Dave Gilbert credits Andy Lee as ‘mega’ force behind resurgent form

Dave Gilbert will take on Stephen Maguire in the Crucible quarter-finals (Picture: Getty Images)

Dave Gilbert is playing as well and feeling as good as he has done in a long time, crediting the man he has dubbed ‘The Caddie’ for his resurgence on the table.

The Angry Farmer is into the World Championship quarter-finals after coming through qualifying and scoring impressive wins over defending champion Luca Brecel and Rob Milkins, now facing Stephen Maguire in the last eight.

This didn’t look likely as recently as March when Gilbert pulled out of the World Open in Yushan for personal reasons, with seemingly little hope of improving a forgettable season in its final months.

However, old friend and fellow player Andy Lee stepped in and refocussed the Farmer’s mind, quickly turning things around on and off the table.

‘I pulled out of China literally hours before I was supposed to fly,’ Gilbert explained. ‘Andy Lee came and saw me. Since then the last four weeks I have hit more snooker balls than in two years, probably.

‘He just said: “Come on son, let’s have a game. Let’s get to the gym. Let’s eat some good food.” That is pretty much it. A chat with your good old mate, who you’ve not seen for a while. It’s as good as anything.’

43-year-old Lee is an old friend of Gilbert’s, both growing up in the Midlands, and has just finished his third stint as a professional player after defeat in World Championship qualifying.

2019 Beverly World Cup - Day 6

Andy Lee is helping his old pal fulfil some of his immense potential (Picture: Getty Images)

He is now planning to turn his attention away from snooker, but the Farmer would love him to stick around in his new role as coach/practice partner/advisor as it is clearly paying off.

‘The Caddie has been helping me out a lot, he’s got me back playing and practicing,’ said Gilbert. ‘Been in the gym and eating good. I’ve told him he can’t ever leave me. He’s told me he’s off to get a job, but if we take it [the world title] down he’s going nowhere. He’s been a massive help.

‘I’d love him to start coming to comps with me regularly going forward. He knows me as a person, knows how I feel so he knows what to say and do.

‘A couple of things I like technically, he knows exactly what I’m looking at and thinking. He’s been mega. He went through the disappointment of losing in the World Championships and I thought he was going to leave me then because I know what it feels like. He said, no we’re sticking to the plan and we’ll see it through. I’m very grateful.’

Gilbert is bidding to reach his second Crucible semi-final (Picture: Getty Images)

Lee and Gilbert came up with a plan to turn things around when they looked at their most bleak for the Farmer, and the Caddie is delighted to see it come together.

‘Loving every minute of it,’ he told Metro. ‘I didn’t know how it was going to pan out, but it’s gone beyond expectations. I’m just enjoying the ride.

‘I knew I was finishing playing after the Worlds. I committed to the plan, so I was never going to let him down and he’s done great. Credit to him. He’s put in all the hard work. As long as he committed to the plan, that was enough for me, it wasn’t about winning or losing.

‘I’ve been fortunate I’ve been able to help him. It’s nice that he trusts my opinion on and off the table. It’s nice to have a relationship where I can be a confidant on stuff.

‘He doesn’t need any coaching. Dave’s a far better player than I am. But it’s nice for him to lean on me for things, I know what he’s looking for. I’ve been quite involved on the technical side as a player, I’ve picked up a few things along the way, if he feels like he wants to ask me things I can have an input. If he feels ok there’s no need to fry his brain with anything though.

‘I didn’t want to stay after losing at the qualifiers, it’s been tough, but I’m a man of my word and I’m committed. Hopefully we’re here till the end.

‘I’d already decided I wasn’t carrying on playing, so it’s been a nice retirement present for me so far and long may it continue for another seven days.’

Lee has spent a life in snooker, first turning pro in 2008 before moving to his parents’ home country to represent Hong Kong, but as soon as his adventure with Gilbert is over he is switching careers entirely.

‘I’ve got a job with the home office, in immigration as a policy officer’ Lee said. ‘I actually applied in August and it’s worked out nicely. I’m still waiting on a start date but it’s worked out nicely that I can support Dave on this Crucible quest before I go and do that.’

Lee did remind his pal that if they land the £500,000 top prize together at the Crucible, all this will not come free of charge.

‘The invoice is going in, he just hasn’t realised yet,’ Lee joked. ‘I’m pricing it up as we speak.’

Their quest continues with Maguire in the quarter-finals over three sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Crucible.


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