THE Commonwealth Games in July 2022 may seem like a long way away but for Alan Clyne they are helping to provide a long-term focus through the ongoing uncertainty.

The squash world no. 38 has, like many people, endured a frustrating year of cancelled tournaments and limited opportunities.      

At the age of 34 and having competed at the top end of the sport for more than 15 years, Clyne acknowledges he is coming towards the end of his career.

Having barely had cause to dig out his travelling luggage over the past 12 months, the Inverness-born player admits he may have considered calling it a day already were the Games in Birmingham not looming tantalisingly in the distance.

Clyne has competed in the three previous editions of the multi-sport event and finished just outside the medals with doubles partner Greg Lobban on Gold Coast in 2018.

The chance to go one better and get a place on the podium therefore continues to fuel Clyne’s commitment.

“I’m at that stage of my career when I don’t know how many years I’m going to have left,” he admitted.

“And when you’re missing out on tournaments it’s tough. At the start of the pandemic last year you didn’t know just how long it might go on for.

“I started to think about how long I could wait it out for or whether I should start to think about looking to do something else.

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“I can see why a lot of athletes might have quit during this period as it’s tough to keep going, especially financially when you’re missing out on tournament earnings and with no league matches on and no exhibition opportunities to support you. I’m just grateful to Scottish Squash for their help during this period.

“But the Commonwealth Games are coming up and that’s a really big thing for squash. I love that event and look forward to it every four years.

“I’m desperate to get a medal. It was close last time and we’ve already started training on the doubles courts at Scotstoun to try to prepare for next summer.”

Clyne’s first competitive challenge of 2021 will take place at the same venue as his last one in December.

Nobody quite loves squash like the Egyptians who boast a number of world-leading players in both the men’s and women’s game and a devoted fanbase to go with it. Clyne admits every trip to Cairo is like visiting a living shrine to the sport.

“We’re just glad to be able to have another tournament again after a long break,” he added. “And they really love squash in Egypt – it’s massive over there.

“When you step off the plane and walk to the terminal there are posters of all the leading players who all have major sponsors.

“And most of the games have big crowds who come out to watch. I remember a while ago playing in the university championships and it was live on television and being blown away by how big even a tournament like that was to them.”

Scottish Squash’s home is the Oriam national centre in Edinburgh where current neighbours include the Scotland rugby team preparing for their Six Nations matches. Normally that would present a chance for a quick hello from one running machine to another but in Covid times sadly all social contact is out for now.

“We’ve been able to train pretty much as normal at Oriam in the last wee while which has been a big help,” added Clyne.

“The Scotland rugby guys are in just now too and they’ve got a nice set-up where they do all their video analysis and the rest.

“I’ve not really had a chance to talk to any of them this time as our gym sessions are maximum six people at a time. Before Covid you had people from all different sports in there together and you’d get a bit of interaction so I’m missing that part of it.”

Plotting the rest of the year remains a precarious business but Clyne is hoping the calendar will start to fill up.

“You really want to be able to plan and say, “I’ll play here and take a break here” but it’s just been training, training, training with the occasional tournament.

“We’re so used to having the calendar in place months in advance but now it’s about having to adapt. But it’s looking like the schedule could start to get a bit busier. There might be one or two bigger events over the summer so it’s looking more promising.”

In normal times Clyne would be preparing for a visit to Hampden to watch his beloved St Johnstone take on Livingston in the Betfred Cup Final. Instead he will need to settle for watching it on TV with wife Olivia Blatchford, the world number 13.

“The last time Saints were in a cup final in 2014 my wife and I were there and it would have been great to go to this one too. But we’ll be watching from home hoping they can lift another trophy.”