Staffordshire Championships A Big Success

Staffordshire Championships A Big Success

The cream of the county’s tennis talent descended on Wolverhampton Lawn Tennis & Squash Club for the annual Staffordshire Championships, which came to an exciting conclusion at the weekend.

Over 100 competitors took part in 26 different events during the week-long event, which came to an end with Saturday’s Finals Day and a host of great tennis in front of a sizeable crowd.

“It went really well and we had a successful week with lots of really good matches,” said tournament organiser, and WLTSC coach, Max Thomson, who worked with experienced tournament referee Ron Allan.

“There were also some good results from people from Wolverhampton but the main thing is that everyone enjoyed themselves and enjoyed their tennis.

“Ron did a great job and it was nice for the club to host the event and also see so many parents and families come and support the younger players.”

On court, it was a good Finals Day for Tom Welsh, also a WLTSC coach, who won both the Men’s Singles – defeating Henry Parry – and then linking up with Parry to claim the Men’s Doubles against Jamie Crothers and Allan Pengelly.

And that makes it 15 singles games unbeaten for Welsh, who had previously won the Club Championships at WLTSC and also events at Sutton Coldfield and Tipton.

“This is the fourth year I have managed to win the doubles, this time with Harry but previously with Jake Lawley, but it’s my first singles,” he said.

“I’m playing well at the moment, and it was a good week.

“Entries dropped a bit last year, so it was great to see so many people back and some really competitive tennis particularly on Finals Day.”

The Open Women’s Singles event was won by Alice Jayne Dudley, with Amy Lees runner-up, and the Doubles by Dudley and Emily Southall.

Southall teamed up with Gregg Spooner to win the Open Mixed Doubles.

Another WLTSC member who enjoyed an excellent week was Sol Shahar, who claimed the Under-16s title by beating Max Walker, the Under-18s doubles by teaming up with Henry Searle to defeat Ross Fletcher and Rohan Thawait, and reached the semi-finals of the Under-18 singles.

“I’m happy with how I played this week and delighted to win a couple of the tournaments and get to a semi-final in the other,” said Shahar.

“There have been a few new faces at the tournament and it is always good to play and test yourselves against different people.”

Other notable winners among the juniors were Max Walker, who won Under-14s boys singles and doubles, and Anna Coghlan, who won Under-14s girls singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

At the other end of the age spectrum, WLTSC’s Operations Manager Marc Hughes, who had only won one county title since Under-18 level, won the Over-45s Men’s event by defeating club colleague Robin Chipperfield in the final.

Marc said:  “It was the Hereford and Worcestershire Under-18s which I won, and then the Staffordshire Veterans a few years later in 2017, so it’s always nice to win another county title!

“On a more important note we have all been delighted to have hosted another fantastic tournament this week, from the organisation led by Max and Ron, to our members coming down in large numbers to support and enjoy the tennis.

“As a club we really enjoy welcoming the top talent from across Staffordshire, and look forward to hosting the tournament again in the future.”

For Allan, who referees at numerous tournaments across Staffordshire, it was also an enjoyable week.

“The tournament has gone very well and the behaviour and the tennis has been good,” he said.

“It has been competitive but played in the right spirit as it is always important that everyone is able to enjoy fair play.

“I only keep doing these tournaments because I really enjoy it and this has been no exception.

“The club and the members here have been brilliant in allowing us to host the tournament and use the courts  and I have enjoyed working with Max who has done a fantastic job.”

Clive Paddison, Staffordshire LTA’s treasurer, was among the spectators on Finals Day and was very impressed with what he saw.

“I always love to come and watch these events, and it never ceases to amaze me how brilliant the standard is,” he said.

“I was watching the Men’s Doubles Final, which was very impressive, as was the Under-14s Boys Doubles on the next court.

“I like the way they are all very competitive but also friends with each other and appreciate each other.

“It is a good set-up at the club to host the event, and I know it struggled a bit last year but has now been really invigorated.

