Neil Wren is eyeing pool pleasure in Blackpool as he prepares for his European Championships debut this month.
And the Portsmouth potter has vowed to build on a memorable recent run in the sport’s eight-ball format, after establishing himself on the world stage.
The 42-year-old, who splits practise time between Copnor’s Mermaid Pub and a table at the bottom of his garden, reached the last 64 of the World Championships in 2015, before qualifying again for last year’s tournament – only to depart in the first round.
But having developed a taste for the big occasion, Wren was delighted to earn the right to compete against the continent’s best after travelling to the East Midlands to secure his place in the prestigious event, which starts on Sunday, February 12.
He said: ‘I am really looking forward to playing in my first Euros.
‘I played in the qualifying competition in Leicester at the 147 Club and beat Kenny Davis in the final 6-2.
‘He is a good player so it was really pleasing to win and to qualify.
‘It will be another great experience and I intend to enjoy it and do my best.
‘I’d like to get the opening match out the way and – if I can turn up for that – then I could get a little run going.
‘I have played in two world championships so I know what to expect, there really are some great players.
‘Having put so much hard work in over the last seven or eight years, it has started paying off.
‘In 2015 I came through six rounds to qualify for the main World Championship – I then won another three rounds to reach the last 64 in the world.
‘Then in 2016 I qualified again, only to lose in the first round, which has made me more determined.
‘Now qualifying for the European Championships, I don’t know what it is but I just seem to raise my game and concentration in the bigger events.
‘To qualify for three big tournaments three years ago is a big achievement for me and something I am really proud of.
‘But most of all I just love playing and competing and enjoy the game.’
Wren’s rise to the big stage has been made all the more remarkable by his surroundings.
With no eight-ball pool club established in the area, the Portsmouth talent – who represents Hampshire at county level – has had to travel the country to compete in matches.
The kindness of others, not least his sponsors, has played a big role in his success.
Wren added: ‘To be honest, there’s not an eight-ball pool club open at the moment but I have a pool table in my garden which is where I practise a lot of the time.
‘And I would also like to thank Arnie Larouge for the free pool practise he has provided me with at the Mermaid Pub over the last few years.
‘But I have to travel to all over to play in different competitions as I’m on the UK tour – be it Birmingham, Blackpool or London.
‘I also play for my county as well, and go to different counties and stuff.
‘With all of that in mind, I’d like to thank the Mermaid Pub, LAC decor and Pro Weld for all their support in helping me get to where I am today.’