“Talking Snooker” – that’s the journalists tandem Phil Haigh and Nick Metcalfe – have provided some great podcasts over the last year. The last one however is the first where they had a professinal player as a special guest, and this guest was Anthony Hamilton.
I never understood why some people dislike Anthony. He’s intelligent and considerate, he has a dry sense of humour and no big ego, and those who have followed the sport for quite some years will remember how danm good he was at the table.
So here it is and well worth listening to:
Ronnie O’Sullivan: A phenomenon, a gentleman and mad as cheese, says Anthony Hamilton
Ronnie O’Sullivan is unquestionably the greatest snooker player of all time and a gentleman on the table, but also a lunatic who is ‘mad as cheese’ says his former practice partner Anthony Hamilton.
Hamilton and O’Sullivan go back a long way, to the days they used to practice together in Ilford 20 years ago and produce mythically high standards of play.
The Rocket turned professional in 1992, a year after the Sheriff of Pottingham so they have spent an awful long time on the same circuit together and one is well placed to judge the other.
There is no doubt in Hamilton’s mind that O’Sullivan is the finest player in the history of snooker, although he feels Stephen Hendry is not a million miles behind in the number two slot.
‘Of course, yeah. It’s such an obvious answer that I think the question is already a moot point. It’s Ronnie,’ Hamilton said on the Talking Snooker podcast.
‘I think it’s closer than a lot of people think. I don’t like the way everyone is forgetting about Hendry a bit. They forget how good Hendry was.
‘It’s not what Ronnie does, it’s the way he does it. It’s not like sport, it’s like art.
‘If you went to the players who have played Ronnie on TV and ask them how they feel when they are playing him. They feel like they haven’t played for three months, that they can’t play the game against him almost.
‘The intimidation that Ronnie’s got…he intimidates great players, not just average players like me, because he’s so good.
‘A snooker player knows the exact, small, finite things that he’s doing on the table. We know how hard it is, which makes it even more intimidating.
‘Ronnie is just a phenomenon in sport, for me. Mad as cheese as well!’
Hamilton sees it is a miracle O’Sullivan has conquered a sport such as snooker, despite his immense talent, given the way his mind works.
‘He’s absolutely mad as cheese, you know that don’t you?’ Anthony said. ‘He’s absolutely mental, Ronnie. He’s not putting it on, he’s a lunatic.
‘For him to adhere to the snooker world and be semi-normal is a miracle, to be honest. Anything can happen with Ronnie.’
The Rocket vs Sheriff practice sessions
‘I didn’t think it was true, but he reckons he would swerve me from time to time before big tournaments because he wanted more table time,’ said Anthony.
‘I didn’t know this, because he wasn’t phoning me up to tell me that, but he has said that.
‘He also exaggerates as well, because he says I always beat him and that’s not the case, trust me.
‘We’d have some real good sessions. He’d win 60 per cent of them, but I think 40 per cent is healthy for me to be winning.
‘The standard was crazily good. One day I’d beat him 10-2, make six centuries, but literally the next day he’d beat me 10-1 and make nine centuries. It was that sort of snooker.
‘They were good days.’
Hamilton was laughing as he labelled the Rocket a lunatic and clearly has nothing but respect for the current world champion, which was forged in their epic practice sessions togethter.
O’Sullivan has even claimed that he would look to avoid Hamilton in practice ahead of big tournaments as he wanted more table time and needed to face a lesser opponent than the Sheriff.
Anthony says that facing Ronnie in practice made playing him in tournaments marginally easier, but it made little difference in reality.
‘It made it a bit less intimidating actually,’ he said. ‘He can’t play any better than he does in matches anyway, how much better can he be? He just does it for longer in practice.
‘We would have quite a few games at Ilford, it was really good. He’s a gentleman, Ronnie, when he’s playing snooker. He’s got his ways off the table, but when he’s playing snooker he’s a gentleman to practice against.
‘He never loses count, he’s always trying, always on time, always try his best.
‘He loves snooker, loves the sport, loves the ethics of the sport and it was a pleasure to spend time with him on the table.
‘Some of my best memories of snooker are practicing against Ronnie. He’s a true snooker player, he’ll say that he’s not, but he is and always has been since he was a kid and he’s a gent when he’s playing.
‘He’s a voracious competitor but a gentleman at the same time. He says a few things here and there just to wind people up, but I think, as a snooker player, we’ve got nothing but respect for him.’
Personally, I thought that the most interesting part is the one where Anthony expresses his feelings on how Barry Hearn and some fellow professionals, notably Judd Trump, reacted to his World Championship withdrawal last year.
I really hope that he qualifies this year again, and that, this time, the measures in place are such that he feels safe to play. He was hard done last year. I’m sure that he was devastated to miss out. He knew this might have been his last chance to play at the Crucible.
You can follow Talking Snooker on twitter. Every true snooker fan should really. Those two provide loads on interesting views and content, in a fair and measured way.