“We are really pleased with how it has gone this year and are glad that the club are happy as well.

“It is a very important week for us – the championships of the county – and it is important that we have a good quality event which we have enjoyed this year.”



A Night Of Nostalgia

A Night Of Nostalgia

A memorable and nostalgic night was had by all as Wolverhampton Lawn Tennis & Squash Club marked the 80thanniversary of the return to the current site with a celebratory dinner on Saturday night.

The club were delighted to welcome three special guests to the club to mark the anniversary celebration, five-times Grand Slam doubles champion Frew McMillan, another former top player in Ted Beards, and former UK squash number one Anna Bullock (nee Craven Smith).

Club President Ron Stevenson was Master of Ceremonies for the night, Rod Willetts delivered a presentation about his ongoing work to compile a history of the club (Click here for more details), and Frew himself spoke about his illustrious career to the 80 assembled guests.

“Frew delivered some tremendous stories about his tennis partners and rivals, and revealed a connection to Wolverhampton which was most surprising,” said Rod.

“He was actually awarded a Doctrine of the City (by the University of Wolverhampton) ten years ago.

“He also did a Question & Answer session for guests which was extremely interesting, including the question of why he was one of the first two-handed players.

“’Because I used my mother’s full-size racket which was a bit heavy for a five-year-old’ was the response.

“Overall the evening was a great success.”

Frew, who won the top tournament at WLTSC in 1962. 1963 and 1970, was delighted to catch up again with former friendly foe Ted, who also made it to Wimbledon in his playing days.

Frew, who attended the evening with wife Sally, has since contacted Ron to pass on his appreciation.

“We greatly enjoyed ourselves,” he said.

“It was a treat for me to revisit the scene of my playing days and  I could not quite comprehend the huge expansion of the Club. Most impressive!

“We wish you and your Club the very best of good fortune in your attempts to further enrich Newbridge.”

At the end of the night Frew and Sally were presented with gifts to mark the occasion by WLTSC chairman John Hollingsworth.

*Photos from the evening, taken by an Express & Star photographer, will appear in a future edition of the Wolverhampton Magazine.

Time To Mark History At Special Anniversary

Time To Mark History At Special Anniversary

A popular sports club in Wolverhampton is welcoming Grand Slam tennis champion Frew McMillan to help mark a special 80th anniversary taking place this weekend.

The Wolverhampton Lawn Tennis & Squash Club is holding an anniversary dinner, with special guests including the five-times doubles Grand Slam champion, who played – and won – several tournaments at the club during its history.

The club is marking 80 years on its present site, having started out in 1885 on the premises, moved to Albert Road in 1913, before purchasing the ‘Neville Lodge’ building and returning in 1938.

Saturday night’s event is part of an overall celebration of the 80th anniversary, including long-serving club member Rod Willetts producing a history of WLTSC from its inception to the present day.

“There is a gang of us who play racketball on a Monday and Friday night and have a pint in the bar afterwards,” says Rod, who has been a member at WLTSC for 42 years.

“One of the guys Roger Malpas, who has since been helping me with the project, was asking if anyone had ever done a history of the club and that sparked my interest.

“We found some boxes of minutes, including one which had been brought in by the family of the former secretary Mike Tomlinson, and the information blew my mind.

“There were minutes books all the way from the year 1905 to the present day – all in beautifully kept books and beautifully written in italics.

“Roger and myself have been going through those books and I have also been up to Wolverhampton Archives, where I have found some fantastic photographs.

“It is very time consuming but has been great fun and amazing to see how the club has progressed through the years.

“The idea now is to turn the work and the research into some form of publication to mark this anniversary and the club’s history to date.”

Rod has discovered there were three main reasons why the club moved back to Newbridge Crescent from the 12-court site on Albert Road eight decades ago.

The lack of parking at their previous home, the need for a venue for more ‘winter’ sports, and a more substantial property, with Neville Lodge being purchased for £2,000.

