• Neil Jones captained England's B1 team to medal in over-50s Masters category
  • Won lottery just before Christmas 2010 with partner Julie Kirkham 
  • Stoke-on-Trent local dedicated achievement to his late farther 

An English pool player who bought a table with his National Lottery winnings has won a bronze medal at the European championships.

Neil Jones captained England's B1 team to the medal in an over-50s Masters category in Qawra, Malta, earlier this month, having been given a trial for the national side in 2021 after honing his skills through the Covid lockdowns.

The 59-year-old from Stoke-on-Trent won £2.4milllion with his partner Julie Kirkham just before Christmas 2010 and made a pool table one of his first purchases.

After failing to make the team in 2021, he was selected this year and came up against other home nation sides and teams from France, Spain, Belgium, Ireland and Gibraltar.

England B1 beat Wales B 13-12 in the quarter-finals, before then losing 13-11 to Wales B1 in their semi-final, who themselves were defeated by Scotland B in the final.

Speaking after returning to his home in Stoke-on-Trent, Mr Jones said: 'Firstly a huge congratulations to the team and thank you to my teammates - Bob Philpot, Andy Marples, Gaz McCloud, Michael Hunt and Mark Warnes.

'It was the first time I had experienced the honour of pulling on an England shirt at a major championship and, to add to that, I had the privilege to be captaining my country.

'I was very nervous but the team pulled together and, after finding our form we beat some excellent teams before coming up just short in a tight match against Wales B1 in the semis.

'At the time of the semi-final loss, we were all gutted but, upon reflection, if you'd have offered us a podium place when we left home we'd have jumped at it. It was the most amazing journey and I can't believe that we won a medal. I am so proud.

The retired tiler had played pool as a junior but at the time of his Lottery win was also a part-time singer in pubs and clubs, having just £13 in his pocket before turning in his winning ticket.

The win meant Mr Jones could retire early and spend all his spare time playing the game.

He slowly climbed the ranks to become a regular county player before making the national team this year, thanks to the 'thousands of hours' of training he was able to put in after winning the Lottery.

Mr Jones added: 'The (Lottery) win allowed me to retire and practise, which I couldn't have done while I was still working. I also couldn't have afforded a professional-grade pool table before the win.

'Winning the National Lottery put me on this journey and when I think back to when I won, 13 years ago, I would have never thought all this would have been possible.'

Mr Jones also recalled the moment he won the life-changing lottery and didn't believe it at first.

'There were no words. I was checking the ticket for 45minutes. It was all on Ceefax back then. Julie rang Camelot and they said, "Are you sitting down? You're the only winner and it's £2.4 million",' he recalled.

'It took about 18 months to sink in. It was absolutely amazing, fantastic. It's a cushion - when a bill comes through the door, you know you can pay it.'

But Mr Jones said his millionaire status has not changed the way his friends at the pool club see him, saying they respect him for his talents, not his money.

He added: 'It's a completely different life, but anyone who knows me knows I'm grounded. Down the pool club, it's not a big deal, no one mentions it.

'It's about what you can achieve, because money can't buy you an England place.

'I respect money - if you've never grafted for money I think it can slip through your fingers, but we've never been those kind of people, we've always worked.'

Mr Jones' current pool club, The Plaza in Fenton, Staffordshire, is home to several international pool players, with owner Adam Davies an ex-world champion, and some of Neil's fellow members also England players.

The lottery winner dedicated the medal win to his late father, adding: 'I just wish my dad was still here to see what we've done. This medal is for him.'

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2023-11-20T09:49:39Z dg43tfdfdgfd