PIRATES team boss Neil Middleditch paid tribute to "real character" Odd Fossengen after the former Wimborne Road racer died of a heart attack at 72.

The Norwegian was a key member of the British League-winning side of 1969, the second of six successive seasons he spent in Dorset.

Fossengen's career came to a premature end weeks into the 1974 campaign when he sustained a broken femur in a crash at Oxford, eventually returning to live in his native land.

Inducted into Poole's hall of fame in 1994, Fossengen is the 14th-highest scorer in club history.

When he arrived in Britain, the Nes-born rider lived with the Middleditch family in Sturminster Marshall, making quite an impression on a young Neil Middleditch in the process.

The Pirates team boss said: "It was a great sadness to hear of Odd's passing because as a kid I used to help him out at meetings and I bought my first bike from him.

"His command of English wasn't great when he first turned up but he soon got the hang of it.

"Odd was a great character who loved his speedway. He was a tenacious, all-action rider who never gave up and that's what endeared him to the fans.

"He became a cult hero of that era. Sadly, he broke his thigh at Oxford, which was a great shame.

"He was a real character who loved his time at the Pirates and married a girl from Poole, so his roots are always going to be here.

"I have very fond memories of him. Any time he came to the UK, he would always come to see my mum and dad and he never forgot his time with them."

Fossengen joined Poole early in the 1968 season following the shock retirement of number one Gote Nordin.

Poole had sent telegrams to the continental federations in the hope of finding a replacement and Fossengen replied, being picked ahead of Czech international Antonin Kasper following a successful trial.

During his stint in Dorset, Fossengen made more than 220 appearances in league and cup and was so popular with supporters that every match they greeted him with the chant: "Oddy, Oddy, Oddy, Oi, Oi, Oi."

Fossengen was a frequent visitor to Poole throughout his life and would often be seen chatting to fans and watching the on-track action.

Pirates owner Matt Ford revealed his sadness at the passing of a rider for whom he had enormous respect.

Ford told the club website: "I am heartbroken. Oddy was my first hero as a child and I remember crying when he broke his leg at Oxford.

"It is a dreadful way to start the year for older Pirates supporters like myself as Oddy was a rider we worshipped.

"He always gave time to everyone, throughout his racing career and after. My thoughts are with his family."

Fossengen is survived by his wife Susan and three daughters.