And so it was that the new and current home not only housed tennis courts at the start, but also two squash courts and separate rooms for billiards, table tennis and cards.

WLTSC also hosted a top class tennis tournament over the years which included ranking points towards events such as Wimbledon, and attracted competitors from as far afield as South Africa and Australia.

It was that event which McMillan won on three separate occasions, in 1962, 1963 and 1970, and why he is delighted to be returning this weekend, along with other guests including former British number one squash player Anna Bullock (nee Craven Smith) and another top tennis player in Ted Beards.

“We are delighted that Frew and all of our guests will be joining us and are looking forward to a nostalgic night,” added Rod.



Discussions With Durbo!

Discussions With Durbo!

Whoever took to the hallowed lawns of Wimbledon’s Centre Court during this year’s Championships, and even considering the heroics of Novak Djokovic and Angelique Kerber in becoming the 2018 victors, it would be hard to the beat the star quality with whom Alan Durban once locked horns on a tennis court.

Pele.  And Sean Connery.

Yes, probably the most famous footballer who has ever lived, and none other than James Bond himself.  Quite a combination.

How on earth did that come about?

Durban takes up the story, of a surreal day in Marbella some 36 years ago.

“It was back in 1982, just after the World Cup had finished in Spain,” he explains.

“I was out there with my family and on the first day I went to the Puerto Romana complex to have a look around.

“Bjorn Borg was there giving someone a lesson with his coach Lennart Bergelin and I was booking a lesson for my daughter for the next day.

“As I was leaving a Belgian Davis Cup player asked me if I would pop down the next afternoon as he had ‘arranged a nice little four’ for a game of doubles if I fancied it.

“I was Sunderland manager at the time and his partner was a girl from Middlesbrough so I think she knew I played a bit of tennis.

“’Well, why not?’ I thought, and went back, as requested, the next afternoon.

“Lo and behold the other two who turned up ready for the game….were Pele, and Sean Connery!

“To be honest, they weren’t the best, so we split up and I played with Sean against Pele and the Belgian Davis Cup player.

“Funnily enough I should have played against Pele at football, back in 1966, when Wales had two games against Brazil before the World Cup.

“I think we were their ‘fodder’ to prepare for the tournament, but Pele didn’t play, I think he had an injury.”

Durban, born in Port Talbot but now living in Telford, is sat in the conservatory at Wolverhampton Lawn Tennis & Squash Club, where he has been a member for the last 15 years.

He has been studiously watching the World Cup group game between Argentina and Nigeria, and half time offers an opening for a chat.

A cheery exchange of greetings takes place with all who walk past – it is clearly a club where Durban feels very comfortable and very much at home.

A footballing figure who achieved great success as both player and manager, he is not prone to shouting from the rooftops about it.

Even the magnificent Pele and Sean Connery anecdote has to be prised out of him having been picked up from elsewhere.

And maybe it is them who should have been asking about Alan Durban!

A playing career which saw him earn 27 Welsh caps in total – the first of which came in one of those fixtures against Brazil – included the memorable 1971/72 First Division title secured with Derby County under the management of Brian Clough.

He had previously started his career with Cardiff, and would later join Shrewsbury, going on to become Player Manager before also serving as boss with Stoke City, Sunderland and Cardiff.

In total he managed for over 500 games, including promotions with Shrewsbury and Stoke, and remains very much a fan of all football.

“What has happened to all the goalscoring midfielders,” he breaks off to ask.

“Where have they gone? Since Lampard and Gerrard, no one has really come forward who scores goals from that position….”

Durban was an attacking midfielder, but in truth his prowess in all manner of sports meant he may well have hit the heights in other areas had it not been football.

He spent three years on the books of Glamorgan Cricket Club, and, in tennis, reached the semi-finals of the Welsh Junior Championships, whilst also helping Derby outfit Ockbrook & Borrowash to a title the one year.

So it was more than just footballing silverware he gathered in the East Midlands!

“Football, tennis, cricket, table tennis, golf – my life has basically been built around sport,” he explains.

