Willie Thorne: Gary Lineker leads tributes to snooker legend
Last Updated: 17/06/20 5:19pm
Gary Lineker has led the tributes to snooker star Willie Thorne, who has died at the age of 66 after a short battle with illness.
A message on Thorne's GoFundMe page, written by Thorne's carer Julie O'Neill, read: "It is with a very heavy and broken heart that I have to officially announce that at 1.55am this morning Willie Thorne lost his battle and passed away."
Thorne, who announced he was battling leukaemia in March, had been placed into an induced coma in hospital in Spain over the weekend after suffering respiratory failure.
Deeply, deeply saddened to hear that my friend Willie Thorne has passed away. One of life’s great characters. A marvellous snooker player and a lovely man, who’s potted his final black much too soon. RIP Willie.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) June 17, 2020
Lineker, who like Thorne was born in Leicester, was a long-time friend of the former two-time World Championship quarter-finalist.
The TV presenter said he was "deeply, deeply saddened" by Thorne's death, describing him as "one of life's great characters", adding in a tweet that Thorne was "a marvellous snooker player and a lovely man, who's potted his final black much too soon."
Snooker figures paid tribute to Thorne, with World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn describing him as "a larger than life personality and.. a major part of the rebirth of snooker (in the 1980s)."
Ronnie O'Sullivan, who two weeks ago sported a moustache at the Snooker Championship League which he claimed was in Thorne's honour, tweeted: "Just want to say what a beautiful man, big heart great company. Had a week in Ireland with him I'll never forget."
Stephen Hendry described Thorne as "one of my favourite people in snooker", adding: "I know he had faults and weaknesses (we all do) but he was one of the games greatest ever characters, I'll miss him."
Referencing Thorne's reputation as a prodigious compiler of maximum breaks, Jimmy White wrote simply: "Rest in peace Mr Maximum man x."
Thorne reached his first of two World Championship quarter-finals in 1982, where he pushed the eventual champion Alex Higgins, and three years later, just three months before his painful 16-14 loss to Steve Davis at the 1985 UK Championship final, he won his first and only world ranking title, beating Cliff Thorburn to lift the Mercantile Credit Classic.