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9th August: Malcolm Willstrop week continues, with a look at the players that Malcolm has brought on ... over many years ...

Does the group coaching really work then?
Well, the system produced Lee Beachill, James Willstrop and many many more. Lauren Siddall (England U19); Kirsty McPhee (England U19), Neil Cordell (under 15 international, very gifted, still small, he is the best player in his age, he plays a bit like Lee, very similar sort of squash), Rebecca Botwright, (she is the nicest girl on the planet, she’s an absolute delight of a girl, and she is a lovely player, she will be good) James Earles (10, quite outstanding, he is going to be a top player) and many many more…

What is your ambition for your young players?
I try to help those kids to be decent people, to play honestly, to not cheat, to behave properly, to respect referees. I always tell them not to challenge the referee, even with their looks. Accept the decision, the man (or the woman) will give you his decision, and that’s all there is to it. Don’t be looking at him as if you know better because you don’t. All that’s part of what I do. I don’t just produce players, I’m not into that. I try to help them to be rounded people.

Who is the first squash player that you produced?
Let me tell you a story. I was in the staff room having a cup of tea one day, and I saw two little boys kicking a rugby ball to each other, and they were catching it every time. So I got someone to bring them to me, I asked for their names, they were about 9 years old and I told them “Right, next Tuesday, I want you two on the squash court at 4 o’clock. The first one was Ian Robinson, who played for England 60 or more odd times, now on the board of England Squash and the Director of Squash at Surrey University. The other one, Peter Hall, was just as good as Ian, but he didn’t take it as seriously.

As a coach, what is your biggest achievement?
I supposed it’s turned out that Lee and James are two of the very best and that they come now. But there is pleasure in all areas, producing young kids, spotting young kids that are going to be good.

Also, on Monday nights, I coach a quite ordinary group of adults, some of them are quite delightful. I exercise the same sort of discipline, they just get on with it, they don’t talk. Two or three of them are quite average indeed, they’ve made headway, it’s enormously pleasing to see them enjoying the game more because they can hit the ball better, because they come regularly, and they listen to what I say.

Anything else?
Well, I had players all my life so … Gawain Briars got to 4 in the world. That was after I stopped coaching him, but he was well on his way to that. John White and David Palmer came to stay with me.

I’ve been in White’s corner in Qatar when he’s beaten Power twice so I’m not a parochial person, and I’m not just an English thing, I’m involved with a lot of players. Dean Williams, the famous Australian, used to come and stay with me, he got to 2 in the world. My other son, Christy, was a top class player, he played for England as well.

Malcolm Willstrop Week

Day 1: Malcolm
Day 2: The Players
Day 3: Pontefract
Day 4: That Match
Day 5: And Finally





'Come here now' said the booming voice from the school staff room. At the time this was like being summoned to the court of Saddam Hussein ...






I was Malcolm's original charge. With his son Christy, and a visiting young Ian Robinson, we together built up our reputations and our experiences ...


As the coach, what is your biggest disappointment?
It’s when people don’t recognise what you’ve done for them. Well, the coach’s lot is not always the greatest because you don’t get acknowledged. I had a few deceptions over the years with some players that never acknowledged that I coached them….

Why is that, do you think?
There is a thing in life, the more you do for people, sometimes, it lends to resentment, because they owe you too much. It doesn’t bother me now because you learn to get used to it. You learn that the more you do for people, sometimes that backfires, and you learn that the things you give to the sport, which may be original, people don’t know about, so you get to swallow quite a lot.


Malcolm in 3 words

Ian Robinson

But not everybody is like that ...
No, you have people like Lee… The first time he won the Nationals, he dedicated his win to Lesley [James’ mother, who died from cancer in 2000], and he did it in such a way that he made me cry. It was heartbreaking. He used to play doubles with her; they used to have a lot of fun together. And that’s the difference, Lee would never desert you. He is loyal, he quietly acknowledges you, he doesn’t go round saying it but you know that, deep down, we are close.

