Top coach plays his first match in 15 years on charity night at Harrogate
EXCLUSIVE by MIKE DALE – Squash Mad Special Correspondent
David Pearson, coach of both current world champions, hasn’t played a squash match for 15 years. But that’s about to change.
On October 25, Nick Matthew, Chris Simpson and Jenny Duncalf will be among the stars playing in a charity exhibition event at Harrogate Squash Club in Yorkshire. But, unusually for world-ranked professionals, they will be on the undercard.
Top of the bill will be 56-year-old Pearson’s first match since the turn of the century, when he quit following the World Masters in Manchester.
The referee for their duel will be world No. 2 Matthew, and Pearson has told his star pupil he’d better be generous with any let and stroke decisions. “I’ve done Nick a lot of favours over the years, so if he shows any bias it better be towards me!” he warned.
Matthew told Squash Mad: “It will be a pleasure to be on the undercard to these two fine athletes! Well, what I actually mean by ‘two fine athletes’ is that Randolph is still a fine athlete (in fact, the fittest 50+ person I have ever seen) and DP used to be a fine athlete 25 years and 25 kilos ago!
“To say it’s a clash of styles is putting it politely. If you combined DP’s legendary racket skill with Randolph’s raw athleticism then you would have an amazing player.
“Randolph has a lot of respect for DP; perhaps too much. Let’s see if he can put that to one side and get the win in against his mentor!”
Pearson (pictured right with Matthew) explained: “I remember when I was about 40, I came off court and just thought, ‘I don’t want to do this any more’. I’d been a pro from the age of 19 and my whole life had been a regime of keeping fit, not drinking, and focusing on playing.
“After that I got my competitive juices through coaching. You still get that competitive feeling through others’ success.”
“Then with being England national coach I was travelling around the world a lot, watching a lot of squash. Like any travelling businessman, you do a lot of eating and drinking. You just become lazy.
“Then recently I was on court coaching Randolph and I suddenly said, ‘Give me a few months and I’ll have you!’ He replied, ‘Alright then!’ The idea of a comeback snowballed from there.”
The age difference between the two foes is only four years, but the difference in fitness is more of a chasm. Pearson admits his fight-the-flab regime has got off to “a stuttering start” but he plans to step it up over the summer.
“I’ve got three weeks in the States leading up to the event. That’s when I’m really going to go for it and pound the gym. I can’t embarrass myself. I’ve just got to get a bit fitter, then he’ll have no chance!”
Victor countered: “I was happy to accept DP’s challenge because my game still needs a lot of work and I don’t want him dying on me just yet! He also needs to keep himself fitter so he can eventually coach my son.
“Besides, I like to surround myself with fit and healthy people wherever possible. DP is an absolute legend on and off the court and to say he is unusual is an understatement.”
The event in October will be held in memory of James Lambley, a former Yorkshire junior colleague of Matthew and James Willstrop, who died last year. Proceeds will go to a charity to be chosen by his family.
Matthew remembers: “James was a nationally ranked junior player and a valued member of a strong Yorkshire team. He was tremendous fun to be around.”