WILLIE THORNE has always been one of the most cheerful and friendly people on the snooker circuit so the news that he has attempted suicide over gambling debts and that he is suffering from prostate cancer will sadden many in the game.

Thorne has told his story in depth in the Sunday Mirror in a very personal account of his gambling addiction and his latest health problems. We wish him well with his battle against both.

The Great WT is a well-liked character who features in many of the circuit’s most told stories, such as the time he resumed 7-1 up on Drew Henry in the UK Championship and, ahead of the evening session, rather vocally booked a restaurant for 8.30pm only to be beaten 9-8 at close to midnight.

The ability to make fun of himself has been one of his endearing qualities but it should also be remembered what a fine player he was. The ‘Mr Maximum’ tag was for the 147s he made while practising but he was a heavy scorer in tournaments too and perhaps a little ahead of his time in an era where tacticians still dominated.

He appeared in sundry finals with one ranking title to show for it, the 1985 Mercantile Classic. The hardest defeat to take must have been the 1985 UK Championship final when his missed blue leading Steve Davis 13-7 turned the match, which he eventually lost 16-14.

Thorne has written in his own books that, but for being in the grip of gambling, he could have won more and he was certainly capable of doing so.

But what he did do was made the most of his personality to ensure a life as a well known, well liked figure long after his playing days were over.

He has appeared on countless non-snooker programmes, including Strictly Come Dancing, is a popular after dinner speaker and has also carved out a career as a commentator.

Away from the cheerful disposition he displays in public appearances he clearly has problems to overcome and he can be sure that his friends in the game will support him.