Familiar faces at Pontefract Squash Club’s 40th anniversary celebrations

Pontefract's James Willstrop is visiting the United States where he is the principal attraction at a squash camp. Picture: Steve Line/SquashPics.com
Pontefract's James Willstrop is visiting the United States where he is the principal attraction at a squash camp. Picture: Steve Line/SquashPics.com

PONTEFRACT Squash Club celebrated the 40th year of its existence last Saturday.

The anniversary brought together many familiar faces, past and present.

They included former owner Margaret Rotherforth and former manager John Portman from the past and Gill and Giles Choyce and John and Josie Walsh from the present.

Squash was originally the province of public schools and officers’ messes but legendary Jonah Barrington was the catalyst for change and clubs such as Pontefract, classless, raceless and family-based, came into being.

Local MP Yvette Cooper was instrumental in protecting the Pontefract club’s future and in the hands of current owner Mick Todd it has flourished.

Two players, Lee Beachill and James Willstrop, have both been ranked number one in the world in a sport played in over 180 countries, something no other squash club in the world has achieved.

Furthermore, more than 20 players from the club have played internationally.

There is little rest nowadays for players on the world tour and James Willstrop, immediately after 11 performances as an actor in Deep Blue Sea at the Ilkley Playhouse, headed for America where he will be the principal attraction at a squash camp, which are very popular in the United States.

On his return he will play in the men’s doubles at the World Doubles Championship in Manchester that will be held from August 1 to 5.

Then follows the Cleethorpes Invitation, an eight man tournament in its 20th year, which he has won a remarkable nine times.

This year he will face strong opposition from fellow England internationals Daryl Selby and Chris Simpson.

Cleethorpes is followed by the European Championships in Nottingham that will close out a hectic August.

Pontefract’s Sam Todd, recent winner of the Cologne Under 17 Open, is also involved in an American squash camp in New York at the invitation of one of the sport’s all time greats Peter Nichol. With him is Poppie Jaram, from York, who is coached at Pontefract.

France’s Camille Serme, world number three and world player of the year, was a recent visitor to Pontefract.

This week Nouran Gohar (Egypyt), the 2016 world junior champion and current world number five, will be the next world class woman to visit the Stuart Road club.

Young as she is, 19-year-old Cairo-born Gohar is famed for the pace of her hitting and she has quickly established herself at the very top of the women’s game. With Canadian number one Hollie Naughton and Japanese number one Miaski Kobayashi currently in training at the club, there is little doubt about its international reputation.