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John Virgo pays emotional tribute to Willie Thorne

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Snooker stars pay tribute to legendary Willie Thorne

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Willie Thorne (left) and John Virgo commentate during the The Masters at Wembley Arena, London (Photo by PA Images)

John Virgo has paid an emotional tribute to his close friend and colleague Willie Thorne, who passed away on Wednesday aged 66.

Thorne, a stalwart of the sport for more than two decades, was diagnosed with leukaemia in March and was taken to hospital last week with dangerously low blood pressure.

It was revealed on Tuesday that he had been placed into an induced coma after suffering respiratory failure and he passed away in the early hours of the following morning.

Virgo, 74, played alongside Thorne during snooker’s 80s boom and the pair subsequently formed a formidable commentary duo as part of the BBC’s coverage of Triple Crown events.

“I’m just gutted, you know,” Virgo told Talksport. “You meet people in your life that just light up the room when they come in and Willie was one of those people.

“The fact we were born on the same birth date, the 14th of March, we always had that affinity.

“I’ve known him since I was 14. It’s just terrible, the fact you won’t be in his company again, you won’t see him again, it’s a real blow.

“On top of everything that’s been happening this year, it’s put the last nail in for me. It’s just terrible news.

“His other nickname was ‘The Great WT’, he was a larger than life character, if you went out for dinner with him you knew you were going to have a good night.

“There’s not many people you can say that about consistently and that’s what Willie did, he shone a light on everywhere he went because he was a character and great company.

“He moved to Spain thinking he was going to start a new life now he’s taken away and I’m really sad and upset.”

Thorne was a former ranking event winner who reached a career-high ranking of world number seven in the 80s and 90s.

Renowned for his fluent break-building, he compiled 126 competitive century breaks, including a 147 in the 1987 UK Championship, acquiring the nickname ‘Mr Maximum’.

Thorne retired from professional snooker in 2001 but made several subsequent appearances in World Seniors events and became an established television commentator.