“I was brought up in a house which was extremely competitive.

“My Grandmother would throw the Monopoly board up in the air if she started losing.

“So I probably picked up a bit of my competitive edge from her…”

Durban has shared the sporting arena with many other top sporting names aside from Pele.

He played tennis against Roger Taylor and Mark Cox – “which showed me just how useless I was” – cricket with Tony Lewis, and of course football with the likes of Archie Gemmill and Roy McFarland.

“And when you’ve walked out at Wembley with Bobby Moore, it doesn’t get much better than that,” Durban adds.

This article is mainly about his tennis though, and how Durban, who turned 76 on July 7th, is still manoeuvring his way around the court despite those advancing years and enjoying the spirit and camaraderie of doubles’ fare.

It was tennis that afforded the proud Welshman his first job after football, although even that was related to showing a glimpse of his sporting ability.

“It was Brian Gray, formerly a prominent member at Wolverhampton, who owned Telford Racquets Centre at the time,” he recalls.

“I lost my job as manager of Cardiff – I made a mistake taking that job to be honest – and Brian asked me to go along for an interview to manage the Racquets Centre.

“He asked if I would have a game of tennis with him as part of the process.

“What that had to do with my ability to manage the tennis centre I’m not so sure?!

“But at 5-3 up in the first set, I did ask him what my best chance would be of getting the job – whether to go on and win or let him get back into it!

“I eventually got the job, and really enjoyed my time there, I had a great ten years.”

Telford Racquets Centre was eventually to close, and, aside from the day job, that left Durban needing a new venue to play his tennis.

The late and renowned WLTSC-based tennis/squash coach Pete Brown, whose son Scott came through the Wolves Academy and has now made over 400 appearances a goalkeeper, was a regular at Telford coaching the Welsh national juniors.

“When the centre closed Pete suggested I came over to Wolverhampton,” says Durban.

“I knew the club anyway as I had played a few matches here.

“Half of us from Telford came over to Wolverhampton and half went over to the Shrewsbury Indoor Centre.

“I do still play a bit at Shrewsbury as well, but a lot of the same crowd who came over to Wolverhampton from Telford all those years ago are still playing here now.

“And I still very much enjoy my tennis.

“A few years ago I would still be involved at a national level, in Veterans’ tournaments, and when I first came to the club here, I was involved with the Second team which was a good standard.

“I’m not as fit as I used to be – you’d expect that at my age – but if I’m honest I don’t spend too much time looking backwards.

“When you look around at the facilities and the environment at WLTSC, and the weather as it has been recently, it’s not too bad is it?

“And I still get to go abroad to play some tennis in that same warm weather from time to time, or to watch football – that’s the beauty of being retired!

“There is still the golf as well, I play at Shifnal a couple of times a week and, while I am not any more, for many years I was off single figures.

“I have always had that competitive edge, whatever I have done, although I am probably slightly more humble now when I lose….it is happening far more often so I have to be!

“What I would say is that when I play tennis now it is always nice when people stay for a drink afterwards as well.

“It is part and parcel to have a chat after the game, to be sociable, otherwise you just don’t find out about people do you?”

And Durban is certainly a big fan of the progressive attitude at WLTSC, both with the facilities available and the potential for the future.

“It is a great club here,” he says.

“And I think it is continuing to develop.

“That is the big thing for me. – people are looking ahead at how it can improve rather than just wallowing in being very good as it is at the moment.

“There is a nice atmosphere here and some good people, and they are looking to move it forward.”

And yes, as in most sporting institutions, there is the odd bit of football chat flowing in the spacious bar area, not so much about Durban’s career history but more the modern game.

He continued to scout at the end of his managerial career, adding Kevin Phillips to his ‘scoops’ having previously taken Ally McCoist to Sunderland during his time in the managerial hotseat on Wearside.

He enjoys purely a watching brief now, and it is the current Wolves crop who are very much on the agenda.

