Speedway fever was flourishing in the town and one year later, the first of the '90's Poole made it their year winning a league and cup double. Behind the scenes Mervyn Stewkesbury had been working on a blueprint for the future of British speedway. His fellow promoters liked his proposals so much that they precipitated the introduction of his ideas a year ahead of his original target. This saw the amalgamation of the two bodies that ran league racing in Britain and Poole were invited to join the First Division. This they did and signed Marvyn Cox from Oxford - the club Craig Boyce had joined not realising that Poole would be part and parcel of the top flight when he asked to be released from his National League contract. Steve Schofield was re-called from a loan arrangement that had saw him ride for Hackney and it was these two that that did the lions share of the scoring in 1991. Lacking a real third heat leader Poole struggled in the league, finishing 10th of 13th, lost out to Reading in a re-run Premiership and were comfortably beaten by Bradford in the final of the BSPA Knockout cup.


1992 saw Boyce re-establish his links with the club and this elevated the Pirates to 3rd in the table whilst in 1993 a young Norwegian by the name of Lars Gunnestad entered the Poole scene and became an instant hit. League-wise Poole could only finish 10th from 11 clubs. Things were vastly different the following year (1994) when young Australian Jason Crump was signed. Along with Boyce and Gunnestad Poole had a frightfully strong heat leader trio and with Steve Schofield weighing in with a valuable contribution they were able to record a league and National Fours double.Since then the Stewkesbury success story began to dry up. Injuries had an adverse effect on the team's performance and in 1995, a season that Boyce spent away from Wimborne Road, on loan to Swindon, the Pirates had to settle for a midway league finish whilst the following year (1996) a strong rally towards the end of the campaign lifted them to overall 14th place.


In the weeks preceding the commencement of the Pirates 50th season there was a passionate air of optimism emanating from Wimborne Road. The envy of many of their peers, it seemed as though Messrs Stewkesbury and Ansell had pulled together a team capable of sweeping all and sundry aside. Boyce, Gunnestad were joined by the ever popular Marvyn Cox providing a statistically impressive heat leader trio. Steve Schofield something of a veteran also earned his contract and after a number of years of trying Mark Lemon was given his break with the Dorset club. Completing the side was British Under 21 Champion Savalas Clouting.
All began well for the Pirates with several impressive performances in the Speedway Star KO Cup, a competition that they eventually finished runners-up in. But, as far as the Elite league was concerned, they inexplicably could not drum up the sort of performances that the whole league initially feared and despite twice beating eventual champions Bradford away from home the Pirates languished at the base of the table. Even a change of personnel with a temporary dropping of Cox in favour of Armando Castagna and the parting of the ways with Steve Schofield in July (after he became the all time top scoring Pirate - a record weeks later surpassed by skipper Boyce) to be replaced by Ben Howe, could not significantly arrest the decline and by the end of the season, the 13th of Stewkesbury and Ansell's promotion, the world famous Poole Pirates collected the Elite League Wooden Spoon


For much of 1998 it looked as though that Wooden Spoon would adorn the office walls for another winter as the Pirates endured another miserable season. A record number of rain-offs, a serious injury to Marvyn Cox, and a third successive season of a slump in form for Gunnestad, and a record home thrashing by champions-elect Ipswich (27:63) did little to offer the Poole faithful belief that they could lift themselves out of the basement. With skipper Craig Boyce also out-of-sorts for much of the campaign it was not until Sussex neighbours Eastbourne did the Dorset club a favour by releasing the services of Gary Havelock, did the Poole season turn around. Havelock, his career in jeopardy after a disappointing run with the Eagles added an extra dimension both on and off track and had his spell with the Pirates been longer would surely have won the Rider of The Year Award. That particular accolade went, deservedly, to Magnus Zetterstrom who competed enthusiastically and demonstrated his delight to the home crowd when his efforts paid off. "Zorro" stamped his inimitable "Dirty Dancing" style on the season. Poole lost 7 teams at home in league combat, drew another but managed three wins from 16 away from Wimborne Road.


During the latter months of the 1998 season Stewkesbury's enthusiasm for the sport waned and he required no second offer from club sponsor MATT FORD to sell the promoting rights. Ford needed additional financial backing and he was successful in tempting long time Poole fan and local businessman MICHAEL GOLDING into a joint partnership. Their first task was to tie up the deal with Reading to bring Lee Richardson back to the club. It was a series of drawn out negotiations which almost failed, but Poole stood firm and eventually were able to include the best young Englishman in their ranks.Richardson repaid their faith by winning the World U21 championship, a terrific achievement considering that two months earlier his confidence was at such a low ebb due to mounting mechanical problems that the youngster was seriously contemplating retirement! In a change from previous years there was a lack of Australian presence at the Dorset club, Ford and Golding even dispensed with the services of long-term team manager, veteran Neil Street, in favour of a famous Poole name of the past,Neil Middleditch. Out too went Boyce - loaned to Oxford, while only Magnus Zetterstrom was the only rider who began the 1998 campaign to survive the club clear out. Havelock was installed as club captain and he was joined at Wimborne Road by former Bradford team-mate Mark Loram, who had struggled at Wolverhampton the previous year. It was to be a change of environment that would shoot Loram well up the World rankings as he enjoyed the best ever season of his career, being crowned British Champion, winning the Overseas title and sensationally becoming the first ever wild card to win a Grand Prix event when he won the Swedish round.

It proved a highly successful first year venture for the two 'rookies'. Their choice of number 7, Martin Willis, suffered as the inbalance of fixtures allowed other clubs to strengthen at the bottom, and the pressure took it's toll on Willis who failed to resume racing after a wrist injury. Indeed the 1999 season was ruined only by crucial injuries to Scott Nicholls, signed on loan from Ipswich, who earlier in the year had won the British U21 Championship. Scott's injury coincided with the loss of showman Magnus 'Zorro' Zetterström with a broken left leg, witnessed by many on Sky Television during the league encounter at Peterborough.
Poole's other worst moment was captured on the SKY TV cameras, the night they lost the league title in a thrilling battle which went right to the last heat. From the pits at Peterborough the Panthers watched the crucial last race from the King's Lynn v Poole fixture. Peterborough had just thrashed Belle Vue to secure the all important bonus point, Poole had recovered from an 11 point deficit against the Knights to force a last heat decider. Agonisingly for Poole fans it was a former Pirate that sealed the destiny of the league title, as Leigh Adams took the victory that sent the Peterborough club into raptures having won the Elite league title at their first attempt. Chance for revenge came a few short weeks later but once again Poole were forced to give second best to the Panthers, both in the semi-finals of the Craven Shield play offs and then in another last heat decider for the Speedway Star KO Cup.

It may have been a team-trophyless season for the Pirates but the crowds responded warmly to the new promotion who certainly worked tirelessly setting the foundations to take the Poole club into the 21st century……….

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