“It saddens me considerably because he was a good friend over so many years, albeit in recent times at some distance because of personal circumstances. The incalculable loss to the game, however, of this most remarkable teacher is what grieves me more so. Malcolm has been the No.1 teaching coach in world squash for an eternity.
“The seeming facility with which he turned out promising young squash players is unmatched. The Willstrop stamp has always had very certain elements; beautiful striking of the ball, freedom to express, creativity at its core, an ease of movement and most importantly, all underwritten by a code of conduct on court in such a gladiatorial sport that remains so vividly manifest to this day with his inestimable son, James.
“I had the pleasure of a telephone chat with Malcolm last December (such a short time ago) where I spilled out to him my particular pleasure at yet another masterly display and a winning outcome (in Egypt) from ‘The Marksman’.
“During our comprehensive chat, I said I fervently wished for the good of the current game that James was the World Champion – he embodies everything that his father considered key to such a wondrous sport – no disrespect to those other terrific performers. Malcolm’s son still treading the boards remains a reminder of the sheer beauty of our game when played with some consummate skill and adherence to impeccable behaviour.
“I first met Malcolm when he brought his first son, Christy, to me at the West Warwicks Squash Club in Solihull. His reputation had preceded him and I was aware that he was of very strong opinion.
“Our bond was a passion for squash and despite the inevitable disagreement and our rather subjective views on what was required to go the distance, the mutual respect was evident from the outset and our contact has been maintained from that day.
“I have never fully understood how Malcolm was able to teach the multitude who came under his wing to strike such a good ball. Without any shadow of a doubt he has been the very best teacher in the world game for nigh on 50 years.
“His stepson David Campion, now national coach, was such a lovely player and the veritable host of talented juniors nurtured at the Pontefract club, with young Sam Todd, emerging as a prime contender in world junior competition, being part of that eternal process after former World No ones Lee Beachill and James himself.
“And not forgetting the small army of Yorkshire success and of, ultimately, England. Wherever Malcolm would travel to live for any period of time, squash would almost immediately be the beneficiary. A sojourn in Norfolk introduced Gawain Briars to our sport and led to national and international success.
“Had every county in Great Britain had a Malcolm Willstrop (an unbearable thought, as I said to him, for many!) squash in our land would still be vibrant and there would be adversaries for the presently all-conquering Egyptians.
“We all have our flaws. Malcolm, as I saw him, was a difficult man who planted his flag in squash and adhered to an especial mantra. The loss to the world game is incalculable. He was and will remain in our history.