Their views on Ronnie…

Following Ronnie’s victory in Preston, and his history making 1000th century, the Daily Mail  went to ask his friends how they see him. So here it is…

The remarkable Ronnie O’Sullivan reached the milestone of 1,000 century breaks with a thrilling 134 to retain the Players Championship in Preston on Sunday. In true O’Sullivan fashion, he even switched to left-handed to roll in the crucial red.

Next best in terms of tons is Stephen Hendry, who hit 775 during his illustrious career, proving that O’Sullivan, 43, is in a league of his own.

Sportsmail spoke to those who know him best to discover the secrets to his success…

Ronnie O'Sullivan became the first player to make 1,000 career century breaks on Sunday



(Six-time world champion and coach in 2004)

I had a bit of a calming effect on him. When he couldn’t pot all the balls I showed him there was another side to the game. It was a small department that was missing — he didn’t like playing that way.

Over the past 20 years he’s been top notch but he’s a bit better now. He’s got more systems within the system. He sees the game better than anybody, much better than I saw it. The balls open up and he’s so clever and in control of the cue ball. He’s a bit of a genius.

He’s the best player I’ve ever seen, when he’s there. Sometimes he’s there in person but his mind’s not on the game, but that’s Ronnie. The main thing is he’s happy. If you’re happy you can play better.

Former coach Ray Reardon says O'Sullivan is the best snooker player that he's ever seen

Former coach Ray Reardon says O’Sullivan is the best snooker player that he’s ever seen



(Consultant psychiatrist)

Ronnie came to me eight years ago and we instantly formed a rapport. My job is to help people help themselves. It’s easy when you get someone like Ronnie as he’s so keen.

He’s worked very hard on the mental skills and continues to do so. It’s no different to the physical — it’s about keeping psychologically fit. Our emotions are usually the beliefs we hold. We make sure these are solid beliefs which are constructive.

We stay in touch regularly and he’s doing so well. I think what he’s developed in his own mind is that he’s absolutely driven and determined, but he’s more driven than he was. He’s learnt to gain perspective on things and not be as harsh on himself. We’re hoping he’ll play until he’s 50. That’s our aim.

The 43-year-old has worked very hard on the mental side of the game and continues to do so


(Artist and friend)

I was a Ronnie fan and when I met him six years ago we became mates. I guess I keep him calm.

I get to as many tournaments as I can and he comes to my Hammersmith studio to help me finish paintings. I give him a colour and say: ‘Put some here’. He’s my assistant.

Ronnie’s insane. I remember a first-to-nine against John Higgins. He was 8-3 down but said: ‘He twitched, I think I’ve got him’. He lost 9-8 but it was mad — what on earth gives you that feeling?

That’s why he’s exciting — because he’s instinctive. In art I aspire to that, but pain comes with it — he plays brilliantly or terribly and that’s the pain of genius. He wants to entertain. He often says: ‘I’d rather lose and play well than win and play s***.’

Ronnie’s biggest fear is not knowing when to quit. He has to be top of the game or he won’t be interested. He’s doing a good job selecting when he wants to play and because he’s winning he’s getting the ranking points, but not doing the leg work that everyone else is. He’s happier than I’ve ever seen him. I just want him to be happy.

Artist Damien Hirst says that his old friend's biggest fear is not knowing when to quit

Artist Damien Hirst says that his old friend’s biggest fear is not knowing when to quit



(Inventor of SightRight coaching)

We started working together this season. He wasn’t enjoying playing and I did a test that showed him he wasn’t sighting a straight line.

In practice we do around 12 long shots with his eyes shut. When I link him in on the correct line all he has to do is pull the trigger.

He’s incredibly focused, a perfectionist. He beats himself up but he’s learning to accept that he can’t do everything.

If we can help him become even greater and his long game becomes the best in the world, there’s a big problem for other players.

It’s a work in progress but if you saw him in practice you would go: ‘Wow!’ We’re so close, it’s exciting. Can he go for another five years? Without doubt — and that’s what he wants.

SightRight inventor Stephen Feeney has no doubt O'Sullivan can keep going for five years


(Registered nutritionist)

I started working with Ronnie in September 2017. His mood wasn’t great, he said he was struggling to get motivated and had lost his love for the game.

He couldn’t concentrate, had leg injuries from over-training and was gaining weight due to a high fat, high protein, low carbohydrate diet.

I stripped back his running and reintroduced carbohydrates for concentration and muscle recovery, and he lost two stones quickly. We cut down his portions, especially healthy fats — he ate three avocados a day.

He’s got a healthy routine now — porridge in the morning, snacks when he’s training and healthy alternatives for dinner. He is so organised, making up batches of spices and freezing them for curries he loves cooking with his kids. I’m so proud of him.

Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert is proud of the snooker star for sticking to his healthy routine

Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert is proud of the snooker star for sticking to his healthy routine



(Seven-time world champion)

I know what he’s thinking two or three shots in advance — it’s a snooker brain.

When he’s making a century break you look at the balls and see when he’s going to split the reds. It makes commentary very easy!

He’s become more of a percentage player. I hate that term because it doesn’t fit Ronnie.

He’s still aggressive, but because he’s so good he doesn’t need to take risks anymore.

He can wait it out and tie his opponent in knots, then he gets in and the frame’s over. When he’s on form it’s almost perfect snooker.

Former rival Stephen Hendry thinks O'Sullivan's game is almost perfect when on form

Former rival Stephen Hendry thinks O’Sullivan’s game is almost perfect when on form



(Friend and fellow Eurosport expert)

Occasionally you get sports people come along who have that something special — like Seve Ballesteros and Sugar Ray Leonard — and create that buzz when they play. Ronnie is one of those geniuses.

He’s threatened to quit but I think that is because he’s not a good traveller. He knows sometimes he has to go to China or wherever for ranking points and when he’s focused, no one has ever been more dedicated than Ronnie.

When he does the punditry in the Eurosport studio everybody listens to him, especially the players — Neil Robertson records it.

They want to hear his insight because he’s got such a different outlook on the game. That’s why he took it to a new level. His passion for it is second to none.

Jimmy White says O'Sullivan's passion for the game of snooker is second to none

Jimmy White says O’Sullivan’s passion for the game of snooker is second to none



(Chairman of World Snooker)

I have known Ronnie since he was 12 and I hope that I am his friend. He’s as mad as a hatter but geniuses often are.

He causes me a few problems but I wish I had six players like him. He’s still my favourite and I’d put him above Davis, Hendry and Higgins. It’s that genius that gives him the inconsistency. He’s a one-off.

Sport needs personalities and Ronnie breaks all the rules — right-handed or left-handed, a five-and-a-half-minute 147. There’s never been anyone like him.

As much as I like to be in control you have to change your thinking with O’Sullivan because of what he brings to the table.

Quite often we will disagree. But Ronnie knows that I’m the best in the world at what I do and I am absolutely convinced that he’s the best in the world at what he does. So we have a marriage which may not be made in heaven, but it’s pretty damn close.

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn says O'Sullivan is still his favourite player in the game

World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn says O’Sullivan is still his favourite player in the game



Ronnie pays tribute to Andy Murray

After Andy Murray’s defeat at the Australian Open, after showing tremendous heart and determination on the court, many sportspersons reacted, showing admiration and support.

Ronnie was one of them

And this reported by BBC

Ronnie O’Sullivan praises Andy Murray after retirement plans

Amazing though how they always seem to find something negative to put forward … the first sentence isn’t about Ronnie’s praise of Andy Murray, it’s about him being “lazy”!

Well, personally, I think Ronnie was genuine in his praise, and Andy Murray deserves only respect and admiration for what he did on and off the court. I wish him the best, first and foremost to be able to enjoy his life without pain nor unbearable limitations.

As for Ronnie, he may indeed not be as ruthless as Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry were, but to me, it’s precisely because he’s a bit softer on himself that he is still competing at the highest level at 43 (and counting). Anyone who ever did endurance sports – hiking over several days for instance – will know that managing your efforts and resting your body and mind at the right times is key to achieving the goal eventually.

Ronnie: an interview and revisiting the Masters

The Masters 2019 is upon us, it starts on Sunday, and inevitably Ronnie is in the news. He’s won this tournament a record  seven times, over the last fifteen years, he’s made it to 9 finals, in fourteen participation and won it six times. So it’s no wonder that the press will want to speak to him in the build-up.

And now of course, having won the UK championship for the seventh time before Christmas, bringing his number of “Triple Crowns” to nineteen and having superseded Stephen Hendry’s tally in the process, he’s largely recognised as the greatest.

So here is an interview with de Daily Mail

‘I don’t think any player has ever got the better of me’: Ronnie O’Sullivan on being the best in the world, why he can play until he is 55, and his next trick

  • Ronnie O’Sullivan has had ‘no better feeling’ than being at the top of his game
  • The five-time world champion tells Sportsmail why he is so consistent
  • He has considered taking up hobbies including go-karting and Nordic skiing  
  • O’Sullivan will play Stuart Bingham in the first round of the Masters on Monday 

Ronnie O’Sullivan is usually his own harshest critic. But the tortured king of snooker seems less tormented nowadays, with the pursuit of perfection not as painful as it was.

