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Scots squash stars bid for home glory in Glasgow

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Inverness boys Alan Clyne and Greg Lobban aim to ride the Tartan wave
By MICHAEL GREGSON – Squash Mad Scottish Correspondent

Alan Clyne and Harry Leitch will be at full stretch in Glasgow
Alan Clyne and Harry Leitch will be at full stretch in Glasgow

Something is hopeful in the state of Scotland. Glasgow 2014 is a major opportunity for Scotland’s squash stars to raise their sport’s profile in a football-obsessed nation.

And hopes are high that home courts and support will see a well-prepared Scots team cause a few upsets.

Under the astute guidance of National Coach Roger Flynn – who steered the successful Australian team at Manchester in 2002 – Scottish Squash, with its major doubles focus, is looking to medal for the first time since the Peter Nicol era.

There are grounds for optimism. World no. 35 Alan Clyne is a tenacious dynamo on court, whose defeat of Borja Golan at the 2014 European Team Championships in Italy led Scotland to fourth place.

Clyne, with partner Harry Leitch, came close to Bronze in 2010, beating England’s world top 10 duo of Peter Barker and Daryl Selby before succumbing to Australians Stewart Boswell and former world champion David Palmer (11-10, 11-6), and then another Aussie pairing of Ryan Cuskelly and Cam Pilley.

Approaching 28, Clyne is certain to be in peak condition for Glasgow. Clyne and Leitch are seeded fourth this time, and the specialist doubles training and match experience may just get them over the line to seize that elusive medal.

But Clyne and Leitch are not the only doubles hopes from the months of squad training at Scotstoun and Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University.

lobbanko14The eighth seeds for Glasgow are Assistant National Coach Stuart Crawford, a rangy athletic player from Ayrshire, whose day job involves developing Junior talent, and the fiery and talented Greg Lobban (right), like Clyne from Inverness.

Lobban’s ascent to No. 73 in the world reflects his strong impact on the PSA Tour at the age of 21, with three tournament wins and a series of strong performances this year.

Lobban’s energy and retrieval skills will be important; but perhaps even more important is that he and Crawford are now an established partnership, who managed to defeat Clyne and Leitch on the Scotstoun doubles courts to win the British Championships in January.

Although former contenders Rosie Allan and Lisa Aitken are out of the picture, the Scots women will rattle a few cages, too. With émigré Alex Clark returned to partner vastly-experienced Frania Gillen-Buchert, Roger Flynn can call on another pair who know how to play together.

Clark and Gillen-Buchert pushed Aussies Lisa Camilleri and Donna Urquhart hard in a Doubles event in Oz last autumn, and Frania’s Mixed partnership with Clyne sees two ultimate competitors, who have previously beaten England stars James Willstrop and Jenny Duncalf.

 

Alan and Frania
Alan and Frania

Frania will be looking to better the quarter-final place she achieved with Lisa Aitken at Delhi in 2010. And with Alex Clark partnering the hard-working Kevin Moran of Paisley, Scotland has a strong squad, keen to ride what is certain to be a patriotic wave this summer.

Scottish Squash, a small, shoestring-budgetted organisation, serves a sprawling land mass and a population for whom squash may not resonate.

The uncompromising Flynn, in his post for eight years, has much staked on his programmes, which seem to be bearing some fruit. But will Glasgow 2014 be their moment? Funders sportscotland would certainly smile on a medal or two from Squash.

Mike Gregson, July 2014, Inverness

 

 

 

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