David Gilbert has enjoyed a summer of tractor building, golf and DJ decks, but the Tamworth cueman now has his eyes firmly set on a return to the world’s top 16.
By his own admission, former World Championship semi-finalist Gilbert struggled to cope with the reality of the pandemic during the first half of the 2020/21 season. The turn of the year sparked a fresh approach and saw him embark on a fine run to the semi-finals of the Masters, beating Joe Perry and Kyren Wilson before bowing out against John Higgins.
Gilbert ended the season with a strong first round showing at the Crucible, beating Chris Wakelin 10-4. However, he came up short 13-8 in the second round against world number one Judd Trump. The season concluded with Gilbert losing his top 16 status and finishing the campaign ranked 23rd in the world.
Although Gilbert is now fixated upon regaining his place in snooker’s elite echelon, his first priority was to enjoy an eventful summer away from the baize.
Gilbert said: “I’ve literally just been chilling out. I’ve played a lot of golf. I used to play a few years ago, but went away from it. I’ve gone in and bought all of the latest and greatest kit, so I’m now that idiot with all the gear and no idea. I’m playing terrible, but really enjoying it. I’ve been on a trip away to Wales with the family and I’m going to St Ives, which was and will be nice. I actually started practising again and was really getting into it, but caught Covid which was very annoying. Fortunately, I’m out of isolation now.”
Former potato farmer Gilbert has a family background in agriculture and that seems to have rubbed off on his daughter Taylor, who has developed a fascination for tractors.
Gilbert’s daughter Taylor with Grandpa Kevin and Grandma June.
Gilbert decided it was only right to embark on a summer project of building Taylor her own tractor. His first task was to purchase a sit on lawnmower and with the help of his dad Kevin, he converted it into a mini tractor.
“My little girl is obsessed with trains and tractors, anything like that. I suppose it runs in the blood. My dad’s hobby is restoring old vintage tractors, so I bought a knackered old lawn mower and got him to do it up for her. It gave my dad a little project because he is retired,” explained 40-year-old Gilbert.
“I bought all the bits and he has fully restored a little lawnmower tractor. He just stripped the whole thing back to bare metal and gave it a full paint job. It took him about a month, but in the old days when he was a proper grafter he’d have done it in a week, he dragged it out! Being serious though, he’s done a really good job with it.
“We go on little rides up the lane behind us and she absolutely loves it. We are calling it Little Bud, because the biggest tractor in the world is called Big Bud. We just need to get a trailer, so when here mates start coming round we can tow them along the track and charge 50p a ride!”
Gilbert is well known for having one of the most recognisable walk on songs on the circuit with Insomnia by Faithless. The four-time ranking event finalist is a big fan of house and trance music and uses it to pump himself up in his hotel room before matches, as well as to unwind away from the match arena. In light of this, Gilbert’s wife Abi surprised him on his birthday with top of the range decks.
“Yeah my Mrs surprised me for my 40th birthday. I’ve always joked that I’d like to be a little DJ and have a go on the decks. I was shocked to open up these big pressies and find them. The best speakers money can buy, which are so loud, and a set of decks. I’ve been tinkering about with the decks, but I need a few pointers. There’s a local geezer, who calls himself Neville Bartos as his DJ name. I’m going to give him a couple of snooker lessons in return for deck lessons! Hopefully in a month or two I’ll be able to crank it up a bit. Maybe if there are ever World Snooker Awards again I might play at them.
“If I can ever suss it out and learn what I’m doing, then I’m always up for a party so it would be great to take the decks round somewhere and crank it up. Maybe I’ll put them on the back of a tractor or something and drive around with them playing. It could be DJ Farmer playing at Ushuaia in Ibiza in 2023!
“Before matches I just whack the music on and get the old school classics playing, a bit of house and a bit of trance. I put it on when I get in the shower and I’m getting ready. It just pumps me up a bit. You know what it is like, when you are in a pub and the music is on you move your feet and smile a bit. I just crank it up and get ready for the game.”
In terms of the day job, Gilbert is faced with a serious challenge if he wishes to return to the top 16 of the world rankings. A tough first half of last season impacted on his decline to world number 23, but he is now aiming to carry a refreshed attitude and approach into the upcoming campaign and scrap to climb the rankings ladder again.
“Last season was obviously disappointing, it probably was for a lot of people with all of the Covid stuff. Everything changed a lot. I just didn’t adapt to what was going on at all. It was all my own failings really. I wasn’t with it at all in the first half of the season and I’d probably have been better off staying at home, which is weird.
“From the Masters onwards I put a lot of time and effort in. I worked with a mind coach called Nick Davies to help free my head up and I did a lot with Steve Feeney on the table. I wasn’t back to as good as I can play, but it was definitely a lot better. I actually fancied a bit of a run at the World Championship. I had a good win in the first game but a poor second session against Judd cost me. It was nice to get a win in the first round at the Crucible though and I really enjoyed playing to a crowd.
“I was looking forward to practising again, because I have missed hitting balls. It was gutting that just as I had got going Covid hit me, but I’m looking forward to practising again now. Being out of the 16 kills me a little bit. We have lost some massive tournaments in China and the money I had to defend there really cost me. Moving forward, I want to get that top 16 spot back. I really like being in there and I want to get it back. I’m hungry and motivated. It is a massive challenge, but it was an honour being in the world’s top 16 and I felt I was rightly in there. It is going to be very tough to regain my place and catch the lads ahead, but I’ll give it my best shot.”