An interview with Steve Feeney

This interview was published today in the Independent

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s coach Steve Feeney on his innovative methods giving the Rocket another gear

The inventor of SightRight explains to Lawrence Ostlere what he can teach snooker’s greatest natural talent, how he deals with the sceptics, and reveals plans to conquer a host of other sports – even football

Ronnie O'Sullivan has not won a world title for five years

Ronnie O’Sullivan has not won a world title for five years ( Getty Images )

The snooker world first began taking Steve Feeney’s unique coaching methods seriously around the time Stuart Bingham won the 2015 World Championship. For a while Bingham had been just another journeyman with a shrinking hairline and an expanding waistcoat, so when he began playing the snooker of his life aged 39 to become the Crucible’s oldest first-time champion, the game took note.

Then there was Mark Williams. The Welshman had sat down with his wife at the kitchen table to discuss retirement before he sought out Feeney’s help; he soon won his first ranking title for seven years and within 12 months was transformed into a 43-year-old world champion.

The world titles of Bingham and Williams gave Feeney’s patented SightRight methods credibility in the face of much scepticism, and now the snooker world awaits the verdict of the game’s most natural talent. Ronnie O’Sullivan officially started working with Feeney over the summer, and won the Shanghai Masters in September before reaching the semi-finals of the English Open. There, in between critiques of the Crawley leisure centre’s distinct aroma, O’Sullivan produced a mesmerising maximum break in the second round reminiscent of his very best. “Ronnie’s loving it,” insists Feeney of his SightRight training.

SightRight works by correcting parallax error, a deception of perspective caused when inadvertently but consistently looking across the line of aim, rather than directly down the centre. It is a coaching method approved by World Snooker, and has proved most effective for older pros whose eye dominance has changed over time.

Feeney, right, with Mark Williams and the man who brought them together, Lee Walker (Getty)

“Once you’re aiming from the perfect sighting position and set up to the shot with the correctly aligned technique, it’s like me giving you a gun that I’ve already set up, aimed perfectly, it cannot move,” explains Feeney. “All you have to do is pull the trigger, and as long as you squeeze that trigger correctly, it hits the spot. I can stand on the other end of the shot and I can steer a player into the shot perfectly just by knowing how they see straight.”

An obvious question at this point is to wonder why a master of the game like O’Sullivan would need to realign his technique. In a way Feeney’s forensic approach jars with the very idea of ‘the Rocket’, a man who plays on instinct and emotion, who operates outside the laws of physics which govern the rest of us and brings unpredictability to such a methodical game. But a truth of modern sport is that unadulterated natural talent no longer really exists. Gone are the days when Alex Higgins and Bill Werbeniuk could sink six pints before a match, and another one each frame. Sporting greatness now requires an obstinate will to improve, and perhaps the reality is that O’Sullivan’s sixth world title is going to take hard work, perseverance, even innovation.

O’Sullivan is chasing Stephen Hendry’s record seven world titles (Getty)

“With Ronnie, he’s seen what’s happened with Mark Williams, with Bingham. And the best players in the sport like to stay ahead of the competition,” says Feeney. “If me working with Ronnie can keep him great for longer, that’s a great thing. People say: ‘Why would Ronnie ever need this?’. If Ronnie needs a proven method that he can transition to – well I see Ronnie as Nick Faldo: two years he worked on his swing, two years he was criticised, but the rest is history.”

It is a brave man to tell proven professionals they’ve been doing it wrong all their lives, but that is part of Feeney’s schtick. He requires an element of faith from his subjects as he shifts their entire perspective three inches to the left or right. The former world champion Shaun Murphy remembers the day he called Feeney over to his house, the year after he was beaten by Bingham in an epic 2015 final. Feeney arrived, unpacked his training gear and embarked on some testing. Murphy says he was stunned when the big reveal showed that what he thought was the centre of alignment was nowhere close – something Feeney calls “the eureka moment”.

“If you imagine the best in the world being proven that they’re off-line, that raises some big questions,” says Feeney. “It’s disruptive technology, a paradigm shift in the coaching world. It challenges the status quo. If you can keep proving and proving then in the end people can’t ignore. In the early days, any paradigm shift has to come with proof, more proof, more proof until the doubters – and Mark [Williams] was one – start saying ‘There must be something in this’.”

