Since 2016 William Thomson has established himself as one of the leading players of his WDBS Classification group, winning four main tournaments and reaching a further three finals to date.
We caught up with the reigning Stockport Open champion to talk about his snooker journey so far, including how former professional world champion has helped to improve his game…
Hi William, how have you found the past three months during these most unusual times?
Yes, it has been tough, I work with Serco Facilities Management at University Hospital Wishaw as a porter so being on the front line is hard. Then not having the snooker to go to after work has been strange. I’m sure my wife has found it difficult putting up with me. I’m not usually in the house every night, I’m usually at snooker most nights of the week.
Snooker is a big part of your life – how much have you missed being able to play?
Unfortunately, I don’t have my own table in my house. I practice and play at the Red Triangle Snooker Club in Cumbernauld on the match table or Fraser Patrick’s XingPai table. I think if you have a table in the house just now its priceless.
I also miss the friendships and laughs at the club as well not just playing. I would love to get back playing competitively but I think everyone agrees that safety comes first. But when we do I’m sure everyone will get a buzz from playing again.
Like Joe Hardstaff who we spoke to recently, you have been a regular at WDBS events for over four years since making your debut at the 2016 Manchester Classic. How much have you enjoyed competing during that time?
I love the competitions, that’s why I put the hours in and make the sacrifices I do. To go to competitions and play players with similar disabilities as myself is something I enjoy. I always look forward to WDBS competitions to play and to socialise with the players not just from my group but all groups.
Your Group is among the biggest and most competitive on the circuit, how impressed are you by the standard of players on the WDBS circuit?
Well the standard of play is getting higher every tournament. It was published last week the breaks the players have been getting in the tournaments and it’s not just how high the breaks are most of the players are doing it constantly. Some of these players have no arms, lost legs, are blind… It’s inspiring to watch the guys knock in long pots and breaks. I think as well with the release of the new world rankings it will make the tour more competitive.
In particular you have enjoyed a healthy rivalry with Daniel Blunn since your first event, a strong rivalry which has seen you both win matches against each other. What makes Daniel such a formidable opponent?
I really enjoy playing Daniel. We have had some good matches in the past, although I enjoy playing everyone on tour. Every player has a different style, different strengths and weakness, I enjoy having to adapt to how each plays and it excites me to face the different challenges that each brings to a match and each tournament.
How much has WDBS changed since your first event and what have you made of recent additions including our new ranking system?
When I first attended my first tournament players were in WDBS polo shirts and now we are fully dressed in waistcoats, dress trousers and shoes. It gives it more of a professional event feel, we were using club balls now every event we use match balls, new interactive scoreboards/pads are also great.
I think the new ranking system will give a bit of edge to the tournaments as well, everyone will want to play well in every tournament. There are also now chances to play in events like the WSF Open in Malta and at the Crucible.
Tell us about your disability and how this affects playing snooker for you.
I have CMT Type 1X, it effects my nerve endings and as a result I have muscle weakness in my hands and feet. I walk with orthotic splints on both legs. The weakness in my hands means I have changed how my bridge hand is, I mainly have problems bridging over balls as I have no strength in my fingers for a stable base.
My stance isn’t really affected due to my AFOs although I’m usually off balance when I walk round the table (usually mimicking a drunk man) but I assure you I don’t drink during tournament play. But overall, I think I’ve adapted well to my disability to enable me to play the best I can.
How did you first become interested in snooker and what made you want to pick up a cue yourself?
I was 11-years-old visiting my Aunt Dorothy in Peterborough before I went to Butlins in Skegness. Because she never saw me a lot, she took me into a sports shop and told me to pick anything I wanted. I picked up a cheap pool cue and she told me to put it back and she picked up a snooker cue instead and said get that one as your uncle John is paying for it anyway.
I went to Butlins, had two lessons from a pro there and played all week then won my first tournament at the end of that week before I came home. I then started playing in local snooker club, my mum and dad used to give me £3 every night to go practice. They said they preferred me going to snooker instead of hanging about street corners. At least they knew where I was.
You have been coached by former world champion Graeme Dott. What is that like and can you give us an example of a lesson that you have learned from him that has stuck with you?
Yeah I’m still getting coaching from Graeme. The first lesson I had with him was surreal. I go to his house and the next thing I’m in his snooker room getting a lesson from a former world champion. He’s such a down to earth guy as well.
My first lesson I was shaking like a leaf. Probably the most nervous I’ve been, but he put me at ease. I hit a few shots then he told me:
“I can’t teach you anything technically, you’re basically perfect. You cue and drive through the ball as well as anyone, you have a very strong game.”
To have a world champion telling me my game was strong and describing how he viewed my cue action, I can tell you I was in tears. Graeme has taught me more tactical and craft with the game. He describes things easily and makes sure it’s not too detailed, I remember him saying the game is difficult enough without making it more difficult.
As well as Graeme I have started working with Matt Andrews mentoring to help with my mental side of the game and I think that has given me more confidence to play the way I know I can play. It’s always good to have a former world champion and a mentor to have on the other side of a phone when your away on a tournament.
Away from WDBS you have also represented Scotland at European level and competed at Q School. What are your ambitions as a snooker player over the next few seasons?
My ambitions, improve my game, get better, learn and win tournaments, improve my rankings in both the Scottish Main Tour and WDBS Tour. Hopefully I can get into a position to get invited to more European events in the future.
What are your off-table interests and hobbies?
I love listening to music and I particularly like listening to Queen or 80s stuff. Friends are really important to me and I love socialising. I used to like playing golf before it all got too much for my body and I also was doing my teaching exams for playing keyboard before I stopped because of my hands. My interests now are being a dad to six-year-old Luca who also loves playing snooker taking him to the local snooker academy. He’s got the snooker bug I think.
How would you encourage other people with disabilities to get involved with snooker?
It’s so easy to get in touch with anyone from WDBS, through social media. It would be the best decision you would make. Players on the tour play for competition and also for friendships. It really is life changing for some players.
We wish William well and look forward to seeing him back on tour during the 2020/21 season. You can view all of his results at WDBS competitions so far here.