In our penultimate Q&A of 2019, Gavin Caney shines the spotlight on King’s Lynn Stars’ legendary team boss ROB LYON
Many people say they’re hooked on speedway from the first time they see it live. Was it the same for you?
I was pretty much hooked the first time I saw it at King’s Lynn in 1974. It was a World Championship qualifier (remember those?) and I think it was won by Malcolm Simmons.
I stood on the first/second bend, right up to the fence. It seemed magical at the time.
How did you go from being a fan to getting involved behind the scenes?
I was part of an involvement in sponsoring Tomas Topinka and Shane Parker for a while in addition to sponsoring King’s Lynn as a team in 1998 through my connections with my work at the time with AMG and Paragon Motor Company.
My transition from that to getting involved in more detail behind the scenes came towards the end of 2004, when I was asked to consider being more involved on the team management side of things.
We’d probably need to fill the paper to explain it. But can you try to describe what it’s like being the team boss of a speedway team?
Where do I start! Firstly, you stop being a fan. All of a sudden you have a job to do, which brings with it its own responsibilities and pressures.
That sounds alarming if you’ve come straight from the terraces so to speak but I did have some transition so it was easier for me.
I recognised straight away that the other side of the fence needs a completely different mindset.
What is it like? Everyone deals with the job differently. The job brings pressure, adrenaline, psychological demands, stress (if you allow it), elation and satisfaction – among other things. Ultimately, the job is what you make it but I learned very quickly that you need to develop relationships with riders that shows respect from both sides. If you don’t grasp that nettle and deal with it when required, the job will become too much to handle.
From 2005 to 2016 you were team boss of King’s Lynn. Do the Premier League trebles of 2006 and 2009 remain your proudest moments?
Winning the World Team Cup round at Lynn in 2010 for Great Britain is up there with both trebles as stand-out moments for me. It was much harder then to qualify, even on your home soil, as there were generally three good teams in the qualifier. Representing my country in a World Cup final was a very proud moment for me.
In terms of domestic trebles, probably 2006 would be the most memorable, due purely to how we won it on the night in a play-off final at home against Sheffield. In 2009 I was sitting at home when we were crowned champions because a result went our way elsewhere. Having said all of that, each and every competition we won during that time – which was 11 in total, I think – had special moments.
How did that stint as GB boss come about?
I applied for the job in the winter of 2008 and gave the British Speedway Promoters’ Association a five-year restructuring plan to develop youth in the long term while trying to bring more professionalism to the team in the short term.
They accepted my plan and gave me the job only to ultimately not back me with any conviction after a couple of years. I was offered the job again in 2011 but resigned on the basis it had no future at that time in that state. It’s quite ironic that 10 years down the line it now has the type of structure in place that I wanted.
You moved upstairs at Lynn in 2017 to take
day-to-day charge. How different was that role?
It was completely different in as much that I became responsible for the whole promotion of the club and not just the team.
It was much harder than I anticipated and less enjoyable for various reasons.
You stood down from that role mid-season in 2017 not long after a controversial home meeting against Poole. Given the friendships you made and success you had during the 12 years working for the club, are you sad at how it ended?
It does feel sad that it ended the way it did. I do not have anything to do with Lynn at the moment and I haven’t been back to the stadium in any capacity since July 2017.
I do keep up to date with what’s happening generally as I still have an interest in how the club is getting on though.
You’re still involved with the sport aren’t you?
Towards the end of 2017 I was approached by Rory Schlein and Ian Sinderson of APTI, who is a huge fan of the sport and sponsors riders through his company. They wanted to know if I would be interested in heading a youth programme with them for elite riders aged between 14 and 18 years old to effectively offer them additional help towards their speedway career in all disciplines of being a rider.
It was an interesting project so I decided to get involved. We are coming up to our third year with ‘No Limits’ and have seen some great progress from the riders involved in the scheme so far. I also feel ready to have more involvement in some capacity again either at a club or with speedway in general. We will see what transpires!
The facts are…
Name: Rob Lyon
Date of birth: 28/07/1965
Birth place: Holbeach
Grew up in: Spalding
Gleed Boys’ School
Clubs/national sides managed: King’s Lynn Stars/Great Britain
Sporting hero: Muhammad Ali, Ian Botham, Eric Bristow and Michael Lee
• Lyon played 76 times for Lincolnshire at darts between 1985-1995.
• He has been
self-employed for nearly 20 years and is now a director at Spalding Air Conditioning.
• The former King’s Lynn Stars team boss is very superstitious.
• Lyon once appeared on the hugely popular darts TV quiz show Bullseye.
• After stepping down from his role with Team GB, Lyon also worked alongside rider Kenneth Bjerre in the Speedway Grand Prix series. The Lynn boss acted as mentor/manager for the Danish rider.
Restaurant or takeaway?
Night in or night out?
Bath or shower?
Tea or coffee?
Sweet or savoury?
Summer or winter?
Day or night?
Cinema or theatre?
Favourite food: Steak
Least favourite: Seafood
Favourite band/musician: No one specific as I like all types of music
Least favourite: Westlife
Too many to mention
Least favourite: Any romantic comedy (romcom)
Answers in italics