Should Stephen Hendry be offered a new invitational tour card next season?

The question was asked last month by Hector Nunns writing for the Sportsman:

Should Snooker Legend Stephen Hendry Be Offered Another Tour Wildcard?

Even if World Snooker Tour decide this spring to renew the two-year invitational tour wildcard offered to Stephen Hendry back in 2020 by former chairman and now president Barry Hearn…would the record seven-time world champion take it?

As previously noted by The Sportsman, a sensational and unexpected comeback announced in September 2020 after nine years retired from one of the two greatest players ever to pick up a cue has failed thus far to provide the really magical moment of a deep run in a major tournament, or a significant win over one of the current top players.

When the great and the good at WST and players’ and rules body the WPBSA gather to consider making a new offer in the weeks and months to come, they will almost certainly not dwell too long on the results on the table for the 53-year-old Scot over the past two seasons to date.

Hendry’s claims for another card do not rest on the mere three wins to date in 17 months, but on his legendary status as the King of the Crucible, and winner of 75 tournaments in all, including 36 ranking events – this latter tally only recently passed by Ronnie ‘Sullivan, his sole realistic rival as the best ever to play the game.

The two things that may impact on deliberations – and those conversations have already started informally – are the relatively low number of tournaments that the 53-year-old Hendry has entered, and also the likelihood that the current world No101 would definitely take a new card if it was offered.

Discussions have begun about the eventual make-up of the tour for next season, and it is understood that opinion is slightly divided about Hendry on the boards. On balance the excitement generated when he does play should carry the day when final decisions are made at or after the Betfred World Championship qualifiers.

But there is also some disappointment over the number of events he has chosen to enter and play, compared to say Jimmy White and Ken Doherty when they have been beneficiaries of such cards.

In the first season 2020-21 Hendry played in just two events from a possible 11 – his first match back coming at the Gibraltar Masters, and then also playing at the world qualifiers where he beat old foe White. The current season has seen the Scot play more, something he has himself said he needs to improve and achieve the sharpness required to compete after so long out.

With entry deadlines for the Gibraltar Open and World Championship still to come, Hendry entered the British Open, English Open, UK Championship, Scottish Open, German Masters and European Masters – but passed on the early Championship League, the Northern Ireland Open, the Shootout, the inaugural Turkish Masters and a second Home Nations Series event in the Welsh Open.

Various players and pundits have offered their views on the Hendry comeback and what he should or shouldn’t be doing. Hendry has given short shrift to the uber-sceptics, but may have taken more notice of O’Sullivan when he said last year: “He has to write off the first year, when you have time out now you get left behind – even I do, if I miss a few tournaments.

Four-time world champion John Higgins, who succeeded Hendry as Scotland’s flag-bearer, believes if such a legend wants to continue and have another tour card then that should be his absolute right given such a stellar career – but injected a note of doubt as to whether he would take one this time.

World N6 Higgins, 46, said: “If I was in charge I would certainly still offer him one. There are certain players in the game that just deserve it, and Stephen is definitely one of them.

It could be though that it is all not quite what Stephen was hoping. Who knows whether he will say something at the end of the season, he might look at it again. It is true that the likes of Jimmy White and Ken Doherty who have been given tour wildcards play in pretty much everything, so they do.

So they are worth it, I think, the chance of having a wildcard. But then, listen, maybe Stephen has earned that right over the years to now pick and choose with everything he has done in the game, just the number and scale of the achievements.

I personally think he may make a decision on it all at the end of the season. I just wonder if he is isn’t entering some tournaments now, what would be the point in starting to enter more next season?

World No39 Michael Holt, another experienced professional and now also a successful coach in Nottingham, believes Hendry’s “snooker royalty” status trumps all other considerations, meaning he should get a new card. However he also hoped Hendry could find a way of playing more.

Holt said: “Stephen is just snooker royalty, like Jimmy, so you’ve got to really – he’s Stephen Hendry! And for me a big thing is I honestly don’t think there are any Zhao Xintongs sitting at home that won’t get on tour because of it. There are plenty of avenues to get on the tour now so it doesn’t do any harm, and if anything creates some interest.

He hasn’t taken up all his playing opportunities which is a bit disappointing I suppose but ultimately that is up to him, it’s his decision and you can’t force anyone to play. There will always be opinions flying around. But if he does get another one it would be good to see him play a little more to justify it. And like anyone else, he has to be prepared to put the work into to get to a high level again.