Mark Allen has questioned the virtues of SightRight training (Getty)

Williams once called SightRight ‘sight-wrong’, among other less polite rhymes used on the tour. One of the more outspoken cynics is Mark Allen, the world No12, who questioned whether too much credit is being sent Feeney’s way for the achievements of Williams and O’Sullivan, two of the all-time greats of the game. Allen once tried SightRight too, but said it wasn’t for him.

“If people try it, that’s one thing; if people work with me for a period of time, that’s another,” says Feeney. “Those people that are comfortable where they are, they will do the same old thing and their results won’t change. Those who want to be successful will change and do the right things.” Is SightRight not partly a mental reassurance, a kind of placebo effect? “Some say it’s all up top – I can’t agree with that. There are certain fundamental technical things that a player must have.”

Feeney is now broadening his horizons with an adaptation of SightRight for golf putting coaching. “Within the next two to four years I’ll probably have between 500 and 1,000 coaches across both [snooker and golf],” he says. He has also worked with professional darts players and has plans for basketball, cricket and even football, having already worked with a Championship striker. “With footballers it’s how they receive the ball, more accurate passing, more accurate striking, more accurate penalties. I can even find the flaws where the assistant referee is not seeing straight across an offside position. Parallax error comes across in football in quite a huge way.”

How far can SightRight spread? Feeney still has his snooker critics to persuade and much will depend on O’Sullivan; Feeney is well aware that the Rocket’s sixth world title would be the ultimate endorsement. The catch-22 of now working with one of the game’s greatest is that even if O’Sullivan wins at the Crucible in May, to claim his first world title for six years, there’s no proving he wouldn’t have done it anyway. What seems clear is that SightRight is effective for some and not so for others; Williams swears by it, one of 11 players on the tour using Feeney’s methods, a number which continues to swell.

Anyone who’s tried snooker knows the daunting feeling of standing over a vast 72 square-foot baize, on which a millimetre shift in how a pair of two-inch balls collide can produce a wholly unwelcome trajectory. Precision is everything, and so perhaps the most surprising thing about SightRight and its newfound competitors is that they didn’t take hold sooner. But then this is a sport that still requires polished shoes and a waistcoat, which still has its global pinnacle in a windowless room in Yorkshire, nostalgic traditions which make it an unlikely place for the epicentre of some kind of sport-wide coaching revolution.

Then again, perhaps that is why snooker is ripe for innovation. The basic tenets of technique still emanate from Joe Davis, the 15-time world champion of the 1930s and 40s. What if there was another whole level of biomechanical efficiency to be unearthed? And what if a player like O’Sullivan could harness it? For Feeney, 20 years after he first conceived of SightRight and in the face of all his doubters along the way, that would be the ultimate vindication. “What’s that phrase?” he says. “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they attack you, then you win.”

