IT is not every club who can entice a former World Champion to offer his advice and expertise when embarking on a new era.

But for Poole Pirates, Gary Havelock “jumped at the chance” to reunite with the side which still has a huge place in his heart.

A former captain of Poole, who rode alongside a host of star names in Dorset around the turn of the millennium – Havelock received a call from owner Matt Ford in December 2019, which he would only give one answer to.

Fast forward 18 months and, despite the world living through the coronavirus pandemic, Havvy is set to finally take up his position as Pirates’ co-team manager when Poole travel to Glasgow in the SGB Championship tomorrow (7pm).

Picture by Richard Crease - 20/4/11 - PirRobbHave5 - words by sport - Speedway - Poole Pirates v Swindon Robbins - Gary Havelock and Neil Middleditch


The 52-year-old is set to share the responsibility with legendary team boss Neil Middleditch, Havelock will mainly take charge for the northern contests.

“Matt probably first called me around Christmas time – it would have been Christmas 2019,” Havelock explained to the Daily Echo how the arrangement came about.

“He said ‘look Hav, we’re dropping down into the Championship. Obviously, there is going to be a lot of long, northern weekend trips for Middlo’.

“Middlo’s busiest time with his business is the weekends. For him to go to Glasgow on a Friday or Berwick on a Saturday, it’s not really feasible or viable.

“Matt said to me ‘would you be interested?’. Right before he got the words out of his mouth I said ‘yeah, I’ll do all the northern ones if that’s what you want me to do’.

“He said ‘what do you mean? We haven’t even talked about money or anything yet?’. I was like ‘it doesn’t matter – I’ll do it’.

“I have been out of speedway for a couple of years and I am basically twiddling my thumbs, thinking somebody somewhere is missing out on my knowledge.

“For the past 15 or 20 years Poole have been the Man United of speedway in England. Matt could have asked anybody in the country to do it and they’d have jumped at the chance.

“But he didn’t, he asked me and that means a lot to me. Like everybody knows, I have got a massive affinity with the club.

“I had a good four-and-a-half years of my career down there. I have still got a lot of good friends down there and it’s a big piece of my life – a big piece of my heart. I jumped at the chance to do it.

“I took it upon myself and I actually rang Middlo.

“I said I wasn’t trying to step on anybody’s toes, I said to him ‘you do whatever you want to do, all the home ones, any away ones, even any northern ones, you get to choose first – I’ll do the rest, no problem at all’.

“Obviously, I am going to try to get down to Wimborne Road as much as I can in the season. I won’t be there every week because it just wouldn’t be viable.

“But that’s how it came about. I got really excited last year and it didn’t happen – this year I had been talking it down in case it didn’t happen again.

“But now, all of a sudden it’s real, it’s happening and I am getting excited.”

Picture by Richard Crease - 21/03/14 - RC210314sSpeedHave16 - sport - Speedway - Gary Havelocks farewell meeting at Poole stadium. Gary Havelock with Tony Rickardsson


A leader of past Poole sides under Middleditch and Ford, Havelock rode alongside the likes of Scott Nicholls, Mark Loram and Magnus Zetterstrom in Dorset.

So, what was it like when Havvy phoned Middleditch about his new role?

“Middlo was great. He said ‘Hav if I had wanted anybody in the world to do it with me, it would be you’. That was massive as well,” said the 1992 world champion.

“Middlo was probably my best ever team manager. Myself, Matt and Middlo have all been on a little journey.

“Obviously I had my farewell meeting there and had been there quite a lot of times when I was managing at Coventry. I came back and I always had a great reception.”

Picture by Richard Crease - 21/03/14 - RC210314sSpeedHave23 - sport - Speedway - Gary Havelocks farewell meeting at Poole stadium. Gary Havelock with the two teams of top riders that took part in the meeting


This campaign, of course, marks the start of a return to the second tier for Pirates, after opting to drop out of the SGB Premiership.

Last weekend’s meeting at Eastbourne was Poole’s first in the second tier since 1990. But Havelock admits he does not really see much disparity in the standard of divisions.

 Picture by Richard Crease - 7/4/10 - garyhave2 - speedway - Poole Pirates v Peterborough Panthers - Gary Havelock.


He added: “To be honest, in this country, when you look at some of the teams, I really don’t think there’s a big difference between the two leagues.

“You look at some of the teams and it’s all the same riders riding in both leagues and they are all sort of jumbled up.

“We need to go out there and we need to put a marker on it and say, we’re the team to beat. If you are going to win the league you are going to have to take it off us.

“There is nothing I won’t do, or length I won’t go to, to help Poole be the champions of the league that we are in because, at the end of the day, as far as I’m concerned, Poole are the type of team who win the Elite League.

“To drop into the league we are in, all the riders are going to have a target on their back as Poole Pirates being in town.

“Our top three last season were all number ones at their various clubs. In essence we have three number ones in our team.

“Especially early on, you have got to make sure the top lads do produce, which they do more often than not.

“It takes the pressure off the younger guys a little bit, you know? It gives them a chance to give it a go. I am sure we will be fine.

“If Middlo and Matt haven’t already, I will be making them aware how important it is to now ride for Poole Pirates – the best club in the country. They need to perform.”