It is refreshing to hear O’Sullivan, 43, who is normally quicker to praise his contemporaries, speak about those moments when he is at the top of his game.

‘It’s fantastic! There is no better feeling,’ he says. ‘I feel like I have an answer for anything that my opponent might bring to the table — whether that’s good safety, or good break-building, or good potting.

Ronnie O'Sullivan believes there is no better feeling than being at the top of his game

Ronnie O’Sullivan believes there is no better feeling than being at the top of his game


O'Sullivan has won five World Championships and seven UK Championships during his career

O’Sullivan has won five World Championships and seven UK Championships during his career

‘I just know that they have to continue doing what they’re good at to a very high level for a very long time to have a chance to beat me. And they might beat me. But I’ll be coming for you the next week.

‘And I’ll be coming for you the week after. So keep bringing your A game. At the end of their career most players will say, “Well, I didn’t really get the better of Ronnie”. And that’s all you can do as a sportsman.’

At 17, O’Sullivan saw off Stephen Hendry to win the 1993 UK Championship, thanks to sublime talent and an infectious personality, and has dominated snooker for more than 25 years.

‘I’ve had to play different eras and players. Some players will come along for five years and everyone will be saying, “Oh they’re going to be great”. And then I’ll have to deal with them.

‘And then it will be another batch and then I’d have five years of them. And then another batch of players. Because they can’t sustain it. They can’t sustain it for 25 years.

‘I don’t think there’s any pro who has ever played in my era who can honestly say that they got the better of me, really,’ he says nonchalantly between sips of lemon and ginger tea.

So how has he done it? ‘You have to reinvent yourself sometimes,’ he continues. ‘You have to look round and say, “There are players out there doing stuff better than I am”. I want to try to get that into my game.’

O'Sullivan spoke to Sportsmail about his lengthy career and his success in the sport

O’Sullivan spoke to Sportsmail about his lengthy career and his success in the sport


Aged just 17, O’Sullivan defeated Stephen Hendry to win the 1993 UK Championship

Aged just 17, O’Sullivan defeated Stephen Hendry to win the 1993 UK Championship

O’Sullivan, who watched and learned as heroes such as Jimmy White, Steve Davis and Hendry became opponents, had a close eye on Mark Williams last year. Aged 43, the Welshman won his third World Championship in May, 15 years after his last Crucible victory.

Williams credited Steve Feeney’s SightRight stable with advances in his game and this was not lost on O’Sullivan, who joined the programme in July.

‘I noticed Mark had got more compact and that was a consequence of changing his alignment,’ says O’Sullivan. ‘I was always interested in someone who can compact everything that they can do. When I’m playing my best I feel compact and tight so I thought I would give it a go.

‘I knew I needed to do something. I didn’t want to carry on playing as I was last season.

‘It was like learning a new language. He gave me solidness, if you like. I’m not a better player. I don’t believe you can improve as a player. I think once you get to 21, 22 you’re as good as you’re ever going to be.

‘I’m just a different type of player. More consistent, if you like. Probably won’t have as many moments of brilliance because I won’t need to. I’ll just be solid — which is OK for me.’

O'Sullivan accepted that he was a solid player and that has helped him achieve success

O’Sullivan accepted that he was a solid player and that has helped him achieve success


O'Sullivan has won a record total of 19 titles in Triple Crown tournaments during his career

O’Sullivan has won a record total of 19 titles in Triple Crown tournaments during his career

O’Sullivan credits Ray Reardon with improving his safety game, and his union with psychiatrist Steve Peters helped challenge his mental demons. Away from the table, nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert changed his attitude to food, and artist Damien Hirst is a regular in his dressing room.

‘I’m lucky, I’ve got some good friends,’ he says. ‘And some great people who have become friends. My friends are people who want nothing from me — even with Steve Peters.

‘He wants nothing from me other than to see me do well. I kind of gravitate to those people and keep them in my life. I’m lucky to have them around.’

O'Sullivan is a keen runner and has changed his approach to his diet to prolong his career 
O’Sullivan is a keen runner and has changed his approach to his diet to prolong his career


O'Sullivan beat Mark Allen to claim his seventh UK Championship victory in York in December 

O’Sullivan beat Mark Allen to claim his seventh UK Championship victory in York in December

The wild nights out are long gone in favour of quiet nights in. O’Sullivan, who has written three fiction books and has his own cookery book published in May, is reading about Genghis Khan and is a Netflix aficionado.

He still runs (‘I can do a Parkrun — three miles — in about 20 minutes, which is all right, though it ain’t great.’)

