My last squash story of the season (promise!)

On Tuesday night Air-IT Nottingham – ‘my’ professional squash team plated the last match of the season – up in Pontefract. We had a very slim chance of making the play offs for the Title but it relied too much on us demolishing the opposition and other teams winning by high margins.


That didn’t happen and we came 4th in the end.

But we did win the match at Pontefract 4-1.

My star player this year has been the Scottish number one and world ranked 26 Alan Clyne. On Tuesday something extraordinary happened. He was up against the world number five (and previous world number one player) James Willstrop.

Willstrop finishes at 6 ft 4 inches. Clyne is 5 ft 8 inches. And the 21 place difference in world rankings should have sealed an automatic three points for Pontefract. But Willstrop was all out of sorts and we sat in silence as Clyne won the first game 11-0. He then won the next four points – Willstrop took two and then Clyne closed the game down 11-2. This is unheard of in Squash!

In the third Willstrop clearly had decided to play and the game was much tighter – but Clyne won it at 12-10!

There were some interesting lessons I think (not just for squash):

1. Don’t underestimate the under-dog
2. Just because the opponent is much bigger than you – it means nothing
3. Support is still important (the crowd at pontefract was very subdued!)
4. If the early parts of the match are won easily you need to keep your concentration.

It’s been a great fun season – I’m really proud of the players and the way they have conducted themselves. We really had to rebuilt the team from scratch when we lost our sponsor.

If you fancy seeing some world class squash we’ll be doing it all again next year!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Air-It Nottingham, Alan Clyne, Eddie Charlton, James Willstrop, , PSL,

Nottingham – great stuff #8

I think it is time we got back to the list of what makes Nottingham great. And this is a slightly selfish one.


You probably know that, in my spare time (!), I am Chairman of Nottingham Squash Rackets Club. The club based in The Park in Nottingham has a rich history. It was founded in 1909 – by the then landed gentry and business community of Nottingham – there are some great Nottingham names mentioned in the first set of minutes – Birkin, Cratwright et al. We have the minutes posted on the wall.

Squash had a heyday in the 1970′s but since then numbers playing have declined. We have managed to stabilise the membership and today have just over 500 members. We have 10 courts and a growing junior academy. There is a shop too – stocking an impressive array of sporting gear – you can buy online here.

But the thing I am most proud of is the professional team – who play under the banner Air-IT Nottingham. Todd McQuilkin from Air-It is as squash mad as I am and put up sponsorship, along with others to get the team off the ground. We have tried to keep home-grown players and to a large extent have done so. It looks like we won’t quite make the National Championship play-offs although mathematically there is a slim chance.

Our last match is away at Pontefract in just over a week. The five home-matches have been a sell out!

We run squash at every level – from beginners through to pro’s. We cater for all ages.

And fundamentally we are a club – run by the members for the members.

If you fancy a go and have never done so before then we can arrange it. If you have played we have 19 leagues to get your level matched – and if you like team squash we have 17 teams which play out of the club…

Nottingham Squash Club – a new year …

The PSL team from ‘my’ Squash Club finished 2013 well. We were just a place behind the play of spots in the ‘premier league’ of Squash. If you had offered me that at the start of the season, I would have taken it!


But last week was a trip to London – our furthest opponents in the league. And they were after blood (we took them by surprise early in the season when, on paper, they should have won). This was ‘grudge’ stuff.

They came out on top. They won the fixture 3-2 – but we put up a great fight (the report is here) Our next fixtures at home are on 18 February and 18 March – the latter might see the World Champion, Nick Matthew playing at the club.

Last year was a tough year for the Club, but we seem to be back on the straight and narrow. We have some new members of late and the club has a real buzz about it. 2014 will see us host the European Club Championships – where we are expecting several hundred visitors from around Europe competing for the title European Club Champions. We last hosted a Europe-wide competition 10 years ago!

But this blog, other than a brief update about the team) is a shameless plug. The club is holding an Open Day next Saturday – 18th January – between 3pm and 6pm – there’s kids sessions, adult sessions, a racket ball demonstration and a doubles demonstration! If you are interested and are around Nottingham – please pop in to say hello. We are having some great membership offers on the day too!

How to win at squash

First an apology – I’m returning to a squash theme today. It’s partly on the back of a match on Tuesday night at ‘my’ squash club in Nottingham.

The Air-IT Nottingham PSL hero - Alan Clyne

The Air-IT Nottingham PSL hero – Alan Clyne

In essence we won a National League match. But we really weren’t supposed to. Squash players have world rankings and they are a good bell-weather. It’s a rare occurrence when players have vast gaps in their rankings for there to be an upset. Clearly players ‘form’ comes and goes but this tends to be within a few percentage points. The gaps in the groups are enormous – a Top 10 player will be noticeably different to a Top 50 player.

