he knew and remembered. Mike confided that Brian had suffered from bouts of depression, which worsened after the passing of his wife.
At Broady’s long overdue benefit meeting in September 2006, I saw Brian for the last time. He was reflective but did manage a few laughs and smiles. Doubtless in his time at Swindon he had been viewed, treated and paid like a second string and the lure of being number one and a pay rise at Newcastle tempted him to return.
To finish sixth in a World Final, especially at Wembley was some going for the once harum scarum kid who was busy and successful in the business world.
Brian Brett died about six weeks later, suffering a heart attack in November 2006 at the age of 68. It had been good to see him again, but I could see that he was not the happy, vibrant young man who became an overnight star after almost eight years of racing.
But he had come to Swindon, one last time, to support his friend and mentor Mike Broadbank.