Sunday March 07, 2021
SAM Ermolenko, one of Wolverhampton’s all-time great riders, has lifted the lid on the true extent of the rivalry he had with much missed neighbours Cradley Heath.

American ace Ermolenko, who was the man Heathens fans loved to hate, has penned a column for the forthcoming book ‘Memories of Dudley Wood’ – looking back at the famous old stadium which closed 25-years ago.

Ermolenko started his British career with Poole and doesn’t recall any great rivalry – but it all changed when he moved to the West Midlands.

“When I finally got to Wolverhampton it was more a case of the people around me who made me realise this rivalry was very real!,” he said.

“Peter Adams (Wolves manager) put his arm around me to tell me, ‘hey Sam, you know coming up here we’ve got the big one, Cradley, and oh boy, those boys don’t like us!’ That surprised me because I’m the kind of guy who walks around saying hello to everybody, and very quickly I had my fans from Wolverhampton asking, ‘why are you saying hello to him, he’s Cradley!’”.

Parrys International Wolves owner Chris Van Straaten has also contributed to the 196-page glossy publication which is out on March 22 but is available to order now.

Van Straaten and brother Dirk were regular visitors to Dudley Wood along with their father before Chris joined Cradley to work alongside Dan McCormick when he was a youngster.

He revealed: “During the winter of 76/77 following the takeover of Dudley Wood by Derek Pugh I was asked to return to Dudley Wood to assist in the administration on race nights alongside Dan McCormick.

“To be involved at this time when Heathens were almost overnight changed from an unfashionable club historically content to accept rider cast offs to the most talked about club worldwide which became a magnet for the sport’s top names was an amazing experience.”

MEMORIES OF DUDLEY WOOD, the home of Cradley Heath Speedway 1947-1995, is available to pre-order now for delivery on week commencing March 22. It is a limited edition publication and can be purchased via or by sending a cheque for £17.95 per copy (including postage) payable to Curtis Sport Ltd, Unit 24, Empire Industrial Park, Empire Close, Aldridge, West Midlands WS9 8UQ remembering to include your name and address for delivery.

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