HIDDEN away down a narrow side-street in Ferndale lies what its famous landlord calls “Arkell’s hidden gem”.

That custodian coached the Swindon Robins to championship glory in 2019. He spent decades racing on the speedway circuit before helping the team reach the top of the league.

Alun Rossiter is the proud manager of the Southbrook Inn, a former farmhouse which appears as if from nowhere to anyone who wanders to the end of Southbrook Street. It is the latest of four Arkell’s taverns the 54-year-old has managed while juggling other jobs as a long-distance HGV driver and, of course, speedway rider and team manager.

The opportunity to oversee his own pub came about after a chance encounter with a member of the family-owned Swindon brewery.

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Alun told the Adver: “I’ve always loved playing darts and took part in the Arkell’s darts league. At one event, I was being a bit of an extrovert and quite talkative and James Arkell said I would be a good landlord at one of his bars.

“First I looked after the Dolphin in Rodbourne, then spent three years managing my old drinking pub The Wheatsheaf, took a year out to recover from an accident, went to the New Inn for almost six years, then took seven years off before coming to this pub in 2017 because it was big enough for my whole family to live in.

“It feels like a country pub that happens to be in the middle of the suburbs. I love it and there’s a great community around it. We still get people who have lived in the area for years saying they did not know it was here.

“This has been a great move for everyone. My wife gets rave reviews for her Sunday lunches, we serve proper pub grub and are starting to do vegan options. It’s not easy but we work hard and there are so many benefits.

“It helps if you are outgoing and bubbly. Everyone knows I’m full of life and there’s a good woman behind me. Julie is our rock, she does a lot of admin stuff behind the scenes and is the real boss – I’m just the face of the pub, really.

“There’s a lovely family feeling here because my kids get on well with the punters, my daughters help with the waitressing and my eldest Charlee goes behind the bar sometimes while I supervise.”

Alun was landlord of the Wheatsheaf in 2002 when he suffered a crash during a speedway race that left him with a life-changing leg injury and ended his career on the track.

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Surgery repaired the torn ligaments down his leg, leaving a large scar all the way down it. He hopes to have a knee replacement because even standing at the bar for too long can be painful for him.

The wound affected his work as a Class 1 HGV driver, where he travelled across the country on long days which began as soon as the speedway season ended in October. He recalled how he would begin some days with a 3am alarm and not return home to sleep until 12.30am the next day.

Photos of fond memories and past glories decorate the wall opposite the bar, along with a signed Steven Gerrard shirt – one of the Liverpool fan’s prized possessions.

Alun added: “I’m putting my stamp on the place, it’s a bit sporty and it’s a good talking point. People tend to ask about ’89 and ’94 when we won the National League and British League. People keep saying ‘I used to go to speedway, is it still there?’ and I’ve encouraged them and people who have heard about it but never been to go to the stadium.

“We had 150 people here for a speedway event earlier this year and Arkell’s added a function room, new toilets and a garden which have been great.

“At each pub, we’ve made mistakes and there’s always things to improve on, but nothing has gone drastically wrong. Once you have been a landlord at one pub, you just keep on going. I’m quite meticulous about keeping it all clean and tidy. When I walk into other pubs, I can’t help but start bringing glasses back to the bar out of habit.”

Rosco's career in speedway

Alun Rossiter, best known as Rosco, has had a long career on the speedway circuit and as a top manager.

Born in Penhill, he started riding for the Swindon Robins as a teenager and raced for Swindon over six seasons – from 1982-85 and 1987-88. During his 20-year career as a rider, he also represented Weymouth, Coventry, Poole, King’s Lynn, Peterborough, Oxford, Wolverhampton and Trelawny.

While with Poole in 1994, he won the British League, the sport’s highest tier. Shortly after his riding career came to an end, Alun took charge of the Robins in 2003.

He managed the club until 2009 but in 2010 switched for a role with Coventry Bees, then won the renamed Elite League with during his first season in charge despite the Bees losing their first seven Elite League matches.

This win was one of the most remarkable in the sport’s history given the club sat bottom of the league table with much of the season completed.

Alun returned to Swindon in 2012 and finally won the Elite League with his hometown club by defeating Poole Pirates over two legs in a rain-soaked grand final. He later won the again-renamed SGB Premiership title with the Robins in 2017 and 2019.

Rosco took charge of the national team in January 2014 and can claim to be Great Britain’s most successful manager of the modern era as he guided Team GB to two world championship silver medals and helped his country reach five world finals.

In 2019, Rosco became the first Swindon manager to win the league and cup double. The Robins won the SGB Premiership Supporters’ Cup in September and backed that up by winning the SGB Premiership by a record-breaking aggregate margin over Ipswich a month later.