There are a few remarks that I want to make about this interview

  • Parallax issues are nothing new, they are well familiar to any photographer using a camera with a viewfinder, like the one pictured below: m-leica-m-cross-category-teaser_teaser-307x205When you use this camera, your eye is behind the little rectangle that you see on the top right part of the body as pictured. The light that will “impress” the film though, is admitted through the round lens in the middle. So what your eye sees isn’t exactly the same as what the lens “sees” and captures. The consequence of this is that you might have unwanted elements near the border of the picture, that you didn’t see in the viewfinder, but the lens “saw”, or, on the contrary, have elements partially “cut” from the picture whilst you were seeing them as a whole in the viewfinder. The photography technology answer to the problem is the reflex camera where you aim at your subject directly through the lens – via a mirror – which allows you to see exactly the same image as the lens, but at the cost of additional weight and noise. How does this apply to snooker? Well, imagine that the tip could see; it’s at the end of the cue, it’s the part that needs to hit the ball as accurately as possible. That would be ideal… Unfortunately the player has two eyes and neither is at the same place as the tip. Moreover, humans usually have a dominant eye. It’s not difficult to know which of your eyes is the dominant one: just look at a not too distant object, with both eyes, then close one eye. Usually what you see will “shift”, and the shift will be more pronounced with one eye than with the other. The eye causing the less shift is your dominant one, the one that primarily determines which image your brain receives. So a player needs to learn how to align so that what they see when aiming is as close as possible to what the hypothetical “eye in the tip” would see, taking into account which of their eye is dominant and how their stance might create a parallax effect. Achieving this is the main goal of the Sightright method, and correctly applied it can only work. However “undoing” habits that are ingrained since childhood, and reconstructing new habits isn’t easy and doesn’t come quick especially if you’re a player for 30 years or more. This is not instant miracle method.
  • Steve Feeney has his critics, indeed, but not all of them are criticizing his method. Actually some of the people he has a conflict with are actually so convinced by the method that they invested in his company. What those people are unhappy with is a lack of transparency in the way the company is run, the fact that their questions regarding some business decisions and expenses do not receive satisfactory answers, and the fact that, deliberately or not, Mr Feeney always deflects the debate to make it about the method and not about the way the business is run. I must say that if he has nothing to hide, then I don’t really understand why he doesn’t simply answer the questions. That would put at least that part of the debate to rest. And I’m glad that, despite innumerable attempts to bring him in those social media conversations, Ronnie has stayed away from the conflict.
  • Another thing that has also irritated some of the players he helped is the way he tends to “appropriate” their success. Now, of course, a coach who successfully helps a player to attain their goals should be proud and there is nothing wrong in promoting a successful method. I guess it’s essentially a matter of measure and how it’s done. But, at the end of the day, it’s still the player holding the cue during their matches, it’s them facing the pressure and potting the balls. It’s them also who worked on their game in order to improve. So the victory, when it comes, is first and foremost the player’s, not the coach, even if the coach played their part. One could say that Steve Peters was key to Ronnie’s successes since 2012, and yet you won’t hear him boasting about it.
  • Finally about the tone of the article … the way Stuart Bingham is described at the start of it is not very nice to say the least. Whether this description is a reflection of Mr Feeney view on Stuart, or just the way the journalist expressed himself for maximum effect, I don’t know, but either way I don’t like it. And the last couple of sentences, in the last paragraph, is also revealing …

The Importance of being Fit … bis

In this interview, reported by the Daily Star, Ronnie reveals more plans to restore health and fitness in the UK… He might have to clone himself soon if that becomes reality!

THE NEW MR MOTIVATOR: Ronnie cues up fitness trainer career

SNOOKER ace Ronnie O’Sullivan is set to be a Mr Motivator style fitness guru.

By Ed Gleave, Exclusive /

The sporting legend plans to host well-being weekends where fans can undergo training sessions with him.

Ronnie, 42, who has already penned a book on nutrition, told the Daily Star Sunday: “Health and fitness is my passion.

“I want to reach out to people who have busy lives. I want to show it’s possible to still be healthy.

“I’m on the go all the time and I travel a lot so I take boxes of food.

“I’ll be doing weekends where people can come and do exercise and learn to cook.”

SNOOKER STAR: ‘Health and fitness is my passion’ says RonnieGETTY

SNOOKER STAR: ‘Health and fitness is my passion’ says Ronnie

The five-time world champ added: “I’ll teach them some recipes and go on a run with them.

“And I’ll talk about how I’ve changed my lifestyle.

“I also want to set up my own eight-mile assault course. I’ve done a few of those challenges in the past and won.

“The guys from the Army saw me and thought ‘he’s a snooker player, he won’t be any good’, but then I did well and won it.”

Ronnie wants to spread the word about health and fitness after overhauling his lifestyle and shedding more than a stone.

NEW GURU: Ronnie reckons his new fitness empire is just what Britain needsSHUTTERSTOCK

NEW GURU: Ronnie reckons his new fitness empire is just what Britain needs

“I feel better than I have ever felt and that’s down to a combination of fitness and nutrition”

Ronnie

He said: “A while back I had injuries that meant I couldn’t run. I piled on the weight.

“So I went to see a nutritionist and since then I’ve lost about a stone and a half.

“I feel better than I have ever felt and that’s down to a combination of fitness and nutrition. I’m much healthier.

“When I get to 50, 60, 70 I want to look well.

“I don’t want to have a heart attack and end up sitting there with tubes hanging out of me. I don’t want to look a state in front of my grandkids.”

One of snooker’s greatest ever players declared: “I want to be active and live as long as I can. I want to live to a hundred and I don’t want those years to be s***.”

Ronnie reckons his new fitness empire is just what Britain needs.

He added: “As a nation we are unhealthy. There’s a tendency to eat the wrong foods.”

Ronnie is also carving out a career as a novelist. His new title Double Kiss is already a hit.