But O’Sullivan, nimble of body and inquisitive of mind, is looking for new pastimes.

‘I’m going to go into karting,’ he says. ‘I’ve got my first testing after the Masters. They do four five-hour races. Three drivers.

‘You do the pole position — all that sort of thing. You start at eight in the morning and finish at five at night. So I thought, yeah that’ll do me. Once a month, something like that.

‘I want to start Nordic skiing as well. Cross-country skiing. I’ve always fancied that because it’s like running. I’ve got that running background. It doesn’t look like there’s much skill involved. I’m always looking for something to do.’

The West Midlands-born cueman has thought about taking up go-karting and Nordic skiing 
The West Midlands-born cueman has thought about taking up go-karting and Nordic skiing


He insists that he does not prepare for tournaments or opponents in a specific manner
He insists that he does not prepare for tournaments or opponents in a specific manner

O’Sullivan won the UK Championship last month, becoming the first player to win 19 Triple Crown events, overtaking Hendry in the process.

With the Masters — a tournament he has won seven times with three victories in the past five years — starting on Sunday, O’Sullivan faces 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham in the first round on Monday. How has he been preparing?

‘I don’t actually prepare for one tournament in a certain way. I just kind of play,’ he says.

‘I’m a bit like a boxer who is fit all year round. I wouldn’t be like a Ricky Hatton where I finish a fight and then don’t go near a gym for two months. I’d be back in the gym, training. That’s how I live my life as a snooker player.’

As his career progresses, O'Sullivan has taken on more commentary and analysis roles

As his career progresses, O’Sullivan has taken on more commentary and analysis roles


O'Sullivan's first match at the Masters will be against 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham 

O’Sullivan’s first match at the Masters will be against 2015 world champion Stuart Bingham

O’Sullivan will be analysing his competitors for Eurosport during the competition. He provides sharp insight and has learned a thing or two.

‘I’ve had to commentate on nine frames in a match,’ he says. ‘Wow! So you get to see a different game when you’re commentating from when you’re playing.’

And although he believes that his form over the past six or seven years has been something near his best, how long can he go on?

‘Whatever sport or business you’re in, you’re always looking around at your competitors,’ he says. ‘Is anyone doing anything better than you and can you learn from them? I don’t really see anybody tearing it up, really.

‘It’s kind of giving me a little more belief that I can play a bit longer than I thought I could. I think 50 would be the minimum. Competing and still winning tournaments.

‘Unless some really good players come up through the ranks, I could maybe go on until 55. So who knows? I’m never satisfied, I just want to be as good as I can be, if that makes sense.’

Ronnie has also been on twitter, yesterday and the day before for the first time this year. He’s considering doing some podcasts and pointed his fans to this video by Eurosport UK, recollecting some of his most remarkable moments at the Masters.

Looking forward to kicking off 2019 at the Masters next week 😃

Ronnie spoke to the sponsor ahead of the UK Championship 2018

This is the interview on Betway’s blog

and it’s not just about snooker of course, in fact it’s mainly not about snooker …

Ronnie O’Sullivan on healthy eating, exercise and snooker


If you asked a snooker fan how Ronnie O’Sullivan was able to win a record-equalling five world ranking titles last season, they would tell you it’s because he’s a genius and probably the greatest player to ever play the game.

Both statements are true. But O’Sullivan believes the reason he achieved something that is beyond most players, never mind one who’s more than 25 years into his professional career, is because he started eating healthily.

The Rocket said so himself in July 2018 while cooking a Thai curry on Facebook Live alongside Rhiannon Lambert, the Harley Street nutritionist who he says has “re-educated him” about food.

“Before I met Rhiannon, I was playing well enough, but I was running out of steam,” says O’Sullivan, who is 3/1 in the snooker betting to retain his title at the 2018 Betway UK Championship, which is the reason this phone call is taking place.

“I got tired because I was eating bad food. But once I started working with Rhiannon, I started eating differently.”

Lambert writes on her website that ‘keeping nutrition simple is the easiest way to maintain a healthy lifestyle’, and her recipes left O’Sullivan feeling “more energised” and “alert” during matches.

“I’m getting 100 per cent out of myself now, whereas before I was probably getting 85 per cent of myself,” says O’Sullivan, who won just one ranking event the season before he claimed five. “I think the difference between winning two tournaments a year and winning five is them moments where I was able to see the match through the end without feeling like I wanted to go and have a kip.”

The 42-year-old’s explanation is not as romantic as the one about him being a genius who can pitch up to any event and win it, irrespective of whether he has been practising or not.

That’s why those who have followed his career – some for more than a quarter of a century – are reluctant to believe it. He did win five World titles eating whatever he wanted, after all.

