That good old Goat debate…

Over the years I have seen fans getting at each others throat over this and, albeit in a moderate way, I’ve been guilty myself. Now Worldsnooker … 

At the age of 42, Ronnie O’Sullivan enjoyed arguably the best season of his 26-year career in 2017/18. And when it comes to the debate on who is snooker’s greatest ever player, his recent success has shifted opinion firmly in his favour.

O’Sullivan first threatened to quit snooker when he was a teenager, and has done so repeatedly ever since. As recently as January, at the Masters, he talked of missing the World Championship in order to film a TV show in Australia.

In the end the Rocket did compete in snooker’s biggest event and although his bid for the 2018 Crucible crown was derailed after an ill-tempered last 16 clash with Ali Carter, few would write off his chances of picking up a momentous sixth world title in the future.

Throughout the season, O’Sullivan appeared to enjoy snooker as much as he ever has. He held the posture of a man who has nothing to prove, with a vast array of titles under his belt. While younger men strive under the pressure of establishing themselves inside snooker’s pantheon of greatness, O’Sullivan sits untouchable at the high altar.

He may downplay his ambition to take those records he doesn’t already hold (“records mean nothing to me” is his mantra) but the pursuit of those achievements is surely, deep down, what drives the satisfaction he finds in playing well and winning. The thrill is in the chase.

And how his fans around the world were thrilled in his brilliance last season, watching a sporting talent – who deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Lionel Messi, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods – in full flow. The Rocket clocked up more centuries in a season than ever before, more prize money and more ranking titles.

The man O’Sullivan has – many would argue – dislodged at the top of the pantheon is Stephen Hendry. During his golden spell in the 1990s Hendry set the bar for his most treasured record very high – winning the World Championship seven times. The Scot also set the benchmark for the most ranking titles, at 36. The latter – if O’Sullivan maintains his current form – will surely be broken soon. The former might prove much more difficult to match.

Judd Trump is tipped by many as the natural heir to O’Sullivan and he is comfortably the sport’s second biggest box office draw. He doesn’t doubt O’Sullivan’s motivation.

“Ronnie wants to break every record over the next three or four years and I think he is likely to get them the way he is playing,” said Trump. “He’s getting a bit older and I think he wants to target those records and beat them before he retires. He says he’s not really bothered, but I think that’s the only aim he has left in snooker. If he does get to seven or eight world titles, that will be enough for him.”

Eurosport commentator and journalist David Hendon has seen both Hendry and O’Sullivan win world titles throughout his career working in the sport, from his role as the WPBSA Press Officer to his current job in the commentary box.

Hendon said: “You can argue who the greatest ever is until the cows come home, and people do of course. A lot of it depends on what criteria you use. On titles, notably world titles, Hendry is still ahead. However O’Sullivan has one thing Hendry did not: longevity. Stephen retired at 43 because he felt he could no longer compete at the top. Ronnie is 42 and won five ranking titles last season. He is a long way from finished and his continuing reign at the top of the sport is unprecedented.

“I suppose in this way they are snooker’s version of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The Beatles did it all in a decade, the Stones are still going. The point is, they were both great, and it will take a long time before anyone threatens their status as the two greatest players ever.”

Commentator and snooker journalist Phil Yates believes that you must broaden your measures, to allow for talent and ability to be part of the conversation.

“As Hendry’s records have tumbled, so the debate has become ignited but it is all a matter of criteria,” said Yates. “Hendry has won more world titles at the Crucible and more world ranking tournaments than O’Sullivan. If you believe greatness is based purely on achievement, your vote still has to go to the Scot.

“However, if your definition of greatness is wider, incorporating other attributes such as longevity, talent, break-building, entertainment value and the way he moves the needle, it simply has to be O’Sullivan.

“He is top of the all-time century and maximum break makers list by a distance, there are over 24 years between his first and most recent ranking title and he heads the all-time prize money list. If you asked me this question five years ago, I would not have hesitated to say Hendry is the greatest. Now, I cannot be swayed from the view that O’Sullivan has surpassed him.”

Tale of the Tape
O’Sullivan v Hendry

5 World Championship Titles 7
7 Masters Titles 6
6 UK Championship Titles 5
18 Triple Crown Titles 18
33 Ranking Titles 36
948 Century Breaks 775
14 Maximum Breaks 11

Most centuries last season

Ronnie O’Sullivan 74
Judd Trump 74
John Higgins 58
Neil Robertson 57

Most ranking titles in one season

5 – Stephen Hendry 1990/91
5 – Ding Junhui 2013/14
5 – Mark Selby 2016/17
5 – Ronnie O’Sullivan 2017/18

O’Sullivan’s prize money last season

Hong Kong Masters – runner-up plus high break: £55,000
China Championship – quarter-finals: £18,000
English Open – Winner: £70,000
International Championship – Last 64: £4,000
Champion of Champions – runner-up: £50,000
Shanghai Masters – Winner plus high break: £153,000
Northern Ireland Open – last 32: £3,500
UK Championship – Winner: £170,000
Scottish Open – quarter-finals: £10,000
Masters – quarter-finals: £25,000
World Grand Prix – Winner: £100,000
Welsh Open – quarter-finals: £10,000
Players Championship – Winner plus high break: £130,000
World Championship – last 16: £27,500
Total: £852,000

So then?