 

Things that matter in Ronnie’s life …

This little interview brings nothing really new but is refreshing: for once there is no negativity, nor reminders of past mistakes…

Ronnie O’Sullivan: 5 things I can’t live without (source: the Express)

FIVE times world champion snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan, 42, lives in Essex with his partner, actress Laila Rouass, 46

DIET GURU: Ronnie now cooks

GETTY

DIET GURU: Ronnie now cooks

1. SOHO

When I was growing up I spent a lot of time hanging around the snooker halls of Soho with my dad.

It has always been a magical place for me and one of the things I love about Soho is that although it is bursting with wonderful bars and restaurants, there is always somewhere new to discover.

My clubbing days might be behind me now but I still enjoy regular nights out in the West End.Laila and I belong to the private members’ club Soho House and it’s such a relaxing place to spend time.

2. SNOOKER

I guess I wouldn’t be living the life I have now without snooker and although it has become more of a job than a pleasure, it obviously plays a central part in my life.

As a child I always had strong hand-eye coordination and I was naturally good at tennis and golf. The first time I played snooker I was eight. I had talent but didn’t begin competing until I was 15.

As a youngster I was mesmerised by the game and spent all my spare time down at the snooker club. Back then Steve Davis was my absolute hero and I lived and breathed snooker.

However these days I prefer a bit of balance and I like to have other pleasures in my life too.

3. COOKING

I used to be someone who paid absolutely no attention to my diet and I just ate whenever and whatever.

Then a few years ago I started to put on weight and after realising how much it was getting me down, a good friend offered to teach me to cook.

Each week he would pop round and show me how to make a new dish. To my surprise, I started to really enjoy cooking and to think more carefully about my diet.

Now I regularly visit a nutritionist and I am all about meal plans and healthy snacks. I honestly can’t believe how much better I feel.

4. TAILORED SUIT

When it comes to clothes, I’ve always been a bit of a slob as fashion isn’t something that has ever interested me much.

I am happiest in jeans and a T-shirt and I’ve never really seen the point of spending a lot of money on my wardrobe.

Until recently I always bought all my shirts and suits off the peg but for my birthday, a friend insisted on treating me to a tailored suit. I think he thought I needed to smarten up for television and he probably had a point.

However now that I’ve worn my suit, I have to admit I’m sold. It looks and feels so good that I might even splash out on some designer shirts.

 

‘Running is something I have grown to love’ says Ronnie O’Sullivan

GETTY

‘Running is something I have grown to love’ says Ronnie O’Sullivan

5. RUNNING

About 15 years ago a really good friend of mine persuaded me to join him for a run and it was a life-changing moment for me.

As someone who had never paid much attention to my fitness, I unexpectedly caught the running bug and soon I was racking up 40 miles a week.

Running is something I have grown to love as it doesn’t just help me to manage my weight and boost my energy levels, it always leaves me feeling incredibly fit and relaxed too.

_________________________

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s new novel Double Kiss (£7.99, Macmillan) is out now in paperback

And a final Interview whith Ronnie before it starts …

This one in the Yorkshire Post

No Crucible drama for O’Sullivan in pursuit of Yorkshire hat-trick

RICHARD HERCOCK

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s mood was as bright as the sunshine which bathed Sheffield yesterday on the eve of the Betfred World Championship. As the sport’s top players gathered for snooker’s media day, including defending champion Mark Selby, all eyes were on five-time winner O’Sullivan.

ROS Crucible 2018
Ronnie O’Sullivan.

The last of those Crucible titles may have come in 2013, but that five-year stretch has not hoodwinked bookies, and tournament sponsors, Betfred who make him 5-2 favourite to emerge as champion in 17 days time. And with good reason. Victory in Sheffield would complete an amazing Yorkshire hat-trick, after winning the UK Championship in York, and the English Open in Barnsley earlier this season. Throw in other ranking tournament wins at the Shanghai Masters, World Grand Prix and the Players Championship, and it’s clear the 42-year-old is the man to beat at the Crucible. “I like it up this end of the world,” O’Sullivan told The Yorkshire Post. “I spend a lot of time in Sheffield, it’s a great place.

ROS Crucible 2018Ronnie O’Sullivan at the 2018 Betfred World Snooker Championship Media Launch at The Crucible, Sheffield. Picture Tony Johnson.

