Pontefract players enjoy great season

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PONTEFRACT Squash Club can look back on 2010-2011 with satisfaction.

The club’s top world class players James Willstrop (pictured),Vanessa Atkinson and Saurav Ghosal all performed to the highest world levels.

Willstrop reached seven major finals including the World final in Saudi Arabia and the Commonwealth final in Delhi.

World player in 2008, he was one of three nominations for World Player again as was his girlfriend Atkinson who maintained a high level of performance, despite announcing her retirement from the world tour. She has had a distinguished career which saw her win the world championship and top the world rankings in 2004.

Ghosal, who has been at Pontefract for five years, is the best Indian player ever and he continued on the upgrade, often extending the world’s best.

Only injury robbed him of the Irish Open when he led the eventual winner Tarik Momen (Egypt) 2-0 and 7-4 in the semi finals and the Asian Championship which followed soon after.

Katie Smith (under 19), James Earles (under 19) and Taminder Gata-aura are already England junior internationals and Jack Cooper (under 15) became the latest.

Sam Todd, 8, Ellen Cooper, 11, and Layla Johnson, 6, are showing the sort of promise that may well bring them international honours some day.

120 children are coached weekly by qualified and committed staff and it is not surprising therefore that Pontefract produces the quality it does.

The National League team did not reach the play offs but showed its quality when Willstrop, Atkinson and Ghosal were availabe by beating all the teams in the Northern Division consecutively.

The under 19 mixed team of George Wileman, Taminder Gata-Aura, Alex Hodgetts, Katie Smith and Hannah Shipley won the national title for the eighth time, beating Wimbledon 4-1 in the final.

The team performance of the season, though, was the club’s second Yorkshire League team who won promotion to the Premier League on countback.

It was a suitable reward for some of the club’s longest serving and established players - Simon Gittins, Stuart Hargreaves, Peter Lonsdale, Mark Swift and Adam Taylor, much the junior member of the team.

Strengthened at the top they will enjoy a season in the best county league in the country.

In a Yorkshire League match later in the season a team of teenagers - Jack Cooper, Joe Caulfield, Tom Bamford, Brad Gallivan and Dominic Pegg - acquitted themselves very well in a 4-1 defeat to league leaders Rothwell.

They have all made giant strides during the season and will be valuable Yorkshire League players next season.

Former Pontefract players have become significant coaches in the squash world - David Campion (England national coach), Andrew Cross (Malaysia), Sam Wileman (America), Neil Guirey (Chapel Allerton) and Paul Hornsby, who has just been appointed National Coach in New Zealand.

Kirsty McPhee, England junior coach, happily remains on the coaching staff at Pontefract.

Pontefract’s contribution to PSA, the players’ world association, is no less significant. Lee Beachill is chief operating officer, Richard Bramall legal advisor and James Willstrop was recently elected president, representing the players worldwide. Mick Todd not only manages Willstrop and Ghosal, he also manages Egypt’s Ramy Ashour, one of the sport’s main attractions.

Add to the playing successes the renovations at the club, planned and carried out by Todd, with all eight courts now in pristine condition, a gym of the highest quality, first class changing facilities and the club’s future is assured.