TAPES-UP Fisher is the voice of the Abbey
A LOT has changed at Swindon Robins over the last 30 years, but one thing has remained the same.
Thousands of fans, hundreds of riders and several team managers have come and gone, titles have been won and lost and legends have waved goodbye, but announcer Clive Fisher is still standing.
The veteran broadcaster is rightly known as ‘the voice of Swindon Robins’ not just by those who regularly visit the Abbey Stadium, but also across the sport in general following spells announcing at Reading and Poole which ran concurrently with his time at Blunsdon.
“Up to Richard for the full and official result,” and “give it up for Leigh Adams ladies and gentleman,” have become well known sayings in his Wiltshire twang, and almost every rider in the league is quick to say hello to the popular former electrical engineer when they enter the pits before a meeting.
Clive has been the first on the scene to talk to victorious team managers, angry riders who have just hit the fence and every other emotion in between, and has also been able to report back from tough looking accidents in his bid to make the viewing experience as interactive as possible for the Swindon crowd.
Having graced the airwaves of Radio Wiltshire, GWR, More and now Jack FM during his broadcasting career, Clive is no stranger to getting the best out of people with a microphone shoved in front of their faces, but there are a handful of riders who stand out from the pack when it comes to their cooperation.
“I’ve been here a long time now, doing the same old job, but it’s been great and I’ve met some really nice people along the way,” he said.
“I try my best to bring a bit of a different concept to what the riders think to what you would expect on the terraces, but it can be quite hard when riders have had a bad night.
“You never know how they are going to react but, over each season, you learn the facial expressions of the riders and you kind of know when to leave them alone. It’s not been a great few years for people to talk to but once Leigh Adams left it was always going to be difficult.
“The two riders who stand out in terms of their personalities have to Ben Hans Nielsen at Oxford, he was classic to talk to and a real gentleman of the sport, and the other has to be Leigh. That’s just from a media angle.
“From a riding point of view it has to be Per Jonsson at Reading, who is tragically in a wheelchair now, because for his height he should never have been as talented as he was. He was brilliant on a bike.
“Personalities are really important in this sport, people the crowd warm to, and for that you have to look back to Swindon and people like Barry Duke, Malcolm Holloway and Bob Kilby. Bob was a legend, he could switch onto his speedway at 7pm and put in a great performance and then by 9pm he was back in the bar having a beer and a fag with the fans. Sadly that sort of interaction with the fans is missing now, the personalities aren’t there.
“There’s been bad times too, the first year that Leigh left was terrible in 2011, but you have to push them to the back of your mind sometimes.”
There have been plenty of good times, given during his 30 years with the club the presenter has witnessed thousands of heats, but when asked to pick out one he knew exactly where to turn.
“One of the races which stands out was a test match between the USA and Sweden which included Erik Stenlund,” he said. “In one of the heats I think he went between the two Morans, Shawn and Kelly, and they didn’t like it at all and thought it was dangerous riding.
“He was nicknamed Crazy Horse and that’s the sort of thing they did.
“Leigh Adams produced some good races and was a real ambassador for the club, and when he and Matej Zagar were racing together in 2009 they went inside and out and were a joy to watch.”
As well as memorable races, there have been other non-racing based incidents which bring a smile to Fisher’s face when reminiscing.
“I think it was the second or the third season of being on the mic and there was a new guy doing the tractor for an England v USA test match,” he said.
“He had the spray arms out and I was interviewing Denis Sigalos on the centre green just after they won the meeting in heat 17, and the tractor arm came round and whipped me straight over.
“It knocked me straight out for a few minutes but I was wearing white trousers and I thought I was bleeding because I got wet.
“There’s been plenty of times when I’ve made a fool of myself, that’s the nature of the job, but I’ve also got in trouble now and again.
“In 1985, when the late Malcolm Simmons was racing, I was severely reprimanded by the SCB for something I said. They really didn’t like that.”
While the likes of Kilby, Broadbank, Holloway, Duke and Adams are undoubtedly Swindon legends, there is one man whose career Clive is able to recall from his very first turn on a bike. Current team manager, and GB boss, Alun Rossiter.
“I can remember Alun as a mascot when he was very young and I can still remember him as a mascot, although a little older, when Barry Briggs had his Golden Greats reunion,” he said.
“Then I saw him ride as a Sprocket at Swindon and at Poole in their National League days, before turning the tables and going into team management.
“He’s a great team manager but those two years away at Coventry helped him not doubt, he went away and he made people stand up and proved to certain people he wasn’t the laughing stock they thought he was. He won the title there and did a brilliant job.
“He’s brought a lot of young riders over from Europe and got them into British speedway, which has been important to what he does.”
“I think he’s got to be careful there because when he’s thinking about the World Cup, selecting sides and travelling to tracks to watch them race, he’s got a lot to live up to.
“If Swindon lose while he’s doing that then fans could get on his back, so he’s got a difficult job, he needs to be careful. Neil Middleditch did that very well but they are two different characters.
“I really hope Rosco does well because he’s a good guy and as someone once said, if you cut him in half he bleeds Swindon blood.”
And what of speedway as a sport? Clive has been a fan since 1965, before taking on presenting duties, and believes there is certainly still a place for the shale sport today despite people queuing up to knock t.
“When people say bad things about speedway, saying it’s all about the start, I say most games at Wimbledon are won on the serve but it’s what goes on in between that matters,” he said.
“As long as it entertains people and gets them through the turnstiles it’s a great place to be, especially on a sunny night, that’s key.”