Name Neil Wheatley
D.O.B - 1936
Nick Names – Acechopper
Style of play – mainly defensive, with occasional attack if opportunity presents
Blade – TSP Cito FT Offensive
Rubber/s – Tibhar Super Defense. Meteor 8512 long pimple, both with 0.5mm sponge
How old were you when you first played TT – 14
How did you start & where – Harborne YMCA. My dad was Secretary and an excellent defensive player, with a lethal backhand chop
Who have been your coaches – My dad refused to coach me as he said we would argue. Instead he nominated another YMCA member, Alf Lever, who taught me the basics, especially the importance of keeping the ball on the table. I got a lot of help from England Coach Jack Carrington, but via his coaching manual. I also owe a lot to Ray Barton, a fellow veteran, who, when we were at Birmingham Sports Centre, spent hours helping me to perfect the use of combination rubbers.
Current coach – Having been an ETTA coach since 1983, I now try to pass on advice to Colebridge members, young and old. Occasionally, one or two take it.
Current clubs – Colebridge since 1989.
Previous clubs – Harborne YMCA, RAF Association, Birmingham Insurance, Trade Loose Leaf, Birmingham City, Birmingham Sports Centre.
What is your greatest TT success. Not sure how to measure that. I have won lots of local league and tournament trophies in my time, but I got the greatest kick when, playing for Colebridge in the Veterans National League, I defeated Bill Grant who was ranked over 150 places above me – the only VNL match he lost that season.
What is your greatest TT disappointment As Chairman of the B&DTTA Development Committee, when, after 18 months of hard negotiation and successful fund raising aimed at converting a redundant school hall at Stockland Green Leisure Centre into the Birmingham Table Tennis Centre, the project was ‘killed’ at the eleventh hour by a new school deputy head, who felt that the hall would be of more benefit if it was converted into a private study area.
What players do you most admire Locally – Ian Ferguson, who was a multi-talented red mophead when I came across him on joining Colebridge, and whose record since speaks for itself. However, we now have a young pretender to his crown in Amann Ubhi, whose shot making is often breathtaking and whose progress in the short time he has been playing, demonstrates how hard work in practice can pay dividends.
Nationally – Liam Pitchford –another talented youngster whom I consider to be a shining example to all aspiring young players
Internationally – I used to enjoy Chen Xinhua for his amazing defensive skills, and Jan-Ove Waldner for just about everything, but nowadays it is all about attack and there are so many fine players. If pushed I would probably opt for any European capable of giving the Chinese a run for their money.
What is your favourite;
Food/Drink. Anything my wife puts in front of me. I don’t know a better cook. Her roast lamb and mint sauce is awesome.
Film/Actor – Film. Ben Hur. Actor. John Wayne
Music/Song – My musical tastes vary. I love classic film scores, especially ‘Born on the Fourth of July’ and ‘Gettysburg’, and classic jazz, especially Louis Armstrong Hot Fives and Sevens.
Holiday Destination ? Anywhere there are mountains and lakes
What other sports do you enjoy ? Football and Cricket. I played both until my late 30s
What is your TT ambition ? To see Colebridge housed in larger premises, so that its full potential can be realised.