Goat Debate

For me, it’s Ronnie as you might guess. Why? Well, in addition of everything mentioned above, here it is:

  • I don’t think that Hendry did have the type of opposition and challenge that Ronnie, John Higgins and Mark Williams gave each other over the course of a 25+ years career: they all three are still very much dominating the game, along with Mark Selby in recent years. Once the class of 92 came to age, Hendry sort of faded away. When he won the sixth of his World Titles, they were only 20 (Ronnie and Higgins) and 21 (Williams). Hendry only won two triple crown events after that, two out of 18, and to me it’s because those three became better than him, more complete players, they had learned from him, they had adopted his attacking ways, taken on board some of his innovating shots, but they also developed a tactical nous and a safety game that Hendry never really applied himself to.
  • And this leads me to the second point: all three of the  class of 92 have a remarkable longevity because all three were able and willing to change and to reinvent themselves. If you look at some of the great sporting figures at this moment in time, you have people like Federer and Valentino Rossi. You can’t sustain a sporting career, winning over decades, without making changes in order to cope with what the passing of time does to you: you gain experience but you suffer battle scars, you get wiser but you lose the fearlessness of youth. Hendry didn’t adapt, be it because he didn’t want to compromise or because he wasn’t able to, only he will know. But it cost him.

Don’t get me wrong, Stephen Hendry is a great, great champion, one of the all times greats most certainly. He forerver changed the way snooker is played and every player of today owes him for that. But in my eyes, he isn’t the greatest.

 

An article in the Chinese press

Ronnie is still in China actually, he’s currently in Shanghai and, apparently, very busy and very happy. He’s coming back on Friday, and back on the road next Monday for the second leg of his Irish Tour with Mark Allen. He’s looking forward to that one too!

Meanwhile this has filtered on weibo (google translation)

Liang Wenbo set up an exhibition match to return hometown friend O’Sullivan

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More stars will come to Huizhou in the future
Born in the northeast, Liang Wenbo grew up in Huizhou and eventually went to the world snooker stage. He gratefully acknowledged that he had started an exhibition match with Rockets O’Sullivan in the near future and stated that he will continue to invite more top stars to bring more exciting snooker feasts!

On the evening of June 16, 2018, the “Wonderful Huizhou· Wonderful Goose City” snooker world champion Liang Wenbo – O’Sullivan City Tour held its first place at the Jinshan Lake Stadium in Huizhou, Guangdong. A large number of Huizhou local audiences and billiard lovers at home and abroad visited the world championship. Snooker star Liang Wenbo from Huizhou to the world is grateful for this treasure in this way, and promised to make the competition a traditional project and bring many snooker superstars to benefit his hometown.

The theme of this event is “Grateful Huizhou Wonderful Goose City”. As we all know, Huizhou is the second hometown of China’s famous snooker star Liang Wenbo. Born in the northeast, he grew up in Huizhou and went to the world stage. Therefore, he also chose this as the first stop of the event to let more people pay attention to this treasure in Huizhou and expressed his gratitude to Huizhou. Feelings.

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In the afternoon of the same day, the new “Rock” O’Sullivan’s new book-sale ceremony was held. The most popular snooker player today has naturally attracted hundreds of billiard lovers to queue up for a bid. .

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At 8 o’clock in the evening, world champion Liang Wenbo finally staged the O’Sullivan’s exhibition match with great expectations. The unprecedented warm atmosphere also made both players excited. In the 4 games of the 4th round, the 2-2 draw between the two sides in the first half was tepid, after which O’Sullivan burst into power and ended the game with a perfect single shot of 121 points and 110 points. Atmosphere reaches a climax.

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In this event, CCTV’s famous billiard commentary, Mr. Jiang Yi, also made a special trip from Beijing to Huizhou. After the match, Jiang Yi also had a relaxed interview with the two superstars. O’Sullivan stated that Liang Wenbo invited him to visit his hometown on several occasions. This time he finally had the opportunity to realize that he knew how beautiful Huizhou was. city. He also did not hide his close friendship with each other. O’Sullivan admits that the two have known each other for more than a decade. In the past two years, they have frequently communicated and contacted WeChat almost every day. He even saw Liang Wenbo as his lifelong brother. The event ended successfully at 11pm.

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In an interview, Liang Wenbo told reporters that the successful organization of the event was just a beginning. They had reached a consensus with O’Sullivan and signed a long-term entry agreement, and from next year will also invite more top Snow. Star players bring more top-notch snookers to Huizhou. In addition, Liang Wenbo also said that the ticket proceeds from this event will also be used to establish a sports development fund that cares for his hometown, focusing on promoting the popularization and development of billiard sports in Huizhou.

