Lotto win helps Neil pocket medal at European pool championships
A National Lottery winner who bought a pool table after pocketing a £2.4Million Lotto jackpot prize, has won a bronze medal at the European Pool Championships.
Neil Jones was appointed captain of the England B1 team ahead of the European Championships in Malta in November, 2023. In the face of tough competition from other home nation sides as well as teams from France, Spain, Belgium, Ireland and Gibraltar, his England squad narrowly beat Wales B 13-12 in a “pulsating” quarter-final match.
England’s amazing run ended in a tense semi-final against the experienced Wales B1 side which beat England 13-11 in what one observer described as a “titanic tussle”.
Speaking after returning to the UK with his bronze medal, Neil, 59, 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 championships 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, on 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 we won a medal. I’m so proud.”
Neil was a keen snooker player in his teenage years, but he didn’t pick up a cue again until after he won his National Lottery prize in 2010. He said, “I popped into the old snooker hall and had a go at pool and immediately had a feel for it. The guys asked me to play in one of the teams and I rose up through the ranks pretty quickly.”
After buying a pool table - one of his first purchases after his National Lottery win - Neil became a regular county player and got his first trial for the England pool team in 2021. The ‘Potter from the Potteries’ missed out that year, but was asked to trial again in 2023.
Neil was successful on his second attempt and had the honour of being awarded his England colours during a Home Nations tournament. After a solid debut he was chosen to represent England in the European Pool Championships as captain of the B1 team.
Reacting to his appointment Neil said, “I am so proud. To pull on an England shirt in any sport is every schoolboy’s dream. To be asked by your peers to captain your country…well I can’t put it into words.
“I just wish my dear Dad was here to see it. When I didn’t get through in the previous trials, I remember my dad saying, ‘don’t worry son, maybe next year’. He followed my pool playing and gave me lots of encouragement. Unfortunately, he passed away the following year, but I know he was looking down on me, following my every pot, cheering me on.”
Neil honed his skills at The Plaza Club in Fenton where he still plays. Although he’s now representing his country, he believes the social side of the game is just as important as high profile matches. He said, “It’s not just playing pool that I enjoy, it’s the people. The lads down my club, The Plaza, are just great. They are my mates, and we encourage each other which is brilliant because the place is full of amazing players.”
Stoke-on-Trent is a hotbed of potting talent and Neil is part of an illustrious group of top Potteries players who have represented their country. Adam Davies, owner of The Plaza, is an ex-World Champion. And some of Neil’s fellow Plaza club members are England players and champions.
Neil said, “Winning The National Lottery doesn’t just mean fast cars and luxury foreign holidays. For many normal, working-class people like me it means the opportunity to pursue your passions and your dreams.”
22nd November 2023
The National Lottery has been changing the lives of winners and supporting good causes across the UK since 1994. In that time, there have been more than 7,000 new millionaires created and by playing The National Lottery you raise over £30 million for good causes every week.Discover more