“It’s good to be here. Statistically it’s been a good year, could have played better. “But there’s still quite a bit of silverware in the cabinet so I am not going to start complaining,” added O’Sullivan, who could become the first player to win £1m prize money on a single season with another Crucible title.

Not that O’Sullivan is thinking about the financial rewards. “(Reaching £1m) would mean something if I played for money, but I don’t play snooker for money,” he said. “That’s not something that enters my head, but I am aware that you all talk about it.

ROS Lunch Crucible 2018Ronnie O’Sullivan eats his lunch.

“I don’t look at records, I just try to enjoy myself.

“I am enjoying what I do in my life, playing snooker when I can, and this is just a two-week holiday in Sheffield for me hopefully.

“If it isn’t, I will just go back and do some stuff with Eurosport, bit of commentary. I am in a win-win situation. “A Chinese proverb says you have two lives, zero to 40, and 40-80. I am in that second part of my life now. “Two or three years ago I thought it was important to plan what I was going to do away from snooker. “I am just trying to hang in there and get a few results to keep me going. “I have won the world title five times and it’s a great feeling.

“But it’s probably not as good a feeling as you think it is. It sinks in a week later. But for me, I get detached a little bit, and have a bit of fun really.”

O’Sullivan opens up in Sheffield today against Scotsman Stephen Maguire, 37, in a tough first-round encounter. The Crucible format, stretched over 17 days, is a sporting marathon, which even keen runner O’Sullivan struggles to enjoy.

“I don’t have to get myself up for it,” he said. “Seventeen days is a long time, it’s just another tournament. “Someone like me, I prefer a five-day or seven-day tournament. That probably suits my personality a little bit better.

“If you start asking Usain Bolt would he like to run the 10km, he probably wouldn’t fancy the training. It’s a bit long for him. “But Mo Farah would love it. It’s different strokes for different folks. “I just need to come here and make it as relaxed as possible, but I much prefer shorter tournaments.”

O’Sullivan stands two short of Stephen Hendry’s record haul of seven world titles. But former world No 2 Maguire – now ranked 18th in the world – is an awkward first-round opponent, having come through this week’s qualifiers to reach the Crucible. O’Sullivan said: “I don’t care who I play, if you want to win it you have to play well. If you don’t play well, you are going out. There’s no need to complicate it. “He is a fantastic player and the sort of player you wouldn’t want to draw in the first round. But I have drawn him, and have to get on with it. “I don’t really analyse it, it all comes instinctively. I don’t know how I am going to prepare, what I will be thinking, just get on with it, play the game, and let it unravel.”

Being interviewed in the bar of the Crucible – the famous Sheffield theatre which is no stranger to drama over the years – O’Sullivan cuts a relaxed figure. So long snooker’s poster boy, and box-office hit, the Essex potter has found a good balance between work and life off the table. “As you get older, you get a little bit wiser,” he explained. “I feel pretty good, happy with how my career is going, what I am doing. “The last two or three years have been really good. “I am quite a selfish person really. The family fit in with what I am doing, I am away working a lot. I pay the bills, so they understand that.” “I just go out, do my work and enjoy myself. When I am home they see me, when I am not, they speak to me on Facetime.”

O’Sullivan is closing in on another Hendry record, he has 33 ranking title wins, compared to the Scot’s 36. Not that the six-times UK champion and seven-times Masters winner likes to compare himself with players from previous generations. “It’s really hard to compare, because it depends what era you do it,” he said. “It’s okay winning tournaments when the field is a bit weak, but to compare records is pretty difficult. “Look at Federer, who did it when players like Nadal and Djokovic were around. That makes it even more impressive. “I am not sure how to measure myself against Stephen Hendry, as long as I keep getting a buzz from snooker I will keep doing it.”

And Ronnie took time to meet the Thai fans who came to support their player, Theppy! One is young Nutcharuk. They shared this on social media…

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Good luck Ronnie!

World Championship 2018 – Ronnie’s previews and goals

This interview, probably originally done for Eurosport, has been published in several media, here is one

O’Sullivan playing down chances of Crucible record as World Championship bid begins

Ronnie O’Sullivan doesn’t normally turn down a challenge – he’s a man more accustomed to scaling the heights of every obstacle he comes across.

Yet Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world snooker titles is one mountain even the Rocket claims he won’t set himself the task of climbing.

