Crucible characters day 15: Willie Thorne

By Mark Staniforth, PA
PA Media: Sport

For every Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry, snooker also boasted its bit-part players: the what-might-have-beens and never-minds, who left their own small but indelible mark upon the sport.

For the duration of the postponed World Championships, the PA news agency is turning its focus on the Crucible characters who never quite made the competition’s last three days.

Willie Thorne

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Willie Thorne made an unlikely appearance on Strictly Come Dancing (PA)
Willie Thorne made an unlikely appearance on Strictly Come Dancing (PA)

By common consensus, Willie Thorne could have ended his career with a haul of major titles. Instead, he is best remembered for being ribbed about his premature baldness on Top of the Pops.

Thorne was a prodigious potter who would reach two World Championship quarter-finals, his first in 1982, when he pushed the eventual champion Alex Higgins to the brink.

Thorne won what proved to be his first and only ranking title at the Mercantile Credit Classic in 1985, but three months later suffered a defeat which changed the course of his career.

Leading Steve Davis 13-8 in the UK Championship final, Thorne missed a simple blue off its spot, allowing Davis to claw his way back and ultimately win the match.

Willie Thorne was immortalised in song (PA)
Willie Thorne was immortalised in song (PA)

Still, Thorne was considered prominent enough to join Davis in Barry Hearn’s ‘Matchroom Mob’, his part in their 1986 smash hit ‘Snooker Loopy’ with Chas and Dave bemoaning: “Old Willie Thorne, his hair’s all gorn.”

Thorne’s career became blighted by a gambling addiction, and he admitted in an interview in 2004 that he had placed a bet of £38,000 on John Parrott to lose a match because Thorne found out he was playing with a borrowed cue.

Parrott went on to win the match, which Thorne happened to be commentating on for the BBC.  Thorne recalled: “I’m having to close the commentary by saying it’s unbelievable, spewing up as I say it.”

Thorne competed in the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing in 2007 with partner Erin Boag, being voted out in 12th place.

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