Willie Thorne: Celebrity of snooker as Britain fell in love with the golf green baize

Willie Thorne: Star of snooker as Britain fell in love with the green baize

Together with his glossy bald head and immaculately manicured moustache, Willie Thorne, who has died elderly 66, was once one in every of snooker’s maximum recognisable and common competition as the golf green baize took dangle of the general public’s awareness right through the 1970s and Nineteen Eighties.

Taking part in a very simple rapport with fellow avid gamers, fanatics and media, his occupation reflected the upward push of the game itself. It was once due to the arriving of color tv and its one body pageant, Pot Black, that the game emerged from a minority following in continuously sleazy provincial golf equipment to culminate within the 1985 Global Championship Ultimate when, within the early hours, 19 million audience had been gripped as Dennis Taylor dramatically potted the ultimate black to say the identify from Steve Davis. And but, whilst Thorne himself earned in way over £1m, in not unusual with many, a predilection for playing noticed him lose now not best his house but in addition his occupation.

Born within the Leicestershire village of Anstey, the center son of a former coal miner, William Joseph Thorne was once skilled on the Thomas Rawlins Faculty in Quorn. Leaving college elderly 15, he to begin with turned into an estimator within the development business. Having loved soccer, he first came upon each billiards and snooker when his father turned into the steward at Anstey Conservative Membership. Quickly beating all comers, having triumphed within the junior nationwide billiards championship six years in a row, in 1970 he turned into nationwide under-16 champion in each disciplines. The circle of relatives later operated a snooker centre in Leicester. There, Thorne would take at the Leicester Town footballer, Gary Lineker, who turned into a lifelong good friend. Long run international champion Mark Selby was once every other fellow graduate.

After profitable the nationwide under-19 identify, Thorne became skilled, turning into the youngest participant at the circuit. He made a right away have an effect on through attaining the semi-final of the 1975 Canadian Open. In contrast to the extra flamboyant avid gamers at the excursion, Thorne based totally his sport very firmly on old-school share play. His apparently easy skill to knock up 147 breaks quickly noticed him being dubbed “Mr Most”. In 1982, when on his solution to the Global Championship quarter finals, sooner than shedding to the eventual winner, Alex “Typhoon” Higgins, his wreck of 143 was once then the second one easiest ever. 3 years later, Thorne went directly to win his best international score identify, beating Cliff Thorburn to proudly carry the Mercantile Credit score Vintage.

What was once shaping as much as be Thorne’s greatest hour got here all through the 1985 UK Championship happening over two weeks at Preston’s Guild Corridor. In brushing apart Paddy Browne, John Virgo, Cliff Thorburn, and Terry Griffiths, Thorne made seven century breaks. Towards Browne, his wreck of 140 was once the perfect ranking within the event. Going through the arena primary, Steve Davis, within the two-day last, Thorne was once once more on scintillating shape as he racked up a 13-Eight lead going into the very last consultation. When at the verge of extending his result in inside of two frames of victory, he relatively inexplicably overlooked the most straightforward of blues off the spot. As a shaken Thorne started to resolve, Davis seized his reprieve to take the 8 frames he had to declare a well-known, if moderately sudden victory, 16-14.

Unsurprisingly in all probability, Thorne’s shape by no means truly recovered. Whilst nonetheless ranked quantity seven on this planet, the next 12 months he once more reached the quarter finals of the Global Championship in Sheffield, however would additionally lose 3 additional finals: the British Open, once more to Davis; the Irish Masters to Jimmy White; and the Pontins Skilled Event to Terry Griffiths. His mental fragility, which many had lengthy feared, supposed that he by no means relatively fulfilled the wealthy promise of his early years.

As one in every of The Matchroom Mob, alternatively, Thorne discovered himself within the charts and on Most sensible of the Pops, courtesy of Chas & Dave’s novelty hit “Snooker Crazy”. With its well-known line, “However previous Willie Thorne, his hair’s all gorn,” the participant himself would reply, “In all probability I must chalk it.”

Following his defeat within the semi-finals of the 1987 UK Championship, Thorne moved increasingly into the observation field. Due to his huge wisdom of the sport and its characters, few have bettered him, together with his mix of dry wit and clever punditry. In 2000, the Global Seniors Masters noticed him in brief again within the carrying highlight as as soon as once more he beat Canadian Cliff Thorburn to say the identify.

Thorne introduced his personal undies vary in 2002, through then a well-known determine on such tv displays as Give Us a Damage and A Query of Recreation. In 2007, he got here 12th when partnering Erin Boag at the hit BBC display Strictly Come Dancing. His easy appeal additionally proved a well-liked draw at the superstar talking circuit.

Then again, the newsletter of an autobiography, Taking A Punt On My Existence in 2011, laid naked the various traces tearing his existence aside. Having served as a bookie’s runner all through his teenage years, a life-time of playing would sooner or later see him drowning in a tsunami of debt.

In a now not untypical transfer in 1996, after receiving inside of data that John Parrott had misplaced his cue, Thorne positioned a £38,000 guess on Ken Doherty to win. He was once commentating at the fit. A lot to Thorne’s horror, John Parrott gained. Extra just lately, together with his monetary issues spiralling even additional out of regulate, he made quite a few makes an attempt on his existence. Pressured to pawn his spouse’s jewelry following threats from mortgage sharks, in 2016 he was once declared bankrupt. The next 12 months he was once dropped from the BBC’s most sensible snooker occasions. Latterly residing in Spain, he have been combating deficient well being. His first marriage was once to Fiona Walker, with whom he had 3 kids, dual sons and a daughter. In 1995, he married Jill Saxby. He’s additionally survived through two stepchildren.

Willie Thorne, snooker participant and commentator, born four March 1954, died 17 June 2020

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