A rising squash star from Whitefield is preparing to take on the best young players in the world at the British Junior Open.

Finnlay Withington is the current European champion and world silver medallist, and goes into the five-day tournament having recently won the British Junior Championships.

He was also part of the successful England team at the WSF World Junior Team Championships earlier this year.

The teenager, who will come up against the top young squash players from countries like Egypt, Netherlands, Pakistan, Malaysia, Colombia and India, is among the favourites for the under-19 boys’ section of the tournament, which gets under way in Birmingham on January 4.

He is among the top seeds and will be someone other players are keen to avoid in the draw as he looks to take his impressive form over the course of 2022 into the first major international tournament of the new year.

It is certainly a challenge he is looking forward to.

“I am feeling confident,” he said in the build-up for the Open, “but you always have to take these events as they come and take nothing for granted.

“I have been busy this last half of the season.

“It’s nice to spend time at home and work hard on getting sharp and fitter again.

“I’m looking forward to hitting the event very strongly.

“It would be an honour to do very well.

“Obviously potentially getting your name among the greats of the game is special.”

The British Junior Open is run by England Squash and the governing body is hopeful the return of the world’s oldest junior tournament after a two-year break due to covid-19 and the emergence of players like Withington can inspire future generations to take up the game.

“It’s a great sport,” said the youngster, who is now based in Heywood and trains at the Cheetham Hill Sports Club and Fairways Lodge, both in Manchester.

“It is amazing competing, travelling the world and doing something I love.”

His coach, Josh Taylor, added: “I am really proud of Finn.

“He continues to push the boundaries, doing things his way.

“I am always excited to see what he can achieve and have his back all the way.”

For more information, including how to watch the games online, visit: www.britishjunioropen.com.

* To find out how children can get involved in squash, visit www.squashstars.co.uk.