We pitched our number one player – the Scottish No.1 and world ranked 31 against a player ranked 16. William Hill wouldn’t generally give you good odds on beating the difference in status.

But my man, Alan Clyne, had not read the script and beat Cameron Pilley (a man who holds the world record for hitting a squash ball at 175mph!)

On paper we should not have won the tie.

But Nottingham Squash club has a reputation and a name in the game of ‘Fortress Notingham’. Away teams don’t particularly like it. The crowd are partisan – and noisy.

On Tuesday the crowd were on the edge of their seats as the Scottish Terrier dug in. He chased every ball and pushed his opponent. As he gained points the crowd grew louder sensing blood! And they got it. It was gruelling – but, against the odds, he did it. It was fantastic to watch.

The professional players do tell me that the crowd make a difference. Although they are ‘in the zone’ they can hear what is going on. In Alan Clynes case he told us afterwards he had never played amongst such noise – such positive noise. And unless you have seen this at play it is difficult to believe!

I guess we all like to have support at times and noisy support goes a long way it seems.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Air-IT Notingham, Alan Clyne, , PSL, , The park

An interesting week….

I was a bit busy towards the end of last week – you might have spotted the blog going quiet.

nsrc logo

It was the Squash Club AGM on Friday night – followed by the Annual Dinner Dance on Saturday. Tomorrow we have the first PSL match of the 2013/14 season – at home to Coolhurst London. My ‘couple of hours a month’ commitment looks a bit lost now!

At the AGM I was re-elected as Chairman for another year. It was a bit like the Azerbaijan election in that I knew the result before the Polls opened. No one is daft enough to stand! We still have work to do but we are turning the club around. People are passionate about the place! Despite having no money we have managed some very significant improvements to the courts n the last month (courtesy of a generous grant from England Squash). The club is looking fantastic.

At the Dinner Dance I had the dubious honour of a speech (for the second night running) – and was able to have a list of thank you’s. This included a whole host of people who volunteered their help in the year. “Friends of the Club” I call them. One day I’ll get them all a T-Shirt!

I am reading the auto-biography of James Willstrop – one of England’s most successful players of the modern time. In it it there is a great phrase which I want to put up on the wall at the club.

It says, “It’s amazing what can be achieved when no one cares who takes the glory”.

Tomorrow is team night. I’ll let you know how they get on!

Tokyo misses out – and so does Squash

Tokyo was chosen at the weekend to host the 2020 Olympics – and we were hopeful that Squash would be included for the first time.


Sadly that is not to be. Wrestling had been taken out of the equation by the Olympic Committee but was then reinstated following a huge backlash. So the IOC put three sports into the pot – Wrestling, Squash and a joint bid by softball and baseball. Squash came third in the vote.

We don’t yet have the feedback on the bid – no doubt we’ll see that soon.

Squash has taken on board the feedback we had when we failed to get into the 2016 Olympics.But clearly it wasn’t enough. You’ll know that I am marginally biassed – I see the work our professional players put in – day by day. These are some of the fittest people I know.The game has been likened to physical chess – you need the fitness – but you need a brain too. The mental strength required is huge.

The downside, as I see it (and I listen to a lot of non squash players) is two-fold. Firstly the ‘let’ or ‘stroke’ rules are quite complicated. I play and referee and it can be a tough call sometimes between the two calls. This needs to be looked at.

We also have to find a way of making the games more exciting. Whilst I can appreciate long hard rallies where the players are trying to grind each other down, it can sometimes be seen as boring. So we also need to look at that. During training we often introduce ‘conditions’ to the games (i.e. you can only hit into one corner – or you must kill the ball on the 10th shot). We might need to think about this too.

In the meantime – the sport misses out again. Which is a pity…

Nottingham Squash – alive an kicking

If you a regular here you will know that I took on the mantle of Chairman of Nottingham Squash Rackets Club last year. It’s been an interesting ride so far! Tiaras and tantrums might be the title of the book when I get round to writing it!

Eddie Charlton - Nottingham Squash

Eddie Charlton – Nottingham Squash

One of my biggest challenges was to secure a Nottingham team to play in the PSL the professional league. Our previous sponsor chose not to support to the team and so we needed some new cash.

And I’m delighted that we have done it. In fact we have done it and some. We have raised more sponsorship than last year and will have a unique team in the PSL – it is almost all home-grown.

The team will be:

Air-IT Nottingham

We have managed to secure a very generous sponsorship deal with Todd McQuilkin from Air-IT. In the past Todd has sponsored David Lloyd Aspley.

But we have some new sponsors too:

Fantasy Squash
Press Association Images
Innes England

There is another change – the Air-IT Nottingham team will be managed by Mark Fuller from Fantasy Squash – he also plays!

