IT WAS a unique partnership forged on the practice table at Chandler’s Ford Snooker Club that had conquered England and was set to take on the world.
But now it’s over.
It was not World Snooker coach Dave Mumford’s decision to part company with 13-year-old Marchwood wonderkid Shane Castle.
However, speaking for the first time since the split in April, Mumford said he has “no regrets whatsoever” and insisted: “I wouldn’t have done anything differently.
“I’ve devoted an awful lot of my life to Shane over the last five-and-a-half years and we have enjoyed some magical moments together.
“He was a talented kid with a great attitude and he was a good listener.”
In February, 2008, Mumford “got up at stupid o’clock” and drove 230 miles to North Wales to watch Castle in the final stages of the Pontin’s Search for a Star under-12 tournament.
He was in the front row as Castle clinched his first major title.
Mumford, 42, recalled: “To see this tiny little kid performing in front of 100 people was an incredibly proud moment.”
But he reckons Castle’s “greatest achievement, thus far” was being crowned English Under-14 Champion in Sheffield last year after beating south-coast rival Adam Bobat 5-4 from 4-3 down.
“From a coach’s perspective, what you really want is to see what you’ve helped build tested under the greatest of pressure,” he explained.
“In the deciding frame, to put together a 59 break from nothing gave me an immense amount of pleasure.”
NOW is not the time for post-mortems; now is the time to celebrate a record-breaking five-and-a-half years.
The remarkable journey began on November 12, 2005, when a seven-year-old Shane Castle met Dave Mumford, a highly respected figure in Hampshire snooker, at a trophy presentation at Chandler’s Ford Snooker Club.
Even at that tender age, Castle’s natural talent was evident.
Mumford, who agreed to coach and mentor the pint-sized potter, said: “In any sport you’ve got to have not only a big heart, ability and technique, but you’ve got to have a little bit of something about you.
“You’ve got to have an air of cockiness – if you like – a confidence, an inner self belief.
“At seven-years-old, he had that.”
Castle’s rise to national fame exceeded even the most optimistic of expectations.
SHANE CASTLE FACTFILE
Dec 30, 2007: Made a 101 in a tournament a month before his tenth birthday, missing the world record by 81 days.
Feb 15, 2008: Pontin’s Search for a Star Under-12 Champion.
Aug 14, 2008: First England cap at under-14 level.
Mar 14, 2009: Youngest to qualify for the EASB Premier Junior Tour.
Apr 16, 2009: Retained Pontin’s Under-12 title.
May 22, 2010: English Under-14 Champion.
Apr 21, 2011: Split from Dave Mumford.
Jun 5, 2011: Joined On Q Promotions.
Mumford said he was “extremely grateful” to Castle’s sponsors – insurance brokers CCV Southampton; Colin Joyce, from chartered surveyors Selway Joyce; and Oliver & Sanders Insurance Consultants – who had “enabled Shane to progress to where he is now that much easier”.
Castle’s dad Jeffery agreed it had been a great partnership and added: “I appreciate what Dave’s done for Shane.”
Last month, the youngster – with 12 tournament centuries to his name, including a high of 137 – signed for player management company On Q Promotions.
Mumford added: “He’s in the perfect place to achieve whatever he wants to achieve.
“I wish him nothing but good luck. I just hope that the people now around him realise what a special talent he is and don’t just look at him as a commodity.”
Picture by Kevin Legg: The way we were: Dave Mumford & Shane Castle after the 2010 English Under-14 Championship final.