When Gary Wilson reached the World Championship semis at the Crucible Theatre in May 2019, he envisaged building his dream semi to live in.
Armed with a £100,000 cheque after overcoming a sturdy cast of cast iron cue men – including Sanderson Lam, Dominic Dale, Liang Wenbo, Luca Brecel, Mark Selby and Ali Carter – on his run to the last four where he lost 17-11 to tournament winner Judd Trump as a qualifier, the world number 18 opted to rebuild rather than move to a new house with fiancée Robyn.
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The dedicated Newcastle United supporter wallows in Wallsend in North Tyneside with as much passion as his potting, but cowboy builders sadly aren’t all part of the Toon Army as they continue to infiltrate society as much as coronavirus.
Having trouble using the extension is standard fare for snooker players, but not so much when you have to confront the issue beyond the table in what you might describe as a year in perdition.
Wilson vividly recalls how his grand designs began to rapidly deteriorate after the most memorable performance of his career.
“Basically, everything has fallen apart a bit since the World Championship,” said Wilson, who faces 15-year-old Ukrainian Iulian Boiko in the first round of the English Open on Tuesday evening. “I was aware at that time we were going to start doing the building.
Gary Wilson in action at the Crucible.
Image credit: Eurosport
“Everything was great. We had a great holiday in the summer. We’d been all around the world for three weeks and when we came back it was the end of July, the start of August when it started.
“Since then everything has been a complete nightmare. We’ve put in an extension where the garage used to be. It’s a semi-detached house so we are doing a whole lot of things to the house. It was either move house or get this one done up.
“We liked the area and we thought we’d do up the house the way it is. That’s the decision we made, but it’s been an absolute nightmare – I would never do it again.
“My mum and dad paid over the odds for a new kitchen and an extension at their place and it went very smoothly. They had a structure there when they knew when it was starting and when it was finishing. It was done in three or four weeks.
“If I ever done this again, I’d pay extra money to make sure it was done in a proper timescale. It has just brought countless problems.
“People are suffering badly from Covid-19 so I never think I’m hard done by, far from it. But it’s been going on a year now – an absolute nightmare. I’ve had problems left, right and centre with dodgy builders.”
Wilson admits he will postpone his wedding to Robyn if the global pandemic does not allow the wedding to go ahead safely in spring with guests allowed.
“The house had been a nightmare and then trying to organise the wedding with Covid-19 coming into it at the start of this year..
“It’s just been one thing after another,” Wilson told Eurosport. “Hopefully, the house will be done, Covid will calm down and we can look forward to the wedding.”
Wilson – and fellow tour professional Daniel Wells – tested positive for Covid-19 before the start of the European Masters last month despite being unaware he was carrying the virus as he was forced to withdraw and self-isolate for 10 days.
With guidelines updated to protect the safety and earning capacity of players on the World Snooker Tour, Wilson will not need to undergo another test before the English Open.
He feels like the past year has been one big test off the table as he’s been stranded in one bedroom and a microwave with his house resembling a building site.
Not so much Homes Under the Hammer, more DIY SOS.
“If you can imagine a semi-detached. We thought when we moved in, there was scope to rebuild,” explained Wilson.
“Downstairs was going to be a games room and cinema room rather than the garage, and upstairs there would be two new bedrooms. We decided we were also going to extend the kitchen. Basically, make the whole house the way we wanted it.
“Realistically, with a proper firm you’d be talking three months really, but the problems we’ve had with the dodgy builder and Covid outbreak, it’s dragged on for nearly a year.
“We’ve been living in the last six months in my bedroom. It’s just been past few weeks we’ve had the hob hooked up in the kitchen.
“The dishwasher and washing machine are getting hooked up this week so it is just this week that we’ve got the appliances working again. Before that, we’ve had the microwave at the top of the stairs in the landing. Just to make food has been a problem.
“It’s been very stressful and you get to a point where you feel like it has taken over your whole life. We are thankfully getting there now with it so touch wood it should all be finished, decorated and carpeted before Christmas.”
Wilson bravely rebuilt his cue action after dropping off the main tour in 2006 that forced him to work for food company Findus in a -18 freezer, behind the bar at his local boozer The Powder Monkey and settle into life as a taxi driver attempting to alter a technique that failed to stand up to the strain first time around.
He returned in 2013 to make good on his early promise by reaching the 2015 China Open final.
With 10 years behind him on a tour and at the age of 35 the best years of his career ahead of him in a sport seemingly made for hardened, unflinching men, he hopes recent times will soon be a bad memory.
His best performance of the 2019/2020 season was losing 6-5 to Zhou Yuelong in the semi-finals of the European Masters in January.
“It can’t be doing my snooker any good going to events with this in the back of your mind and all the stress it brings,” conceded Wilson. “You feel like you’ve got to be here to stay on top of it.
“At tournaments, it’s hard to switch off from it. There are worse things going on in the world, but hopefully it will soon be a distant memory.
“Like I say, I don’t know if I’d do it again – probably easier to get a new house.”
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