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Greg Lobban (left) celebrates beating Karim Abdel Gawad (right) during the 2020 Canary Wharf Classic

Lobban Aiming to Break Top 20 with Matthew’s Help

By RJ Mitchell

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Scotland No.1 Greg Lobban believes that his coaching collaboration with English squash legend Nick Matthew can carry him all the way into the PSA top 20 when the PSA World Tour resumes and beyond.

The work done by three-time British Open champion Matthew, with The Wolf’s long term coach Neil Guirey also heavily involved, have already taken the Scot from World No.35 to a career high of 22, as Lobban harvested a string of top 20 scalps prior to the COVID-19 pandemic enforced suspension of the tour.

Lobban was also keen to praise the support and advice supplied by the former World No.1 during the PSA World Tour suspension, which has only served to whet his appetite for his return to the boards while banishing any lockdown blues.

He says this has vindicated his decision to up-sticks and leave the ‘comfort zone’ of Scotland to settle in Sheffield so that he could be immersed in Matthew’s Hallamshire hub of squash excellence.

Meanwhile, Lobban was keen to reaffirm his commitment to Scotland, dismissing suggestions he could be tempted to play under a different flag by adopting the cross of St George in a move that would mirror Peter Nicol’s 2001 transformation.

“The first thing I would say is that when you look at everything Nick has achieved in his career, to have a guy like that in your corner gives you a lot of confidence,” said Lobban.

The Scot continued: “For me, Nick is very articulate in getting his advice over and obviously that is very important while he is very good at drawing from his experiences and taking the key parts from his time at the top and more importantly for me, the way up, to give me information that will work for me plus Nick is also always available .

Three-time World Champion Nick Matthew has helped Lobban scale new heights

“Obviously, Nick has a team working with him and it is great to be working with Neil Guirey, who was Nick’s old coach and their strength and conditioning coach at the Hallamshire Club, Mark Campbell, is also first class. Nick is just always on it!

“But for me to have all of that experience and help to tap into it is absolutely massive in terms of moving my career on. When I first joined up with them, I was around 35 in the PSA World Rankings and now I am at a career high of 22. That is a massive vindication of this being the right thing for me to have done and that the relocation to Sheffield where my wife Donna and I now live was the right move so to speak.”

There, have been those who have attempted to draw a parallel with Lobban’s departure from Edinburgh and journey to Yorkshire with the southern sojourn, almost 20 years-back, of former World Champion Peter Nicol, the Inverurie-born Scot who left behind the country of his birth to pull on an English shirt and went on to win three Commonwealth Games gold medals as an adopted Englishman.

Lobban reaffirmed: “I am aware that some people will and have already made comparisons with Peter Nicol when he moved South but the big difference is there is no way I will be stopping representing Scotland. I am a proud Scot from Inverness and there is only one flag I will play under.

“Obviously, Peter had his reasons for doing what he did, and it worked for him. Leaving Edinburgh and moving to Yorkshire wasn’t an easy call for me. That said, you only have a limited time span as an elite athlete and the last thing I wanted was to get to the end of my career and be saying: ‘If only I had done this or that’.”

But with squash gradually starting to come back to life, Lobban is understandably keen to get back to work with Matthew and continue his upwardly mobile trajectory.

“The next target for me is to break the top 20 and I guess it was a bit frustrating that the season came to an end when it did and I didn’t get the opportunity to do that last season. Ultimately though you have to focus on the process and trust in that to get you where you want to get to,” said the 27-year-old.

Lobban continued: “I have complete faith in Nick and Neil and everything they are telling me and jumping 13 or so places in the PSA rankings reflects that. They know what is required from me to break the top 20 and then go beyond and it is up to me to do everything I can to follow that instruction to the letter and make sure I am completely bought into the process.

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“The other great thing for me was that I have now claimed a few top 20 scalps and top 10. Obviously, the big one was Karim Abdel Gawad at Canary Wharf, but I was also pleased to beat Mazen Hesham there.

“At the Edinburgh Open, although it is not a PSA sanctioned tournament, I beat Paul Coll and Daryl Selby and I will take these wins happily.

“So, you take enormous confidence from that but also I know I am learning every time I am on court with one of these guys. Before suspension I had played James Willstrop, a former World No.1 at ToC in New York, Tarek Momen, the World Champion in Canada at the Troilus Gold Cup, Paul Coll, the World No.5 in Chicago and then Gawad and Mohamed ElShorbagy, the World No.1 in London at Canary Wharf.

“I learned an awful lot from these matches, and I am confident that in the new season I can use the experience I got from them to kick on.”

Going back to the beginnings of his collaboration with ‘The Wolf’, Lobban explained where it all started: “The whole thing came about early in 2018 when Nick was coming to the end of his career. I had a conversation with Neil Guirey at the ToC, if memory serves, and he mentioned that Nick was looking to go in the direction of coaching and sounded me out if I would be interested and it all sprang from that.

“From there, I think I became the first athlete to sign up with them and it is great the way it has worked. In Scotland I had enjoyed being based in Edinburgh and have nothing but gratitude for the help I had from everyone at Scottish Squash. If I’m honest I think I had become comfortable, got in a routine and a change was what was needed to bring some freshness and inject some vitality in me as an individual.

“But like I say it was the hard work by Scottish Squash that gave me the foundations to my game that in turn made me attractive to joining Nick’s set up and I will be forever grateful to everyone at Scottish Squash for their hard graft on my behalf.”

Looking forward, the Scot is delighted that the future is increasingly positive for a return of the PSA World Tour: “It is great that things are beginning to open up and that the National Centre in England opens this week and you can see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. That said you’ve got to be realistic, it’s one thing hitting a ball on court on your own and a completely different one the PSA tour resuming.

“Initially I was back home in Inverness before returning to Sheffield when it was safe to do so and we have done regular video analysis sessions plus brutal ghosting and cardio sessions in the parkland near Nick’s house, worked with a top sports psychologist and Nick has also learned more about me which is to both of our advantages

“Now the target is to be back on court in the next week or so for real but the break has helped rest and heal my body from minor niggles, mentally I am fresh and good to go and now I want it even more.”

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