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THE ECCENTRIC GENIUS
"Iím not upset about France beating England, I couldnít give
a monkeys, because Iím about the whole game.
How did it start?
Greg, Iíve known for a long time, because heís played James many times through the years as a junior. He has travelled in cars with me, Iíve always talked to him, I know Andrť Delhoste [Gregory's and the French team's coach] very well. The word was, when he first went pro round the scene was that the senior players didnít like him because he was arrogant, not treating them with any respect at all.
So, what did you do?
When I went to Aix en Provence, I said to Andrť ďlook, the wordís round, and I donít think this is good, because it can be the loneliest life if nobody is talking to you. Would you like me to talk with him about it?Ē And I did go and sit down with him, and I said ďyou canít do this. You can compete against them, but you must treat them with some form of respectĒ and I talked to him at length about it.
The next time I watched him was against White in Qatar, he handled that well, and he was competing, lost 3/1, but he was fine. Then against Power in New York, TOC, he didnít really get to grips with winning the match, but played hard, did everything right, Power was too good. All that was quite soon after we had that conversation and I thought ďgood, thatís had an effect, and it will help him.Ē
So, letís get to itÖ
I can honestly say that the behaviour that he showed in that event is the worst behaviour that I can recall ever in squash. The only thing I can compare it with is an Australian boy called Ricky Hill, and that was 25 or 30 years ago. And I still think that Gaultier was worse. I thought, for a show piece, on a big occasion, that his demeanour was absolutely scandalous.
I have a problem in believing that Gregory is the only player who behaves badly, Malcolm.
Listen, when Jonathan Power has had moments (in the recent years, he hasnít been a problem at all), itís never personally directed at the other player. Itís about the ref, or generalised things, and the players are aware of that. When Gaultier does it, itís very personal. He mimicked Leeís shots, and he is very personal against the other player, and thatís what players dislike most. To be honest, I thought he was outrageously bad, and I stand by that, and Iíve no apology for what I wrote because in the end, the game of squash is more important than Gaultier or James Willstrop or Lee Beachill or any of them.
Did the circumstances (the event, what was at stakeÖ) play a role in your passionate reaction?
That didnít matter. Nothing to do with it. Let me assure you that because it was Lee Beachill was nothing to do with it, because it was England was nothing to do with it; because it was the game of squash at World level that was a lot to do with it, or was everything to do with it. And I thought, and I still say calmly and dispassionately, he was outrageous, he was a disgrace to the game, and he saddened me a great deal.
BLOCKING OR NOT BLOCKINGÖ
The video seems to show that Gregory wasnít actually obstructing Leeís shotsÖ
Thatís not right. The video lies. Because itís not true. But I wasnít talking really about the blocking either.
Well, most people who reported on the match said that the biggest problem was preventing Lee getting to the ball.
I donít think that that was the biggest problem, I think that was part of it.
Basically, did you feel, like a few journalists, that Gregory was cheating by blocking?
I never used the word cheating. I think that he was in the way, but I donít think he was cheating. I think thatís the way he plays. Both Gaultier and Lincou play square on. I was watching Lincou playing last night, every shot he plays is from a square position, and Gaultier plays exactly the same. And thatís why they are the hardest to get round. And thatís why the blocking occurs, but itís not intentional, itís his style. I never mentioned the word cheating, Iím not saying he cheated, I was only talking about his gross behaviour on court. I never called him a cheat, I just think his style leads to that. I donít think he is a terrible problem in that respect generally.
Do people in England generally share your views
in the matter?
The opinion of most high powered people, maybe they were just giving it to me because they knew I was not happy with it, was they thought his behaviour was as a disgrace as I thought it was. They are not likely to write about it because they donít do writing, but I did write about it because I thought very passionately and strongly about it.
But I was still quite rational about everything I wrote. If youíre talking to me now, it angers me the same way that it did then what he did. I have no time for him, I think he disgraced the sport, and he disgraced France, because the other players, Lincou, Lavigne, Arcucci, they are decent guys, I always got on very well with them.
I have the feeling you took it rather personally.
He is a French player, itís nothing really to do with me, and I made a big effort there to help him, out of the goodness of my heart. So yes, I feel a slightly personal let down by him, and I thought he did squash no good. I have always got on with him, James always got on with him and James lost a lot of respect for him that day. I remember giving him lifts, at the British Junior Open, always being with him, we invited him to Pontefract, he played in a match there, he was very well received, very well treatedÖ
Werenít you just disappointed that France
Iím not upset about France beating England, I couldnít give a monkeys, because Iím about the whole game. I love John White, I like Jonathan Power, I get on with a lot of people no matter what nationality they are, Iím not interested in that, Iím a universal person, and I want England to do well, because I get on with the people, but so what. Thatís not the first thing.
If Gaultier had been English, I would have written the same article; except I would have done my best to stop him. And if anybody thinks I acted from that motive, because it was Lee Beachill, think again.
Itís about squash, and I stand by everything I wrote and I think he was a disgrace.
And to conclude Malcolm Willstrop Week
and Finally ...
Malcolm talks about how he provides mental support to his players, Framboise puts the final questions, plus ...
Malcolm as you've never seen him before ...
Day Five was published on Friday 20th August
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