I just finished reading “Simply the Best” by Clive Everton, so here is my review for what it’s worth. Before I do this though, I want to point at Clive’s introduction and his acknowledgement that Ronnie – politely – declined to co-operate to this book. Ronnie indeed hasn’t particularly friendly feelings towards Clive mainly because he feels that Clive’s reading of and writing about some of his own comments and behaviours aren’t a correct reflection of what he actually felt and meant. This is something I have heard from Ronnie himself.
Clive goes through Ronnie’s life and career, nearly year by year, and every significant match Ronnie played is documented by comments made at the time, either by Ronnie himself, or his opponent, and sometimes by others involved like officials or witnesses. As such this book is an invaluable source of documentation as Clive certainly unearthed excerpts of the interviews and press conferences recorded “live” after matches, be it wins and defeats. It doesn’t always make for a very easy read such is the wealth of information offered to the reader. But it does take us to the rollercoaster of emotions and mood swings that paved Ronnie’s career, and it highlights how much working with Steve Peters has changed his outlook on his career and on himself.
Clive is firmly convinced that Ronnie Senior’s imprisonment had a profound and durable impact both on Ronnie’s career, psyche and on his life away from snooker. There is certainly a lot of truth in this and, if anything, this was confirmed by Ronnie himself in his “Sporting Live Story”. However, I believe that there is more than just that. I have known Ronnie for more than ten years now, and during the 2010 to 2013 period in particular he opened up to me about how much his “divorce” from Jo Langley had affected him, how lonely and lost he felt, and how he was prepared to do anything to make sure that he would not be estranged from his two youngest children as he had been from his first daughter. Also, when his father was finally released Ronnie had high expectations. Of course he didn’t think that all would be like it was 18 years earlier. He was an adult with children himself, not a teenager. But he thought that they somehow would be a family again. When his parents split, shortly after they were reunited, it hurt him despite his understanding that in 18 years they had inevitably become different persons and grown apart. To me, Clive doesn’t give those events enough importance in his analysis of Ronnie’s mindset at the time.
Also, it’s clear than Clive is a big fan of Barry Hearn. There is no doubt that Barry Hearn has done a lot of good and that snooker is now in better shape than it was, although, to rely mainly on one line of business for sponsoring – the gambling industry – is a dangerous thing to do and probably will backfire at a point. However some of the criticisms Ronnie expressed over the years were/are not unfounded. Players are the game’s biggest asset, and it’s the top players who attract the audience. They deserve to feel valued and respected. In his book “On the Road and Off the Table With Snooker’s Greatest”, Jason Francis tells us what the reaction was when Ronnie had a breakdown at the Crucible in 2016: “He will be fined”. Would it have been too much to ask if he was alright? And, in the October issue of Snooker Scene, Clive covers the spat Ronnie had about the Crawley venue at lengths, essentially taking side with WS. But, David Hendon, who, contrary to Clive, was on the site, is giving a very different account, basically backing Ronnie’s claims. Ronnie isn’t the most stable person, he’s bipolar to start with, and many things he says should be taken with a pinch of salt even if he genuinely means them on the moment. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t truth in what he says – in fact beyond the exaggerations and sometimes insults, there usually is truth in it – and I feel that Clive’s perception is biased at times.
It certainly is an interesting reading, and one every snooker fan should have in their library.