Barry Stark on coaching ‘son he never had’ Kyren Wilson, training Reggie Kray and taking on The 900 at 80 years old
'I've had two daughters and Kyren has been the son I've never had.'
Barry Stark is not certain his two new knees will allow him to keep up with the fast-paced action of The 900 this week, but he is not using that as an excuse as he has a crack at the event at 80 years old.
He has also long been a player himself, though, spending time as a professional in the 1990s and he’ll chance his arm at the one-frame event live on television this week.
On whether he’ll be comfortable with the 20 second shot clock, Barry told Metro.co.uk: ‘I’ve got two new knees, so I’ll withhold judgement on that one. I’ve had two replacements, but I’m alright, I’m not listing it as an excuse.
‘I’ve been a PE instructor for lots of years, sport has been my life so it’s just wear and tear. Too much football.
‘But snooker has been a passion of mine for a long time and to get these innovations can only add to the entertainment value. It suits some players better than others, but it all promotes snooker, that’s my view, it’s great stuff.’
Stark’s knee problems are partly down to a remarkable 35 years spent in the prison service teaching physical education.
That kind of experience sounds like a rich vein of anecdotes, and one very notable one sprung to mind.
‘I suppose the most famous one would be Reggie Kray,’ said Stark. ‘He’d come in my gym and work out and then come in the office and say: “will you check my pulse boss?” I had a good working relationship with Reggie Kray, shall we say.
‘I had some hairy moments in there, but some very, very good times as well.
‘I used to be an instructor of control and restraint of violent prisoners, instructing the staff on how to deal with the inmates. I’ve had a few injuries over the years doing that. There’s a certain amount of judo holds that you learn. Physically restraining people without doing any damage, there’s a knack to it.’
After playing snooker in his youth, Stark took the game back up later in life as a very decent club player who was sponsored by a local businessman to have a go at the pro game in 1992, but it was coaching he was really passionate about.
Barry explained: ‘He’d seen me play locally and said he’d sponsor me to go pro. I said, “woah, woah, woah, I know what’s out there!”
‘I was well into my 40s at this stage, not good enough to earn a living, but I did know about coaching, I’d worked with young Anthony Hamilton when I moved to Nottingham.
‘So I sat the coaching exam under Terry Griffiths, Geoff Foulds and Jimmy Chambers and old big head here came top! They took me to Dubai, China, Thailand, Germany, Malta, it’s been wonderful, good fun. I’ve actually got an open invitation to go to Russia at the moment, would you believe, but I’m putting that one on hold for now.’
His great success story has been Kyren Wilson, who Barry has known since the man known as the Warrior was a schoolboy and helped take him to World Championship and Masters finals.
‘I was up there yesterday with him, funnily enough, putting a new tip on,’ Stark said of Wilson. ‘I’ve known him since he was 13 or 14.
‘He’s got his brother on board a lot now. I showed his brother what to look for, with any flaws or anything. What would he want an old fogey like me travelling around with him? You only get one life, you’re here to enjoy it.
‘I’ve had two daughters and Kyren has been the son I’ve never had. He says I’m more like his granddad than his father, but it’s good fun with Kyren.
‘It works well with Kyren because I’ll see something and suggest something, he’ll go away and try it and either like it or say, “do you mind if I actually swap back?” Not at all. He’s the fella holding the cue, he’s got to do what’s right for him.
‘Pro-wise at the moment I’ve also got Elliot Slessor and David Lilley seeing me, just sorting little problems out for them and guiding them in the right direction. It always comes down to them and how much work they put in. They’re the people with the cue in their hands, I can only see what I see.’
It would be some achievement if Stark could pull off some wins this week at The 900 in his ninth decade, but he is certainly not putting much pressure on himself to do so.
‘No I don’t play competitively much now,’ he said. ‘I do a lot of coaching and I take some of them to the Northern Snooker Centre in Leeds for Pro-Ams, while I’m there I think, “well I’m not going to sit here all day waiting for you to play, I’ll enter myself”.
‘But I’m 80 now, I’m under no illusions on my ability. My forte is coaching.’
Stark is in action alongside the likes of Peter Lines, Andrew Norman and Maria Catalano this week at The 900, live on SportyStuffTV from 10pm Monday-Wednesday.
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