Glasgow 2014: Friends united for Scottish squash cause

By Keir MurrayBBC Sport Scotland
Scottish players bid for squash team

They are the best of friends who share an ambition to represent Scotland at squash in the Commonwealth Games this summer.

However, it's unlikely Kevin Moran, Greg Lobban and Douglas Kempsell will all be able to live the dream.

They and two others are vying for the three remaining places in the Glasgow 2014 men's team, the final make-up of which will be announced on Tuesday afternoon.

Roger Flynn, national performance director and national coach at Scottish Squash, has by now made his final recommendations to Commonwealth Games Scotland, which ultimately makes the selection.

The women's team, where Team Scotland could have selected up to five athletes, comprises only two - Frania Gillen-Buchert and her doubles partner, Philadelphia-based Alex Clark.

Scottish Squash and Commonwealth Games Scotland have set the bar high. Flynn is energised by the skill and fitness shown by the young women in his junior excellence programme, but for now it's clear he sees only the vastly experienced Gillen-Buchert and Clark as a pairing that could secure a podium finish at the Scotstoun venue.

Alan Clyne
Clyne is Scotland's top player and has already been chosen for the team

"Our underlying philosophy is that we need to win things," said Flynn, a key figure in squash's development in his homeland, Australia.

"We don't just turn up at events to make up the numbers."

The men's team has more highly ranked players to choose from.

Scotland's top male player, Alan Clyne, and Harry Leitch know they are in the team already, which leaves assistant national coach Stuart Crawford, Aberdeen 24-year-old Lyall Paterson, like Clark now living in Philadelphia, and the three friends who train together at Heriot Watt University battling it out for the remaining spots.

Moran, ranked 136th in the Professional Squash Association World Tour, insists whoever gets the nod will be fully supported by the others not so fortunate to experience a home Games.

"We are all very keen and representing our country is probably the best thing that any of us would ever do," the 23-year-old from Paisley told BBC Scotland.

"But the main aim for us is to get a medal so, whoever is picked, we'll be helping them, because that's what it's all about at the end of the day - winning for Scotland."

His practice partners nod in agreement, but the grins that creep across their faces betray their individual hopes that it is they who get the chance.

"We spend a lot of time together, on court especially but off court too," says 21-year-old Lobban, from Inverness.

"We're close friends, but at the end of the day, there's a certain number of places.

"I don't think there will be any animosity between us. When the Games come, we'll be right behind whoever gets picked."

Former rugby player Kempsell, about to turn 21, continues the theme, adding: "We all want to support each other even though it will be hard to."

Harry Leitch
Leitch is the other Scottish squash player already assured of a Glasgow 2014 place

Last month, Edinburgh's Kempsell lost to Lobban in the final of the Geneva Open, the first time two Scots had contested a PSA World Tour final.

Lobban looks a good bet to join Clyne and Leitch in the team. At 75 in the rankings, he is the highest placed of his Heriot Watt-based contemporaries and that Swiss win was his third PSA title since joining the tour in 2012.

Crawford, 33, is in a curious position. As assistant national coach, his responsibilities tend to lie with developing the younger age groups. Nonetheless, he has to balance personal friendships with his professional role, a situation tested further by his partnering Lobban in the doubles.

The Ayrshireman credits Flynn for allowing him practice time with Moran, Lobban and Kempsell, who, when playing schedules permit, train together, socialise as a group and enjoy the odd game of five-a-side football together.

The trio talk about their incessant travels to gather PSA ranking points, often to Australia, Hong Kong and Malaysia.

"That's all we do every year - globe-trot," jokes Moran.

Lobban points out that they are all doing what they love - playing squash.

They all praise the facilities at Heriot Watt, to the west of Edinburgh, and are happy to benefit from the resources of the on-campus sportscotland institute of sport.

There they not only gain nutritional and psychological advice but tuition on minimising the effects of the sport on their lower body.

"Ankles, knees, hamstrings, hips. We'll need hip replacements when we're 40," says Kempsell, a suggestion met with knowing laughter by his friends.

Tuesday's team announcement at Glasgow's Hydro will bring elation to some of these supremely fit athletes and a different sort of pain to others.

Support for and from those left behind by Glasgow 2014 will be a mark of true friendship.