“I think most people think I was born with a cue in my hand and that when I get on the table it’s all a piece of cake,” says O’Sullivan, “but that’s not the reality. I have to work hard.

“There’s other top players. They’re so slight, but to make those gains on your opponent takes so much hard work and preparation. They make the difference between winning 6-4 and losing 6-4.”

O’Sullivan, who describes healthy eating and fitness as his “main passion”, first met Lambert in July 2017. “I was her guinea pig, really,” he says. “I bought totally into it and it made a massive difference to my life. I’ve learned how to put better nutrition into my body.”

He cooks every day when he’s at home and does so in batches. “I like to train, I like to go to the club, so I don’t want to be around a stove all day,” he says. “Everyone’s got busy lives, so it’s good to have food prepped and ready to go – plus you save yourself a few quid.”

Healthy eating is harder to maintain when on the road competing in tournaments – “I’ll always take stuff with me… snacks like a jar of peanut butter, some rice, some tuna” – although he says the food in Thailand and China, which host several tournaments a year, as “incredible – some of the best I’ve ever eaten”.

“I think the UK’s probably the worst place I’ve ever been for food,” he continues, unprompted. “It really is. I see what some places serve up and I just think: ‘Wow. No wonder we’re not producing great athletes.’

“You look at other countries eat and it’s fresh, proper grub. I think it makes a huge difference to your development. I travel in Europe a lot, to places like Bulgaria and Romania, and even there the tomatoes taste different, the cucumbers taste different. In the UK, it’s quantity over quality, and I’m trying to avoid being part of that system.”

O’Sullivan wants to help others avoid being part of it, too, which is why he and Lambert will release a health and fitness book, Top of Your Game: Eating for the Mind and Body, in December 2018.

“I meet a lot of people who are trying to lose weight,” says O’Sullivan, “but they’re making decisions on food by reading food labels that say low in fat but are actually caked in sugar and certain stuff that’s worse than fat.

“That’s what Rhiannon done for me. She re-educated me. I’ve been fast-tracked in a way, and I think it’s nice to be able to pass that on. People want to be able to make proper decisions.”

O’Sullivan’s other passion is fitness and he describes himself as a “decent club runner”. Unlike eating healthily, however, he doesn’t believe keeping fit improves his game.

“You don’t really have to be fit to be a snooker player,” he says. “If you eat well and play snooker, you’ll be absolutely fine.

“I just done it because it was a good outlet for me. I had quite an addictive nature, so I thought: ‘Well, if I’m going to be addicted, I might as well get addicted to something that’s really good for me.’

“That was running, keeping fit and training. At least if I am going to over-do it on something, the worst that’s going to happen to me is that I end up with a few sore calf muscles, or my shoulders are a bit tight.”

Or a damaged heel, which O’Sullivan currently has. It’s not stopping him from exercising, but he is likely to need surgery if he wants to perform at his best again.

He did a Park Run last weekend and finished the 5km course in 20 minutes, a time he describes as “useless”. It’s not, although it is some way below his record of 17 minutes and nine seconds.

“I want to get back that to that,” says O’Sullivan. “But to do that I’ll probably have to get my foot done. I’ve convinced myself I’m going to have the operation, so it’ll mean three or four weeks in a boot ‘til it heals properly.”

But with snooker’s glamour events still to come, any extended absence will have to be carefully planned.

“I might just wait ’til after the World Championships or after the Masters – I don’t know,” says O’Sullivan. “I do know it’s something worth getting done.”

Being “where I want to be, when I want to be” is important to O’Sullivan at this stage of his life, of which snooker remains a huge part.

“I still love playing,” he says, before correcting himself. “When I say love playing, I like playing. Some days I love playing, some days I’m like…” He exhales.

O’Sullivan’s role as a pundit for Eurosport, which often means he provides analysis on tournaments he is also competing in, complicates that relationship further.

“That’s my problem,” he says. “I love doing it. I love sitting there with Jimmy White and Neil Foulds. I love the crew at Eurosport – there’s no pressure. And I get to talk about a subject that I’m quite knowledgeable on.

“It’s a dream job, really. But then I’ve got my other head on, thinking that I want to be competing and doing the best at snooker, so… I don’t know.”

O’Sullivan plans to keep playing competitively until that desire “goes, really” and says he’ll head to York for the UK Championship – which, at 13 days, is snooker’s second-longest event – and “give it my best”.

Providing he eats and plays well, there’s an excellent chance O’Sullivan’s best will be good enough to win yet another ranking title.

 Ronnie O’Sullivan was talking to Betway on behalf of the 2018 UK Championship, where he is the defending champion.

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 …