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Exhibitions news … and naughty spirit.

Eventually some news filtered from the exhibition(s) Ronnie did in China. He was in the Hong Kong area seeing friends, amongst them Liang Wenbo as well as Patsy Cheung and her family who, in the past, have been closely involved in the organisation of the General Cup in Hong Kong .

HongKongVenue - June 2018

HongKongVenue - textJune 2018

This venue is actually the Huizhou Olympic Stadium

Both Huizhou and Hong Kong are situated in the area of the Pearl River Delta, a region that is densely populated but also offers some stunning scenery if what Ronnie shared on his Instagram is anything to go by. The pictures above were also shared there.

Anyway… Ronnie and Liang did an exhibition in Huizhou, which Ronnie won by 4-2, making two centuries in the process, 121 and 108.

Patsy shared some images and a short video on her Facebook page. The video shows Ronnie, almost disappearing behind a gigantic bouquet of flowers made his entrance in the venue… She also allowed me to share her pictures. Thank you Patsy!

And Ronnie was quite active on twitter yesterday evening and in naughty spirit! Indeed he suggested that he might get to 999 centuries and then stop making them until he feels in the mood to clinch the 1000th … He also claimed that his 5’20” 147 was “disgusting” – mainly because he wasn’t in control of the white and was playing recovery shot after recovery shot to keep it going – and should be removed from youtube!

Oh and he’s looking forward to go back to Ireland to play mark Allen and get a good  bashing at his hands… he also intends to leave the 147s to Mark and take care of the 146s

 

Pro-am and Charity – the Pink Ribbon 2018

PinkRibbon2018Poster.jpg

The Pink Ribbon is a pro-am tournament created by Paul Mount to raise funds for breast cancer charities and research. It started in 2010 and honours the memory of Suzanne Kay, Paul’s sister, who died from this terrible disease at a young age. It’s always played in great spirit at the excellent south West Snooker Academy home, the Capital Venue, in Gloucester, England. It’s both competitive and a lot of fun.

This is currently on the South West Snooker Academy Facebook

Pink Ribbon Charity Snooker Pro Am 2018
28th – 31st July
Enter now @ www.swsasnooker.com

It’s a Saturday – Day 1 start this year !!

Its the SWSA’s 9th annual Pink Ribbon. We are once again raising money and awareness for breast cancer. All funds raised will be donated to the Breast Cancer Now Foundation.

We are starting on a Saturday this year and once again all amateurs will be allowed to enter the draw twice!

Pink Ribbon Polo shirts once again is the dress code. You can buy them now through our SWSA Website.

The Holiday Inn Express Gloucester South (300yrd walk from SWSA) will also be offering rooms at a discounted price £70 per room per night.
Room are available from Fri 27th through to 1st Aug.
Ring 01452 726400 and quote ‘Snooker’ when booking

ENTER NOW at www.swsasnooker.com

Unusually it starts on a Saturday this year. It’s a great idea because many amateurs will be able to compete without needing to take a leave from work, unless they qualify for the pro stages. The pro stages start on the Monday, right after the Riga Masters 2018. Unfortunately it clashes with the Challenge Tour Event 2 …

The defending champion is Robert Milkins. Previous winners were Michael Holt, Mark Joyce, Stuart Bingham, Joe Perry, Peter Lines, Ronnie and Jamie Jones. Twice did an amateur reach the final, so they have a real chance.

Here is the album I made when Ronnie won it in 2015

Don’t hesitate to enter even if you play only occasionally and are not that good. It’s a great cause, an opportunity to see pro players close-up; they are relaxed and approachable. And if you don’t play, why not just come and watch. There will be plenty of good snooker played, by top amateurs and pros alike!

All players will be in pink… and so will the photographer.

Come and support!

Exhibitions and Charity – Jimmy in Lincoln, January 2019

Ronnie just finished a week of exhibitions in Ireland, and, personally I believe that exhibitions are just as important for the promotion of snooker as competitive tournament. They offer a more relaxed and fun approach to the sport and are a perfect introduction for a younger audience who, maybe, has not yet the maturity and attention span required for more “serious” snooker.

When exhibitions also support charities, they deserve all the publicity they can get! So in the coming days, I will try to promote events that mix snooker, enjoyment and charity!

Here is the first:

Jimmy and Dennis Lincoln Jan 2019

It is organised by Nigel and Ali Coton, who organised and hosted  similar events with Ronnie, in May 2017 and February 2018. Nigel is a disabled snooker player himself and he’s very aware that many disabled players aren’t as well off as he is himself, many of them are on benefits, and struggle badly with the costs associated with the events, even if they are kept to a minimum. One of those disabled players – who I won’t name – told me that the WDBS tour had become his family and massively helped him out of social isolation and depression. He’s not the only one in that situation. So, please, come and support these events. And Lincoln is a great place for a city trip as well!

I will be there taking pictures.