Lee seems so different from James, doesn’t he?
Yes, Lee is a quite conservative, slightly parochial, very cool person. He is very content at home; he is not looking to break out. When Lee gets his squash perfect, which he can, he can produce a perfect type of squash; hardly anybody can deal with him. He can produce a sort of control over people that is quite bewitching, and they can’t actually handle it when Lee gets that right, which is quite often, as he is a very successful player.

When he gets control, he is very hard to get past. The players would tell you that the best delayer of a shot in the world is Lee Beachill, he holds the ball better than anybody else in the world, and it’s very subtle.


"He gives his life to a minority sport which basically gives him back nothing."




Malcolm and Lesley at Pontefract


And James?
James is a flamboyant, extravert entertainer, a crowd conscious pleaser, a performer. He is very ambitious, determined, with a deep rooted steel will.

Would you like to talk about his mother?
His mum died four years ago, and that was a sad thing. Lesley was a good squash player, She was a lovely person. James is a nice kid and that comes from her.

She was a great, quiet encouragement. She should have been there when he won the World Junior Championship, because she deserved to be there. She had a lot of strength. The way she got through her illness would tell you that anyway. The day before she died, I asked her “is there anything you’d like?.” And with a smile on her face, she replied “A hot chocolate”, knowing that I would have to go to the other side of the hospital to get it.

At that stage, I would have run a hundred miles for her, but that was just the devil in her, and she died the next morning. She is missed very dearly, we both miss her, especially at the big events, because she would be here, and that’s when I find it hard, because I know she would be in the crowd. She was immersed in good work, everybody liked her, nearly four hundred people turned up at her funeral from all of England. Jonah Barrington was there, they travelled three or four hundred miles.

She was such a nice person who was doing good, who had to go too early. It’s just hard to accept, I mean, there are plenty of rotten people around…. It never seems right.

Is it difficult to be the dad, the coach,
and the mum, all at the same time?

You know, I get a lot of strength from James, he is actually a very sensible bloke, and I often go to him for advice. It’s a two way situation. He is my support, just as I may be his. He is a strong boy, and he came through his mother’s illness with a lot of strength.

So, it is not just me doing everything, I get a big return from James. We were always a close unit, but our relationship is now maybe even closer because of that. But we don’t live in each other’s pocket either, as he has got his own house, his own life. But we do a lot of things together, like going to London for a Stereophonics concert. We make sure we do things together, despite our own engagements. Sometimes we take people with us, but it’s our time together.

And on the coaching side of things?
There is no problem coaching him, he is a very hard working easy bloke to get on with, I like him as a pal, and I don’t have problems watching him. I hope I’m not biased in his favour, I think he is an outstanding player, I always thought that, and that’s not a biased view of a father, it’s a squash professional coaching judgment. I always thought he was an outstanding individual, I think he is, he has got something different. But that’s not a father talking.

Do you have other kids?
Yes, from my first marriage, I have a son, Christy, who played for England, and two daughters, and James has a half brother, David Campion, who is England National Coach. David grew up with me as a small boy, as he came and lived with us, he is my step son, we are very close. I used to coach him even before his mum and I got together. He is another nice guy, he looks like his mum.

"He coaches the young kids, the adults, and I was part of that, like everyone else was. I’ve gone through the system like every other kid."



"I don’t particularly bask in Lee or James’s glory, I’m just genuinely fond of them, and want to be with them."

Photo of the Day:

England's U19s win the World Title, Paderborn, Germany, 1990

Simon Parke & David Campion hold the trophy, with Malcolm next to Jonah Barrington

James is kneeling at the front, Lee is in the very centre at the back, just behind Lesley.

Malcolm told people that day that he had a junior who would one day win the European U19 title.

Coming up on Day THREE:


Framboise talks to Pontefract owner Mick Todd,
and looks at Malcolm's base.

from August 2004