EME— Raising a racket

Despite being ranked number three in the world, Scottish squash player Peter Nicol isn’t very well known on homeground. He tells Lorin McDougall that he’s ready to grab

the top spot.

It‘s official -- world nttmber three Peter Nicol is. quite literally. twice as good as your average squash club player in Scotland. The 23-year-old Ieft-hander proved this with a vengeance dttring his recent Sqttash Clinic at Edinburgh Sports Club. which raised money for Children In Need. After a spot of coaching and a cottple of low—key exhibition matches. the highlight of the evening saw the Chingford-based Scot take on Mike Ramsay and Brian Tait in a two- against-one challenge. It was no contest. The local duo were huttrotrred momentarily before being pttt firmly in their place. Despite having to cover the entire court on his own. Nicol scetned to have so much more time in which to play his shots and rarely

appeared rttshed or hurried.

Although this superhuman display was rightly greeted with awe by squash aficionados gathered around the court. it was an event that scarcely registered in the consciousness ofthe Scottish sporting public. In an era dominated by talk of (iazza. ’l‘ownsend and I‘Iendry. even the third-best squash

player on the planet hardly rates a mention.

‘It is unfortunate that there is a lack of publicity for sqtrash.‘ admits Nicol. ‘It‘s just one ofthose things. and in a way it‘s good because I don‘t get recognised and can get on with my life quite easily and comfortably. I live in London anyway. so I don‘t notice what the publicity in Scotland is. Ilowever.

from a sponsorship point of view. it would be great to be supported by Scottish companies because I believe I could benefit them by doing well around the world. Sometimes I do feel as if I‘m being left ottt a little bit. and their backing would make me feel as if Scotland was behind me.‘

Back in I992. Scotland‘s first-ever victory in the European Team Championship in Aix-en-Provence gave the Inverurie lad his first taste of international success. However. Nieol's subsequent triumph in the British Championship and his steady climb up the world rankings attracted little attention. Even his second successive win at the prestigious Mahindra International in Bombay last month did not receive the praise it deserved.

‘Winning it last year was great. btrt to beat Rodney Eyles in the final after being so far down was tremendous.‘ smiles Nicol. ‘He's the world number two. he‘s pushing for the number one spot. so to beat him was fantastic.‘

Having got the better of the rugged Australian. the next target for Nicol and coach Neil Harvey is to dislodge the legendary Jansher Khan from his position as undisputed world number one. In November. Nicol lost to the Pakistani genius in the World Championship semi-final. but he remains positive. ‘The scores in that match didn‘t really do me justice I was actually very close to Ianshcr.‘ he argues. ‘He‘s a superb player and his experience is phenomenal. He cart slow the game down or speed it up whenever he wants to. so basically I‘ve improve every aspect of my game.‘

At present. Nicol is competing in the world-ranking Hartford ()pen in Connecticut as he sharpens his form for another tilt at Jansher Khan at the British Open in April. With so many players so closely matched. Nicol knows that his prospects in the squash equivalent of Wimbledon will depend on his mind as tnuch as his racket arm. ‘Mentally. I‘ve got to get stronger to push .lansher harder this year.‘ he says. ‘But I‘m close I‘ve just got to keep ptttting the work in and improving.‘

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Cup fever

Alex Horsburgh looks at some of the ‘David v Goliath’ battles thrown up in the third round of the Tennents Scottish Cup.

I Duntermline v Ross County In the first big-fish-versus-minnow tie. Highlanders Ross County aim to transfer their Third Division form into cup upset. Ex-I)ttnfermline stalwart Neale Cooper has driven the DingwalI-based team to promotion favourites and this will be an intriguing encounter. Ross County owe their ctrp exploits of the early 90s ~ v. hen they gttbbed Forfar 4-0 away. among others -- to good league status.

Paul Gascoigne and Gordon Butte ot Rangers after last year’s Tennettts Scottish Cup victory

while in the 60s the Pars appeared itt three and won two Scottish C up Finals.

I Hearts v Cowdenbeath Tom Steven. (.‘owden‘s boss. is a former Hibs player. which gives Hearts added incentive; bttt the ‘Blue Brazil' will be hoping to cause problems as in the I98! League Cup. when they took the .lambos to extra time before losing 4-2 on penalties.

I Arbroath \t Morton An improving Third Division side best known in the ctrp for a 36-0 win against Bon Accord in 1sz. Arbroath and their bracing sea-front stadium might prove a culture shock fora (ireenock team who have had little cttp pedigree in recent years.

I Kilmarnock v East Stirlingshire After struggling with non-league opposition in the early rounds of recent years. it‘s a bonus for ‘Shire

just to be going to Rugby Park. Fifteen

years ago. the Falkirk-based club reached the quarter finals before losing 3-0 to Celtic; a similar scoreline this year would flatter ‘Shire more than Killie.

I Clydebank V Oeltic Hard to believe this was the line-up for a semi-final in I990. Homeless and hungry for success. the Bankies are ground- sharing with Dtrmbarton and fighting relegation to Division Two. This would be front and back page news if they won.

I Bangers v St Johnstone The Goliath of Scottish Football (Official) meets the upwardly mobile gladiators ofthe First Division. When they met in the I989 semi-final. Rangers won 4-0 after a 0-0 draw. Had this match been at Perth. again it might have gone to a second encounter. btrt even rampant Saints will have to grow taller to win this tie against the holders.

I Airdrie v Raith The closest fight in weight. with Raith looking certainties for the drop from the Premier League. while the Diamonds rarely exit the cup without a battle. Finalists itr I992 and I995. Airdrie can win this one.

All ties will be played. weather permitting. on Sat 25 Jun at 3pm.

The List 24 Jan-6 Feb I997 73