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Nationwide Bowler Magazine
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Andy’s still handy!

Former world No.1 Andy Thomson is coming off the best year of his long and illustrious bowling career so far, after winning both the Scottish International Open, English Fours, World Indoor Pairs and, most recently, the World Matchplay. In an exclusive interview with Michael McEwan, the in-form Englishman looks ahead to the new season…

Firstly, congratulations on winning the World Matchplay Championship. That’s two WBT titles in under 12 months. Not bad going for the oldest player in the top 16.

Haha! Yeah, everyone keeps going on about that ‘age’ thing. But, yes, it was fantastic to win the Scottish Open and then the World Matchplay. It’s certainly given me the belief that I have a few more wins left in me yet.

Does it surprise you that your still managing to compete and win in the world’s most competitive bowls events despite being into your 50s?
Not really, to be honest. I’ve always believed that preparing well and practising well is the key to playing well and I’ve been good in that respect as I’ve always been as committed to practise as I have to playing. When you combine that with a little bit of confidence then you’re always going to be difficult to beat. I had a relatively easy opening match in the Scottish International Open last year which set me up well for the rest of the event and, ultimately, I won it which set me up well for the rest of the season. Everything since then has just been a continuation of that, really.

You’ll now enter this coming World Bowls Tour season as one of the favourites for silverware, one of the men to beat. How do you cope with those expectation levels? Are they a help or a hindrance?
I don’t really find them too much of a hindrance. Those of us in the top 16 always say that we’re all good enough to beat one another. With that level of competition around, it’s very hard to believe that you are more of a ‘shoe-in’ for success than anyone else.

You’ve won the World Indoor Singles twice. Do you think you can do so again?
I’d like to think so. I’ll openly admit that Potters has not been a happy hunting ground for me down the years, I’ve not had a great deal of success there in Singles events, not even in the recent Premier League Bowls event. However, I’ve done well in the Men’s Pairs and so on, and winning that with Ian Bond in January has given my confidence about playing there a boost.

How long do you expect to carry on playing at the highest level?
That’s difficult to say. I mean, you just have to look at Willie Wood for inspiration where competitive longevity is concerned. To be in your 70s and still win World titles like Willie did earlier this year should give us all motivation. I’m only 52 and I certainly feel like I have more championships left in me. I’ve always said that I’d like to win 100 caps for England at indoor level and, to do that, I’ll need to carry on playing for another six or seven years, so that’s got to be the immediate goal. After that, well, we’ll see what happens.

You recently retired from the England outdoor team. How difficult was that decision?
It was a wrench, it really was. It was an extremely difficult decision to make but I’m certain that it was the right one. As much as I love playing outdoors, I just can’t offer it the same sort of commitment that I used to be able to. I have so many other obligations these days that I couldn’t give playing outdoors the time and dedication that it requires. I’ve been an all-year bowler for a long time but now, with the way that the indoor game is going with the new summer events and so on, it’s just impossible for me to give my full attention to both scenes and I’d rather not play than be in a position to give any less than 100%. 

You retire as the country’s most capped player outdoors. What is your fondest memory from those experiences?
Winning the Men’s Fours gold in the 1996 World Bowls in Adelaide. It was a really special feeling to stand there alongside my team-mates on the podium as we received our medals and I don’t mind admitting that I got a bit tearful. It was a very emotional occasion. The late Mal Hughes was our team manager and it was fantastic to share the win with him and even more special was that my parents made the journey ‘Down Under’ to cheer me on. It was amazing to look up into the stands and see them there.

There seems to be an encouraging number of young players coming through and making the grade in the UK at the minute and challenging for international honours. Who do you think has got the most potential?
One that stands out is Jamie Chestney. He’s had one very good year at the World Indoor Championships already and it’s clear he’s got great a great future ahead of him. Another is Thomas Doig who plays out of my club Cyphers. He’s going to try the qualifying events for the World Bowls Tour this year and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he made it as he’s exceptionally talented. It’s great there are so many good young players coming through and I’d love to see some of them make it on to the WBT.

What advice would you offer a young bowler taking up the sport today?
You have to work hard at any sport and bowls is no exception. You have to be devoted and maybe be a little bit selfish, too. You get out what you put in and there’s no substitute for practice, it’s the only way to stay at the top of the game. If you dedicate yourself, then you’ll get your rewards through titles, cheques or trips abroad. It’s a sport which has given me a lot of success and enjoyment and, if any young player ever wants to pick my brains, then I’d be delighted to help them.

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