As we know, Hendry hasn’t entered the Gibraltar Open either. I would be surprised though if he was to give the World Championship a miss.

So… should he be offered a new 2 years invitational card?  It’s a difficult question indeed.

Why he should ….

  • He is of course one of the all time greats in the sport we love.
  • He definitely changed the way snooker is played. His ultra attacking, uncompromising approach inspired the next generation of players, including Ronnie and John Higgins.
  • The way he played, his swagger and his youthful looks attracted new fans, loads of new fans and most of them supported him throughout his career … still support him. He still puts bums on seats.
  • On several occasions in the last year, he said thet he’s enjoying the process of trying to come back. It’s work in progress.

Why he shouldn’t …

  • He hasn’t really played enough. There are probably several veteran players who dream to get the opportunity he was offered and would play in everything. Considering that WST said that there would only be two such invitational wildcards given per season, maybe someone else should be given the chance instead?
  • The World Seniors Snooker Tour is there for veteran players to play in. Should these invitational cards disappear and should this tour be further developped, broadcasted and promoted instead?
  • Snooker seems to feed a lot on nostalgia and those wildcards are part of that trend. Is there too much nostalgia? Is it detrimental to the development of the sport? Should there be more focus on young players instead? Is so, how?


In orther news … two Scots have withdrawn from the Gibraltar Open

Stephen Maguire and Anthony McGill have withdrawn from next week’s BetVictor Gibraltar Open, and have been replaced in the draw by Kuldesh Johal and Rod Lawler respectively.

Click here for the updated draw

Click here for the format

Ronnie O’Sullivan, Mark Williams, John Higgins, Neil Robertson, Kyren Wilson, Mark Allen, Shaun Murphy and defending champion Judd Trump are among the star names competing in the tournament which runs from March 24 to 26 at the Europa Sports Complex.


9 thoughts on “Should Stephen Hendry be offered a new invitational tour card next season?

  1. Regarding tour cards, should Ken Doherty get his THIRD invitational tour card, or retire from the pro tour card, at the end of the season. I think he should retire.

    Also, if tour places are to come by, is Igor Figueiredo actually going to use his for the 2022/23 season? It looks like Marco Fu is returning for the World qualifiers, at least.

    • Figueiredo is actually one of the players who might actually officially retire, if he hasn’t actually done so already. But his wasn’t an invitational tour card.

  2. From the start of the season until the end of 2021, Hendry generally entered the events I thought he would. But since 2022 began, his most puzzling event skip to me was the Welsh Open. The third longest running ranking event. Did he give any reason on Twitter or wherever for skipping that one?

    • What he has said is that he only really enjoys playing in the main venues. But, since he accepted the tour card, WST have decided to impose qualification rounds in cubicles behind closed doors for almost all of their tournaments. Whilst I don’t support nostalgic tour cards, it is probably the case that Hendry was led to believe he would again be playing in front of crowds.

      • Fair enough, but one of his “comeback tour” wins came at the English Open qualifiers, he beat Michael White 4-1, so you’d think he would enter events like that, to possibly get some wins.

  3. I think you answered my main question: does Hendry take the card/place away from someone else? It seems he does and with due respect to all his previous achievements, I feel he “wasted” his card. His “I did not enter the Northern Irish Open, I don’t know why, I just did not feel like” rubbed me in the wrong way. I know there are in general reservations against such tour cards, but as far a I’m concerned, I think Jimmy for example should always get it, if you wish as a way to care for such iconic players. But he really uses it to the maximum, and I have no problem with giving such invitational cards to some others iconic players, but the fact how Hendry hardly used it, makes me feel he should not get another one.

    • Well, in principle, Hendry does take a place away from someone else – he didn’t earn a tour card, he was given it on the basis of no current results whatsoever. However, two players withdrew from Gibraltar, and were replaced by… Kuldesh Johal and Rod Lawler. Basically, we’re having the wrong debate. We should be questioning the tour card system itself, not who get one.

      • We know your views about the “closed” professiomal tour, and I agree but it’s not gonna change any time soon for many reasons. I’m also not convinced that those invitational tour cards really should deprive someone else, at least in the near future. There are several top-ups in every event. Even if there were 130 “pros” I doubt that this would cause an issue in any tournament.

Comments are closed.