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Willie Thorne: Ken Doherty shares tales of the snooker legend
Doherty on Thorne: "He was very much loved amongst the snooker fraternity. He was a great character, he was a great player"
Last Updated: 18/06/20 3:40pm
Ken Doherty says Willie Thorne was one of snooker's great characters following the sad news of his death at the age of 66 after a short battle with illnessat a hospital in Spain on Wednesday.
Thorne, who announced he was battling leukaemia in March, had been placed into an induced coma in hospital over the weekend after suffering respiratory failure.
A message on Thorne's GoFundMe page, which had raised more than £17,000 towards his care, 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."
I hope he gets the send off he deserves because he's been a great ambassador for Leicester and for snooker all over the world.
Ken Doherty on Willie Thorne
Doherty, the 1997 world champion, hailed Thorne as one of snooker's all-time legends having worked alongside him as commentator.
"He was very much loved amongst the snooker fraternity. He was a great character, he was a great player, and I had the pleasure of working with him in the commentary box which always made me laugh," Irishman Doherty told Sky Sports.
"Our best times were when we used to congregate up in Sheffield ahead of the World Championship and we'd go out for dinner with Dennis Taylor and John Virgo who were big friends of his for many, many years.
"Myself, Stephen Hendry and John Parrott loved to be in their company just regaling stories and Willie was an old raconteur of the old stories and he had so many of them.
"He was just genuinely a good guy and it's so sad that he was on his own there in Spain. He will be sadly missed."
Thorne was once afforded a place in Chas 'n' Dave's 'Matchroom Mob', which hit the charts with the song 'Snooker Loopy', lamenting: "Old Willie Thorne, his hair's all gawn..."
He was haunted by his error in the 1985 UK Championship final against Steve Davis, when, leading 13-8 and on the verge of extending his lead to within two of victory, he missed the simplest of blues off its spot.
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 loss to Davis, he won his first and only world ranking title, beating Cliff Thorburn to lift the Mercantile Credit Classic.
"I grew to know him more when I was in the commentary box," Doherty said. "He came out with some great lines and he coined the phrase 'careless'. Ronnie O'Sullivan might make a maximum in five minutes and 20 seconds and then he might miss a black off the spot in the next frame and Willie would say 'well, that's just careless'.
"I remember one story when he was playing Drew Henry at the UK Championship and he was 7-1 up in the first to nine and they were coming back for the evening session at 7 o'clock. He only needed two more frames for a place in the next round and somebody said 'Willie, this player you're playing he is not going to give up. You're going to have to scrape him off the table' and Willie looked at his watch and he says 'well, he's got about an hour because I've got a table booked for dinner at 8 o'clock'.
"Unfortunately for Willie, then guy came back and beat him 9-8. We never let him live it down. We gave him so much stick over that one."
Gary Lineker led the tributes to Thorne, who was a big Leicester City fan and Doherty said one of his proudest moments was when they were crowned Premier League champions in 2016.
"He loved his football and he was very fond of Gary Lineker. He used to speak about him and especially how good of a snooker player he was but he loved his football, he loved his horse racing, and he was very passionate about his snooker," said Doherty, who was nicknamed 'The Darlin' of Dublin'.
"I hope we can give Willie a really good send off. I know it will be difficult in these times but I really hope at sometime in the future he gets a proper send off from all of snooker and particularly Leicester. I hope he gets the send off he deserves because he's been a great ambassador for Leicester and for snooker all over the world."
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