AN ‘inspirational’ snooker player who represented his country in the game he loved has been fondly remembered following his death.

Blackburn’s Steve Longworth turned professional in 1984 before reaching the quarter-finals of the 1986 UK Championship and the last 16 of the World Championship a year later.

He died aged 73 surrounded by those he loved on Sunday, October 10, at the East Lancashire Hospice in Blackburn after being diagnosed with cancer earlier this year.

Former practice partner John Harrop described Mr Longworth as ‘the best snooker player Lancashire ever produced’ in a touching tribute to his friend.

Legend of the game, former world champion Dennis Taylor, who lived in Mellor and Blackburn for many years, has also paid tribute, saying he was ‘so sorry to hear of his passing’.

Describing him as an ‘excellent snooker player’ he added: “When I came to England 55 years ago, I practised a lot with Steve and his dad Harold. Condolences to all his family.”

Mr Longworth was well known in and around Blackburn and East Lancashire, with friends and fans sharing stories of the times the came up against him both for fun and competitively.

Mr Harrop said: “He was a great guy to know and I was privileged to have been able to spend every day practising with him and partnering him in competition, in the game we both loved.

“Today’s players are pretty one dimensional, but Steve was such a superb all-round player, safety and big break building, his game would still be a force today.

“Steve was told he had cancer earlier this year and passed away with his wife Madeline and daughters Patricia and Sarah with him at East Lancashire Hospice.

“The best snooker player I ever knew, and I know them all.”

Daughter Patricia Longworth added: “He was the best husband and dad.

"We are going to miss him more than he will ever know.”

Tributes have also been paid on social media, with one man describing Mr Longworth as ‘One of Blackburn’s sporting greats’ while another said he was a ‘class act’ and a ‘true gentleman’.

Another read: “Steve was indeed a very special player, strong in all areas.

"I was fortunate enough to witness him winning the English Amateur Championship in Blackpool, he was some match player.

“Some great memories of a very genuine and talented man.”