Alan Shillitoe

I am now the wrong side of 40, live just outside Cambridge and I’m a systems engineer for a defence company. I learned to play when I was at school in Essex at the age of 15. A few people were playing in the canteen (under the tutelage of future Lady Milne winner Audrey Hartley!), I was curious and got hooked.

I did manage to win the England Junior trials in 1998 with Ed Sheldon and then was part of the side that won the Junior Camrose, but I only ever played a few friendlies for England and never made it to a Junior Euros. Apart from partnering Ed, I partnered Catherine Jagger while I was a member of the U26 squad.

As my junior career was winding down I began to get involved with coaching the next generation. I was aware that they responded better to someone who was their age. Being a current international I was also able to get over the ‘uncool’ image that the game often has. Initially I was mostly involved as a local youth officer in and around Bedfordshire, but gradually became more involved on the national scene at the time Mel Starkings was running the U21 squad. I’d also started attending the annual Junior Teach-In and I’ve now done 18 in a row!

When Mel opted to give up running the U21 squad in 2006 I was asked to take over. I didn’t have the time to run it full-time myself, but I did know of someone who was perfect for the job and so I recommended some little-known player by the name of Michael Byrne. I continued to work with them, and we had some success with the group gaining silver medals at the World Championships in Beijing and Philadelphia in 2008 and 2010.

Then in 2015 the opportunity came to take on the U26 squad leaders job. We managed 4th place in Tromso 2015, the best result since the 1994 team won the event (as GB) but didn’t have a great World Championships the following year. However, we bounced back with an excellent 6th in Bratislava as all 4 England sides qualified for the Worlds in China next year. However, with the arrival in February 2017 of my first child (Joseph) I don’t have the time required to do the job properly so I’ve resigned that post and instead will be giving what time I have to help the U16 squad in an assistant capacity.

I’ve also been involved in developing the Junior Award Scheme that has proved very popular with pupils and teachers alike and in 2016 was proud to receive the Tom Bradley award for my contributions to Junior Bridge.

Away from the bridge table my major interests are running and cycling but I prefer being on two wheels including such events as the Etape du Tour (a mountain stage of the Tour de France), the Dragon Ride and even a 2000km charity ride across Europe with disabled servicemen. I’ll watch pretty much any sport and support Southampton FC. Life however, is incomplete without Test Match Special on the radio and a cup of tea in my hand!

I also enjoy DJing, especially house and techno but most electronic music in general. I’ll listen to most things if they are good though. I’ve also completed a degree in Sport Science which has given me a lot of insights and has informed my junior coaching and the development of the England junior structure as a whole.

Last updated: October 2017

Editor's note:
In 2015 Alan developed the Junior Award Scheme with Simon Barb of English Bridge Education and Development, and this was launched in the autumn of that year. This enables youngsters to reach different achievement levels as they progress through their bridge development.
In recognition of his contribution to junior bridge, Alan received the 2015 Tom Bradley Award, which was presented at the 2016 Summer Meeting.

Junior Camrose Selections: 1999