On paper, O’Sullivan isn’t that far away from matching Hendry – five world titles to his name already and arguably in the form of his life as he prepares to head to the Crucible for the 26th time next week.

Statistically speaking, the 42-year-old has had the best season of his career. In fact, statistically speaking, no snooker player has ever had a better campaign – O’Sullivan’s five ranking event titles to date equals the single-season record.

He’s the bookies’ favourite heading into the 2018 Betfred World Championship – where he opens up against world No.18 Stephen Maguire on Saturday – and anything other than lifting the trophy aloft two weeks on Monday, for the first time since 2013, would be viewed as a disappointment.

However, O’Sullivan freely admits the 17-day marathon in Sheffield doesn’t particularly suit him – “some people might enjoy that sort of slog style but it’s not my favourite tournament because obviously it goes on a bit too long,” he says – and his numerous interests outside snooker mean he could well retire before having too many more shots at Hendry’s magnificent seven.

Instead, the world No.2 has other goals he still wants to accomplish on the baize.

“I’m motivated by stuff that I think is achievable,” explains O’Sullivan. “Breaking the 36 ranking events that Stephen Hendry holds [O’Sullivan currently has 33] is something that is achievable, so that is one of my goals.

“A thousand centuries is definitely something I will do at some point [he has currently made 937], as long as I don’t have a fatal accident that prevents me from playing!

“That’s something that’s definitely on my radar and obviously the 18 major titles [World Championship, UK Championship and Masters crowns] that me and Hendry both jointly hold is something that I’m in a position to move on and beat. They’re three goals that I’d like to tick off.

“Seven world titles is probably a mountain I wouldn’t want to set myself to climb because I don’t know when I’m going to stop playing.

“I haven’t set a date, but while things are still going pretty well I’ll keep playing. It’s probably the best results I’ve had this season, although my form has probably been better.

“That’s kind of weird to say – how do you have your best season and yet you feel like your form has not been as good as it has been in previous seasons where you’ve maybe not won as much?

“It just goes to show that sport can be pretty unpredictable and you just have to suck it up sometimes and see what you get at the end of it.”

Ealing Times: Ronnie O'Sullivan

The days of the mid-noughties and early 2010s that saw O’Sullivan threatening to quit snooker on a seemingly annual basis and taking a year off from the sport at a time are firmly behind him – thanks in no small part to working with renowned sports psychologist Dr Steve Peters since 2011.

But he has also found plenty of other interests to keep him balanced – he’s a successful snooker pundit on Eurosport, a published crime author and has filmed a documentary called American Hustle for the History Channel, where he explores America’s history with the game of pool.

Another pre-Crucible interview with Ronnie

This time in the Daily Mail

Ronnie O’Sullivan is winning so many snooker tournaments, he has started rating them on how much fun he had: ‘A sad face means that it was s***’

  • Ronnie O’Sullivan heads to the Crucible with five 2018 rankings titles to his name
  • But the renowned perfectionist is far from content with his form around the table
  • He’s come up with a way to remind himself he can still win when he plays badly 
  • O’Sullivan uses emojis to rank his  victories, happy for good and sad for ‘s***’  

Ronnie O’Sullivan reclines on a sofa. In terms of results he is in form, winning five ranking events this season to bring his tally to 33, three behind record-holder Stephen Hendry.

But — and this may not come as a surprise — the renowned perfectionist is far from content with his snooker.

‘I’ve written a thing on my phone after each tournament. If it was a good tournament I put a smiley face,’ he says.

Ronnie O'Sullivan heads to the Crucible in Sheffield with five 2018 titles to his name

 Ronnie O’Sullivan heads to the Crucible in Sheffield with five 2018 titles to his name

 

‘If it’s just a plain face it means it was all right, and a sad face means that it was s*** and I didn’t enjoy it. At all,’ he emphasises.
‘Two of my victories have got smiley faces and three have got a sad face because I didn’t actually feel like I performed well or enjoyed it. But I still got the result.

‘It’s a reminder that I can still play badly and win. I’m not going to let my perfectionism stop me.

‘But at the end of the day it still is about winning and losing. I can’t get away from the fact that there are three sad faces in there that have won tournaments.’

The World Championship begins on Saturday and O’Sullivan’s preparations are underway. He is in a snooker hall in the middle of an industrial estate on the outskirts of Romford, not far from his home.

