More about Stephen Hendry’s return

The announcement yesterday that Stephen Hendry is returning to the professional game was of course a big, big talking point.

It was of course all over the press, so here are a few links you may want to follow

BBC: Stephen Hendry: Seven-time world champion says Crucible return would be ‘incredible’

Eurosport: Stephen Hendry wants to temper expectations, but believes he can compete

And this excellent interview for “A Bola” by my very good friend Antonio Barroso.

The original is in Portuguese, but you can probably get a reasonable translation using google.

In short…

  • Stephen had been working with Steve Feeney before the lockdown and was starting both to enjoy playing again and hitting the ball well. Their work was interrupted by the lockdown, but he went back to practice just ahead of the Seniors 2020 World Snooker Championship, where he reached the semi-finals. Stephen is never satisfied with his game, but recognised that he was playing better and missing the buzz of competing.
  • His return to competition was discussed during a round of golf with Barry Hearn and Mark Williams. BH of course wanted an swift decision … and Stephen is still not sure he understands all the implications of what he has agreed to.
  • He will definitely pick and choose. It’s not a full time return, and he won’t be practising 8 hours/day. Also, he does not want to go to qualifiers. But Barry Hearn warned him that he has to play otherwise he won’t get another chance.
  • Stephen is determined to prepare seriously for the events he decides to enter. He believes that he can still compete, and that, except for Ronnie and Judd Trump, there is nobody on the tour playing at a higher level than the one he had in his prime. He knows that he will be an underdog, and he doesn’t want to put pressure on himself, by entertaining high expectations. But he dreams to be able to play at the Crucible again, to walk down the stairs, and fell the buzz emanating from the place and the crowd.
  • For the immediate future he just wants to be able to play well, enjoy it and see where it takes him. He admits that if he plays badly and embarasses himself, it will be hard to take.
  • His first event will probably be the UK championship. Being at the bottom of the rankings, he’s likely to play one of the very top players on the TV table in the first round. He relishes the challenge, but is not sure how it will go.
  • He insists that the comeback has nothing to do with Ronnie taking his records away from him.

Now, there were too many reactions on social media to mention them all . But I can’t resist to share Mike Dunn’s take on Hendry’s return

MikeDunnWhiteShark

There were fans arguing that those spots should go to deserving young players instead of returning “past glories”. But of course, there is a commercial side to it: Stephen will put bums on seats, he will get lines in the media. He still has many fans. On thing that is often overlooked is that it’s those players who attract sponsors and audience who make it possible to offer decent prize money for all. Every player on the tour benefits from what they bring.

5 thoughts on “More about Stephen Hendry’s return

  1. Yes but short-term benefits. This isn’t a strategy that will help the game survive in 5-10 years from now, when it could be in crisis. To be honest, I keep wavering whether I think snooker will still be a professional sport 25 years from now. Today I’m pessimistic. They could grow the game to a global super-sport if they do the right things. But they aren’t, they are doing the opposite.

    • Well… Barry Hearn is 72 and his son only cares for boxing. What do you expect? I’m not agreeing, I’m just describing it how is is in the present.

    • In theory, I agree that the future of the game would be better served by fostering young talent than by giving exemptions to has-beens. But in practice, I agree with Ronnie that the players ranked near 128 (who might be bumped out to make space for players like Hendry) really aren’t very good, and many of them never will be. Ronnie has beaten some serious numpties in the first round of Home Nations events over the past few years, none of whom is likely to be “the future of the game”…

      • Yes that is true, but in any cometitive sport someone has to lose! The players at the lower end of the rankings will learn a lot even in defeat, go back to their clubs and pass on their experiences. Some of them may become coaches, or own their own clubs. Some of them represent countries who are trying to establish snooker.

        Actually, part of my problem is that I don’t want to be critical of Stephen Hendry – far from it. It’s not the individual policies or awards, it’s the totality of all the measures combined. All this clickbait news about Hendry is once again painting snooker as a 1980’s or 1990’s sport aimed at a certain age-group (actually mine and older – I am 48). I expect Hendry will play in only a handful of tournaments, and each time it will be big news for a couple of days until he loses, then the focus will switch back to the top-10. There’s no space for anyone else, and not much prize-money either.

        What’s damaging about Ronnie’s comments is that he wasn’t talking about players ranked 100+, it was 50+. Of course, it became a big news item, and now most casual snooker fans will have the impression that the professional game is bloated with expendable losers. If ever there was a time for WST to try and contradict that and show that the game has a future, it was now. Instead, they promoted Hendry.

        It’s just this terrible thought that it’s all about seeing some people (officials and players) through to their retirement, and then… who cares.

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