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Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Rob Owen: ‘I enjoyed working with Joel Makin but he’d probably be a better player if he’d stayed with me’

Mike Dale
Mike Dale
Mike Dale is a lifelong squash player and a long-time sports journalist. Loves watching, meeting and interviewing the game’s star players.

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By MIKE DALE (Squash Mad Correspondent)

Top coach Rob Owen has lifted the lid on his split from former protégé Joel Makin and claimed he could potentially have made him world number one had the Welshman remained with Owen instead of moving on when Paul Coll joined his training group.

Coll has since ascended to world No.1 and won two British Open titles, several other PSA World Tour titles and three Commonwealth Games gold medals. Makin has not replaced Owen with a regular coach and is currently world No.9.

Since their parting of ways, Owen claims Birmingham-based Makin has shown “a complete lack of appreciation for what I did for him – and I’ll say that publicly”.

He added: “I never had a phone call. We looked after him, fed him and his family – not a word from the family or from Joel.

“These are going to sound like tough words. You never know what people are like until you don’t coach them. There are some black hearts out there.”

Coach Rob Owen with Paul Coll at Canary Wharf last year

Makin did ascend to his highest world ranking of seven in May this year after winning the Manchester Open in April. Despite playing brilliantly, he lost to Coll in five games in August’s epic Commonwealth Games men’s singles finals.

It’s early in the season and Makin has missed a couple of tournaments through illness and is currently ranked at nine in the world while aiming for a breakthrough run of results.

Owen told Gerry Gibson’s In Squash podcast: “The fact of the matter is, I’m pretty confident that if Joel was still here, he would probably be up where Paul is now. He would certainly be a lot better than he is now. That’s obvious. He lacked direction for a little bit and he got worse.

“I was very impressed with him in the Commonwealth Games final, but when I coached him he beat the world numbers one, two and three and he’s not doing that now, certainly not on a regular basis.

Joel Makin dominates the Commonwealth Games semi-final against James Willstrop

“I enjoyed working with Joel. I have a respect for him on the squash side of things. He is one of toughest people I know as far as the squash side goes.

“When he came to me, he was useless. Several people said to me, ‘You’re wasting your time.’ But I always had faith in him because he was so determined. When I worked with him it was a joy. I got hundreds, probably thousands of hours out of him.

“There’s respect there in some ways. He’s got a great personality to be a squash player. He’s very black and white and doesn’t give a sh** about other people sometimes.”

He revealed: “I’ve touched base with Joel several times but once you leave that’s it. I’ve never spoken to him since really.

“I saw him recently, we got on really well, I made a big effort and we had a great conversation. I messaged him the next day, back in July, [and said] ‘Really nice to see you Joel,’ being the bigger person. I didn’t hear back from the bloke – didn’t even reply to my message. Probably didn’t even think about it. But that’s Joel Makin – he can be selfish.”

Owen, who in addition to Coll also coaches the likes of Sarah-Jane Perry and Coll’s girlfriend Nele Gilis, is known within the game for his maverick and hugely successful coaching methods and outspoken views.

Joel Makin beats Eain Yow Ng in the Grasshopper Cup before losing to Diego Elias

He offered an olive branch to Makin by saying he hoped they “will end up becoming very good friends again,” but the arrival of Coll in his coaching stable was clearly the catalyst for the parting of ways.

“I genuinely thought when Paul came on board, that would be brilliant for Joel,” claimed Owen. “I knew that Paul would improve when he came to me. Maybe Joel didn’t like seeing his improvement, I don’t know. We’ve never discussed it.

“I thought Joel would be my number one player. I genuinely thought it would be brilliant for them to work together and get to number one and two in the world. I genuinely think that would have happened.

“Joel would definitely be better now. He would have improved a lot from playing Paul. He would be in a different situation now in many, many ways.”

He added: “We’ve done a lot together. We achieved a massive amount. Hopefully he’ll look back in 10 years and think, ‘Yeah, Rob helped me a bit there.’ He never talks about it, which is a joke. I’ve never forgotten people who helped me, but a lot of these guys just move on.

“I think it’s really important to say thank you sometimes. It’s a selfish sport, but we are trying to put back in and I think players need to be appreciative of people around them who have been important and helped them. I think that’s an important point to make.”

Part Two tomorrow:

Robert Owen gives his verdict on Mostafa Asal, and it’s another blockbuster article.

InSquash Podcast interview here

Pictures courtesy of PSA World Tour 


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  1. After reading this article I can only think Makin is lucky not to be involved anymore with this so-called super-duper coach. Of course, it unfortunately doesn’t save Makin from being sniped in the back publicly, as we can see.
    Rob Owen says: “I think it’s really important to say thank you sometimes. It’s a selfish sport, but we are trying to put back in and I think players need to be appreciative of people around them who have been important and helped them. I think that’s an important point to make.”
    You know what’s also a really important point to make? Not to spread petty crap around about somebody who did nothing to you except to choose another way to go, as is his indefensible right.
    Reading this article it is very clear to me who is the ahole here, and it’s not Joel Makin. When somebody speaks about “being the bigger guy and reaching out first” you tend to realize exactly who you are dealing with.
    After reading this horrible petty self-important nonsense I know who comes off as the real ahole, and it’s not Joel Makin.

  2. We all remember when Owen “bigged up” Paul Coll and was then publicly humiliated by M. El Shorbagy. This article really sums up how bitter he continues to be. Hopefully another humiliation is on its way.

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