COVENTRY are delighted to name Martin Coleman as their team manager for next Wednesday’s Challenge match at Birmingham – to finish a job he started nearly 30 years ago!
Coleman is a lifelong Bees supporter, and also regularly helped out behind the scenes at Brandon, both for individual riders and also on the track.
His father Mick is a former track curator at both Coventry and more recently Birmingham, having given up that role due to ill health prior to last season.
But it was back in July 1995, and a Premier League fixture at Edinburgh, where Martin was unexpectedly thrown into the spotlight – after regular team manager Colin Meredith failed to make it to Powderhall Stadium on time.
Martin recalled: “Darren Spicer couldn’t get a mechanic for that trip to Scotland, so he knew I was going on the supporters’ coach and he asked me if I could help him fuel and oil and so on.
“So I got the coach as normal, I went everywhere at that time, we got to the stadium mid to late afternoon and I went to the pits where everyone was getting ready.
“Brian (Andersen) turned up, JJ (John Jorgensen) turned up, but there’d been a message come through that Darren’s van had broken down, and not only did it have Darren in it, but it also had Shaun Tacey.
“So they were both on the A1 and they’d obviously spoken to Colin, who had then decided that he’d get hold of a van to get to them to get to Edinburgh – but they got stuck in traffic, there’d been an accident and it got to the start-time and they weren’t there.
“I was stood there and Brian said to me, ‘can you be team manager until Colin gets here, fill the programme out and let us know the gate positions?’
“Things started off nice and quiet for the first few races until Heat 4, when Edinburgh got a 5-1, but Kenny McKinna’s silencer literally disintegrated on the back straight – it was like somebody had run over a chicken, there were feathers everywhere!
“Of course our riders were furious because that should have been an exclusion, but the referee wouldn’t speak to the riders, he would only speak to the team manager – which at the time was me!
“So I’m in this little phone box with JJ who was captain, and the referee must have been the only person in the stadium who couldn’t see all this packaging that was glowing up and down the back straight.
“Standing there with JJ and talking to the referee is something I’ll never forget, and I saw how passionate JJ was about the club and how angry he was that someone had been given a race win that shouldn’t have been allowed.
“The referee said the result was going to stand, even though there was still packaging blowing and down, so John wasn’t happy and said we were going to protest about it – but the problem was I didn’t have £250 to hand in for the protest!
“Eventually it got to about Heat 11 and all of a sudden the gate opened at the back and in came Darren, Shaun and Colin, although I think Darren only got one ride and he’d been on the road since about 7am.
“If I remember rightly the protest was upheld and they got their money back, but it was all quite a surreal end to what should have been a bit of work doing fuel and oil!
“Then one of the supporters on the coach, the late Paul Houghton, broke his leg when he fell over in the stadium, and he came back on the back seat of the coach with his leg in all sorts of directions, and we dropped him off at the hospital to get it plastered – so it was quite a night!
“Fingers crossed there won’t be as much drama next Wednesday, no exhausts blowing out and so on, and I’m so chuffed that I’ve been offered the chance to do it for real. I’m delighted to be involved.
“I did Bomber’s (Chris Harris) fuel, helmet colours and so on at Josh Auty’s Testimonial last weekend because his mechanic went down with Covid, and it will be great to manage a team where he’s No.1 and captain.”
Special guest at Perry Barr next Wednesday is former Coventry captain Kelvin Tatum, who rode for the Bees from 1985-90 and will be signing copies of his autobiography prior to the meeting and during the interval.
There will also be the opportunity to purchase several items of merchandise rescued from the Track Shop prior to Brandon’s closure in the winter of 2016/17.
And the Birmingham promotion plan to offer the Bees fans the opportunity for a group photo with the riders during the evening – so supporters are asked to wear their colours if at all possible!