A SNOOKER club on the Cuestars circuit that has nurtured the careers of some of England’s best young players has itself come of age.
It was 21 years ago that Ken Everett and business partner Norman Croucher, then owners of Winchester Snooker Centre, opened Chandler’s Ford Snooker Club.
Needing someone to run it, they approached Ken’s son Jim, who had recently packed in his “mundane” job as a junior manager at Applemore Leisure Centre.
Jim recalled: “Dad said ‘do you want to run it as you’re at a loose end now?’”
A Saturday morning junior section was launched in May 1992.
Nineteen years on and working with the boys and girls, aged six to 18, is still the highlight of Jim’s week.
The unique format that has evolved over the years coupled with his dedication and encouragement has produced a string of England players, one of the country’s top women stars and countless local league players.
Mike Finn, Alex Dunkley, Nick Jennings, Billy Castle, Dan Hildyard, Jordan Winbourne and Shane Castle have all donned the three-lions waistcoat and Suzie Opacic reached a high of sixth on the WLBSA circuit.
Jim, now 44, reckons the secret of his success is getting to know the youngsters well and keeping the sessions light and fun.
He added: “Not too much pressure early on and then slowly increase the competition for those that want to improve their game.
“It’s great to see quite a few players challenging at play at an English amateur level and, maybe in Shane’s case, on the professional circuit.
“But it’s taken a long time.”
Jim insists he won’t install pool tables, loud music and flashing lights like many snooker clubs have done in recent years.
“We get enough complaints when somebody hums or whistles on another table,” he laughed. “So it’s very unlikely.
“It is, and will be, a place for snooker addicts. For people who come up here for one thing: to play snooker in a quiet atmosphere on nice tables.”
Jim believes Barry Hearn’s takeover of World Snooker has kick-started a resurgence of interest in the game.
He said: “If we’re going to be here in ten years’ time, we’ve got to really concentrate on people who have got the snooker bug.
“We need the game to evolve again and become more popular, which I think is starting to happen now. We’ve got somebody in charge of the world body who’s trying hard and producing new things.
“We’ve done well as a business to keep going as long as we have considering we don’t offer customers anything else but a small bar, a lounge and ten snooker tables.”
However, the one thing that is missing is a home-grown professional.
And in years to come if someone outside the club asked if that chap he’d just seen on TV used to play on Saturday mornings at Chandler’s Ford SC, Jim said: “I’d be proud to say ‘yes’.”
FOR three years prior to July 31, 1990, the former warehouse at the rear of the Central Precinct in Chandler’s Ford was home to Ged’s Snooker Centre.
It was owned by a used-car salesman and golfing friend of Ken Everett called Hugh Stewart.
Stewart, who now lives in Scotland and named the club after his son, had the snooker tables handmade. In fact, they still carry his ‘Royal Stewart’ plaque.
When Chandler’s Ford Snooker Club first opened there was no sink behind the bar. Staff were forced to carry dirty glasses in a bowl to what is now the office.
And the area occupied by table 10 was a separate room with a pool table.
Everett’s business partner Norman Croucher is now retired and living in Dibden Purlieu.
Picture by Kevin Legg: Jim Everett (centre) with mum Maggie and dad Ken to his left, surrounded by staff and customers.