The player in question was Bryan Beeson, who reached as high as number six in the world rankings, was England team captain, and National Champion too.
Now aged 52, Bryan is by far the best player the North-East has produced, as his 16 County titles clearly show. After retiring from the pro tour at 32 he went on to win National titles at O35, O40 and O45 levels, but he’s been a bit quiet for the last few years.
Here he was though, turning out for Chester-le-Street in division three of the Northumbria Leagues - and yes, he was playing number one. Bryan led the team to a 3-2 away win over Tynemouth thirds, and he won 3-0 of course.
“I was getting more and more physical problems though, knee and back pains, lots of little niggles, it was getting to the stage that I couldn’t walk without limping and I was struggling to get round even one hole of the golf course. Someone looked at me walking and said ‘that’s your hip’, and sure enough it was.
“I needed to get something done to stop me damaging the rest of my body, so for my 50th birthday I got a hip replacement and it’s worked wonders.
“I started playing squash 3 or 4 months afterwards, and now I play golf, cycling, and I’m big into swimming too, I swim about 1,000 metres a day in the early morning and evening. You feel great afterwards, not knackered like you do after squash! I’ll be doing the Great North Swim, a mile on Windermere.
How’s it been playing for Chester-le-Street ?
“Squash is actually the least of the things I do now. I’ve coached the University team for a few years and played for them a couple of times, but I enjoy playing down the leagues with my mates, much more than I would if I tried to play at the top level.
“I’ve really enjoyed it, I love playing I just don’t want to do too much. I’ve been away to places like Consett and Dunston, and they say ‘Oh god, he’s turned up’, but I always try to give them a good game.
“I don’t think I’ve dropped a game yet – a few people have got to eight but then they seem to panic!”
“We used to play PAR scoring of course, but I think normal scoring is much better for local leagues and social play. I can let them get pretty close to taking a game and still feel in control, but with PAR scoring I’d have to make sure they didn’t get much more than seven, anything can happen after that!”
Do you keep up with the game at the top level ?
“I watch all the squash on Sky, the coverage is pretty good. The game is quite attacking and exciting now, although I see James Willstrop and Gregory Gaultier recently played a two hour match, that’s some going.
“I do like the way Nick Matthew plays, always putting the pressure on and looking for the opening to attack.
“Today’s top players would probably say they’re faster than we were but I’d like to see how they’d get on against Jahangir. I played him twice and lost 0, 0, 1 and 3, 0, 0 in the quarter-finals of the British Open, he just never gave you the opportunity to attack him.
What about squash and the Olympics ?
“Of course it should be in, it’s certainly a better bet than a lot of the sports that are already there. It has the participation and the global coverage, and anyone can play and have a great game.
“I played for England in a few tournaments but playing in the Olympics would have been just fantastic.”
So that’s where Bryan’s at – still active on the Northumbria scene, coaching, playing, and presenting the awards at Northumbria end of season functions … and for the record, yes he handed over his £6 match fee just like the rest of the victorious Chester-le-Street team …
Flashback to 2003: Beeson rolls back the years
Northumbria County Closed Final 2003:
Bryan Beeson (Gat) bt David Barnett (Nlt) 9/0, 9/7, 7/9, 9/7 (76m)
The former England captain and National Champion had cruised into the final, with a 3/0 semi-final victory over Steve Calvert, where he met David Barnett, who had beaten Nick Southern 3/1 to claim his third consecutive place in the final.
It was a classic experience v youth clash, with Beeson looking to add to his impressive tally of titles while young Barnett was seeking his first.
Beeson raced ahead, unleashing a barrage of trademark winners to take the first game 9/0 and a 5/1 lead in the second. Barnett looked nervous early on, but came more into it as he pegged Beeson back and made the 42 year-old work harder and harder for his points.
Beeson took the second 9/7, but David’s determination was there for all to see as he whittled away Bryan’s early lead in the third to pull a game back, again 9/7. But Beeson has a fierce will to win, and in a tense, sometimes argumentative fourth game he held on to collect his sixteenth title after 76 minutes of tense, enthralling squash.
“It’s nice to have this trophy back,” said a delighted Beeson afterwards. “Fortunately I was able to get ahead in most of the games, which put a bit of pressure on David. I’m training to defend the National Over-40 title next month, so this is a nice bonus.”