Over the last few days Mark has secured the players who are confirmed as:

Eddie Charlton – World Rank 59
Emma Beddoes – WR 31
Emily Whitlock – WR 24
Lewis Walters – WR 96
Ollie Holland – WR 253
Dec James – WR 107
Mark Fuller – WR 183
Chris Fuller – WR 160
George Parker – England No.1 Under 17
David Wardle – Nottingham University No.1

This is fantastic news for the club and for local squash.

If you fancy seeing some world class squash in Nottingham next season – we’ll be selling Season Tickets shortly!

A tough week

Last week was a tough week. You might have noticed the blog was a little quiet. I was really busy at work (which is good!) but I also had a lot of difficult squash club business to deal with.

Nottingham Squash Club - image courtesy of Tom Jacques Photography

Nottingham Squash Club – image courtesy of Tom Jacques Photography

My tenure at the top of the squash club comes with very few perks. None as far as I can see. We had to part company with our manager, in order to cut costs. The last time I was involved in this sort of thing was in 2008 in my own business. It’s unpleasant – more so for the person on the receiving end.

But the lesson last week was how people react. In general people are supportive of what my committee had to do. But some aren’t. Some think it fine to dish out personal insults.

I can cope with constructive criticism – it’s healthy. It should also be helpful. But what is really difficult to deal with is the assistance people offer based on their view of the truth. Or their understanding of the a whole set of circumstances. Of course, they are so often wrong – they have pieced together parts of a story to end up with a version of the world which bears no resemblance to reality.

It’s a sort of Frankenstein model of business. It looks human from a distance but close up it’s all wrong.

Some of these people ought to know better – they run businesses of their own (quite successfully) so it makes it harder to grasp why they let their common sense depart them.

What has been even more interesting is how people hide behind email. Emil has become a bit like road rage on a keyboard. People dislike face to face discussion – they can be much more brave with their views whilst they bash away at the keys. When approached in person they tend to beetle off…

Doubles Squash – a win at last!

On Saturday, mostly thanks to my son Jak, I was part of the winning team in the Nottingham Open Doubles Championship 2013.

Winners! Photo courtesy of Tom Jacques

Winners! Photo courtesy of Tom Jacques

We both play at Nottingham Park Squash Rackets Club – which is probably the best club in the world! It has existed in The Park since 1909 – and we boast 10 courts – including a show court and three courts which can be converted into two ‘doubles’ courts. A doubles court is just over 1m wider than a traditional singles court – and takes a bit of getting used to!

The doubles day is a long day – we started out in the group stages – playing four matches between 9.30am and 2.30pm! We won three and lost one – but still came top of the group. We then took on a semi-final – winning 2-1. The final was an easier affair – we won 2-0. Six tough matches is a big ask on the body!

The great thing about doubles squash is that if you have a much younger partner you can sit back a bit! If only your opponents thought that was ok, being the older one they do tend to pick on the weaker player (as we did with our opponents!)

It was a fantastic day – made perfect by a win. But there was also a great atmosphere in the club. We had 65 entries into all of the categories.

The best part of the day was the camaraderie around the club. Squash can be a ‘tetchy’ sport – it is played at close quarters and is quick – there are often ‘differences of opinion’! However, in all of the matches we played there was great sportsmanship and friendliness. It was a great advert for the sport – we are still working on getting it in the 2020 Olympics. I’m not sure I will be up for playing – but Jak might!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged 20:20, backing the bid, Doubles, , , winners

Nottingham Squash Rackets Club – the next challenge

Last week I was elected to be Chairman (no PC stuff here) of the amazing NSRC. The thinking goes that I have challenged the previous committee for long enough – I’m a firm believer in put up or shut up.

So I did the former – and now have the rather grand and old fashioned title – Chairman. And I have a new committee – 12 good men and women (including me).

Squash was a popular sport in the 1970′s but then fell into decline. Latterly it has had a resurgence – and there is a campaign to get the sport into the 2020 Olympics. It has been described as turbocharged chess. It requires fitness, mental agility and a certain aggressiveness! It’s said you don’t get fit playing squash – you get fit to play squash! It is a genuinely hard workout – my knees are testament to that!

NSRC has seen a decline in full members over the last few years. And this hits the bottom line. This is a real pity because the club has 10 courts – six of which really are of international standard. Three courts can become two doubles courts. We have a gymnasium and a fantastic bar / conference facility. You can get coaching at the highest level available. Beginners are welcome. Racketball is played – which is slightly easier on the joints.

So my role is to somehow steer the ship through troubled waters, to grow the membership and to shout about the Club and the game at every opportunity.

So, if you fancy a game – just let me know. If you want to learn – ditto. If you want a great environment to hold a meeting – you get the idea.

Nottingham Squash Club will shortly become the best club in the Country… That’s the acid test!