On the first floor of an anonymous brick building is a spartan room with five snooker tables under fluorescent lights. In a corner lurks a sink, kettle and microwave.

Owned by his former manager Django Fung, O’Sullivan is free to practise here at will. Its anonymity and lack of distractions are ideal. But O’Sullivan still struggles.

‘If I had to graft to win them tournaments, I wouldn’t be sitting here now feeling fresh and relaxed,’ he says. ‘The way I have to do it has to come instinctively.

‘To me the snooker part is the easy part. The hard part is getting me to practise. And getting me in the right frame of mind. Once I work on that, then I’m excited to be at the tournament and playing.’

Yet the five-time world champion is taking his snooker as lightly as he ever has done

 

O’Sullivan is waiting for his friend Judd Trump. But until he arrives, Ronnie has things on his mind.

‘Really, snooker is something I do because I want to do it, not because I have to do it. I’ve got snooker just where I want it right now,’ he says.

In between sips of herbal tea, the five-time world champion talks about his passions away from a game which has dominated his life since he was eight.

‘Anything where there is no pressure is fun. Come the tournaments, that’s a different ball game. Every time I put myself on the line I’m there to be criticised if you play badly; if you play good they think you’re the best thing since sliced bread.

‘There’s a working life outside of snooker whereas before I thought, “What else am I going to do?” I could never visualise what my life would be like without snooker.’

Now an author, TV personality, snooker pundit for Eurosport and self-confessed foodie, O’Sullivan’s enthusiasm is infectious.

Take his opinion on Flappy Bird, a mobile phone game which he credits with curing his fear of flying. ‘I absolutely love it. It’s the only thing that gets me on the plane. If I get a bit of turbulence and I’m able to get through it without picking up Flappy Bird.

Reclined on the sofa, O'Sullivan talks to Sportsmail about how he ranks his tournament wins

 

‘But if it gets that bad, then I just pick up the game and I play it and the turbulence goes after a minute or two. And I’m all right.’

He’s also fallen in love with snooker again.

‘I love the punditry,’ he says. ‘It’s one of the best things I do now. I never used to watch snooker but I was forced to watch it because of work. And me and Jimmy [White] and Neal [Foulds] would be watching the game and talking about it.

‘You get so involved in it. You’ve got the one that you want to win it because you’ve followed it through. You think, “I’d love to see him win it because of the journey”.

‘But when you’re playing in it or you’re dipping in and out of it you don’t really know if they’ve had a hard match or what they’ve been through during the tournament.

‘You follow it from start to finish and you get so into it. It’s important just to talk and see the game. And give the viewer an insight of what’s going on and how he’s thinking.

‘You’re just telling it through your eyes really. It would be interesting for me to hear another sportsman that was playing, say Tiger Woods commentating on golf, I’d love to hear how he would be assessing it.’

O’Sullivan heads to Sheffield this week searching for an elusive sixth world title that would bring him alongside Steve Davis and his former coach Ray Reardon. Hendry has seven, a tally O’Sullivan thinks is out of his grasp.

‘I never get to tournaments and think, “I need to meditate and do my practise”. I used to, but now I can’t be bothered. It’s like a roll of a dice for me. Take my chances.’

But Sheffield is a special place.

‘I stay in a hotel right by the river. But I’ve got a houseboat there as well. So I cook on my houseboat, and I sit and chill and watch my TV. I just use the hotel to sleep in and there’s all my clobber there.

I’ve got that safety blanket that if Sheffield’s not going too well you’re either better off going out early, first round, second round, and then enjoying your punditry and getting home and having a few days at home. Or win it. No in between.’

O’Sullivan’s natural talent has been chiselled by two mentors.

He coupled with Reardon in 2003 for two years and he has worked with sports psychologist Steve Peters since 2012.

‘Ray and Steve are the two best things that have happened to me in my career,’ O’Sullivan says.

‘Ray taught me stuff on a snooker table which I will never forget, he made me into the all-round player.

‘Steve Peters has helped me not sabotage my own chances. Whereas before I’d get into a match and think, “I don’t feel like this today, I’m going to have an early bath,” now I give everything I can.

‘I always believe my best game is good enough to beat anybody else’s.’

If he manages to take that to the Crucible, perhaps another smiley face will appear on his phone.