“I still get to watch Stoke and Derby fairly regularly, and saw four or five Wolves games last season,” he says.

“That Neves, he is some player isn’t he?

“And when I was playing I was never happy with my centre back being in the left back position but he seems happy enough in there!

“Wolves were a pleasure to watch, how the coach got them going so well so quickly and the way they all have so much confidence in each other.

“I suppose my tactical brain still keeps going a little bit, and it was nice to see something new, and great to watch.

“I think they will be alright in the Premier League this season as well.

“So yes, we will still talk football here at the club, and there has been a lot of talk about Wolves over the last year – the West Brom people have gone a bit quiet.”

With that Durban is back into the bar, sharing a joke with fellow club members and taking his seat for the second half.

Lionel Messi starts to do his stuff, but whether he and the current James Bond Daniel Craig would fancy their chances against the ever-sprightly and enthusiastic Durban remains to be seen…




Finals Day A Great Success

Finals Day A Great Success

The standard of tennis matched the scorching weather as members of Wolverhampton Lawn Tennis & Squash Club enjoyed their Club Championships Finals weekend.

At the end of three weeks of action in which 183 matches took place across many different competitions, the winners were crowned in the Newbridge sunshine in front of a sizeable and lively crowd.

“I am very proud to be the tennis Chairman when we have a day like today,” said Nigel Eastwood, tennis chairman at WLTSC.

“I can’t remember a better day for the weather for finals day, or a better day for the quality of the tennis on show.

“It was great to see so many young players involved, and the combined age of the ladies’ final, at just 29, must have been the lowest ever.”

It was 13-year-old Adeola Greatorex who was victorious in that final, against Lily Hale, while Henry Parry’s impressive recent dominance of the Mens’ Singles title was brought to an end thanks to a superb performance from Fin Cook.

Cook then partnered Tom Welsh to victory against Paul Hodgetts and James Henderson in an entertaining Mens’ Doubles final, whilst Cathy Lea and Louise Scott prevailed in the Ladies doubles final against Elizabeth Allan and Jane Hatton.

The mixed doubles final saw Hodgetts and Serena Gill defeat Robin Chipperfield and Cynthia Jackson.

As well as the main draws there were other graded tournaments and consolation plate competitions, ensuring all members had a good opportunity to make progress through the draws.

“We had over 200 entries in total, and it was great to see the club so busy over the last three weeks,” added Hodgetts, Every Point Rackets Manager at WLTSC.

“The standard at the top end of the club is probably higher than it has ever been, but for us as a club, it is about more than just the best players.

“The way the draws are graded means that all our members can take part at their different levels and have a fair chance to make a final.

“Finals Day was a great success – it is probably the biggest date on our tennis calendar and we turn it into an entertaining event and something which spectators can really enjoy.”

Other Finals Results:

Mens’ A Singles Plate: Ross Fletcher beat Robin Chipperfield.

Mens’ B Singles: Adrian Watts beat Alex Birch.

Mens’ B Singles Plate: Steve Turner beat Jonathan Whitehead.

Mens’ C Singles: Paul Fothergill beat Steve Pearcey.

Mens’ C Singles Plate: Luke Carpenter beat Jason Mansell.

Mens’ B Doubles: Mark Shahar & Sol Shahar beat Jon Evans & Dave Tilley.

Mens’ B Doubles Plate: Mark Fletcher & Alex Fletcher beat Glenn Rickwood & Richard Down.

Ladies’ A Singles Plate: Lucy Calrow beat Jacqueline Greatorex.

Ladies’ B Doubles: Hetty Willis & Lucinda Willis beat Gurvinder Hayer & Aurelia Lendinez.

Ladies B Doubles Plate: Rebecca Smith & Lynette Guest beat Suzanne Davies & Karen Fletcher.

Mixed Doubles B: Mark Shahar & Lily Hale beat John Killion and Elizabeth Allan.

Mixed Doubles B Plate: Andy Reddish & Verena Wieck beat Luke Carpenter & Heather Hale.