John Virgo and Mark William about Ronnie

Inteviewed by Phil Haigh and Nick Metcalfe on their podcast John Virgo gave this assessment on Ronnie and his career, and a “summary” was reported by Phil Haigh in metro.co.uk:

Ronnie O’Sullivan is the best sportsman Britain has produced but has still underachieved, says John Virgo

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Ronnie O’Sullivan is undoubtedly snooker’s GOAT, for John Virgo (Picture: Getty Images)

Most snooker fans rate Ronnie O’Sullivan as the greatest to ever pick up a cue, but John Virgo has gone further, saying he is the best sportsman Britain has ever produced, despite underachieving over his career.

The Rocket has 37 ranking titles to his name, the most of any player in history, six of those being World Championships and another seven UK Championships.

Still going strong at 45-years-old and ranked number three in the world, O’Sullivan will likely add to his ranking title tally in the coming months and years, further cementing his spot as snooker’s GOAT.

Virgo has no doubt in his mind that Ronnie is the best player he has ever witnessed, and is so impressive on the table that he actually should have more titles to his name.

Let me make one thing clear, Ronnie O’Sullivan is the greatest player I’ve ever seen,’ Virgo told the Talking Snooker podcast.

I find it absolutely amazing. The fact he can do it with either hand just adds to the mystery of how a man can play the game this well.”

Ronnie’s the best I’ve ever seen, it’s just incredible.”

Mark Williams was interviewed by WST, and part of it was reported by Eurosport:

Snooker news: ‘Ronnie O’Sullivan is only player I’d pay to watch’ – Mark Williams on why Rocket is the GOAT

Mark Williams has paid tribute to his fellow ‘Class of ’92’ rivals Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins by insisting there is plenty of life left in his fellow multiple world champions. The new British Open champion also insists O’Sullivan is the undisputed greatest player of all time and the only man playing the game he’d pay money to watch.

Ronnie (ES)

Ronnie O’Sullivan is the undisputed greatest player of all time and the only fellow snooker professional three-times world champion Mark Williams would pay money to watch.

Williams has made an impressive start to the new campaign by lifting the British Open title in August, but expects record 37-times ranking event winner O’Sullivan to get back into the winning habit after enduring a rare trophyless campaign last term.

O’Sullivan reached five finals last season and is ranked at three in the world ahead of next month’s Northern Ireland Open LIVE on Eurosport.

He’s the best player I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Williams.

I’ve played with him since I was 10 and he’s still going like myself. He’s probably the only snooker player I’d pay to watch.

Williams will celebrate his 30th year as a professional alongside his great rivals O’Sullivan and John Higgins in January and does not expect those green baize icons to be slowing down in the chase for further glory.

With 13 world titles between them since 1998, they have won over half the Crucible titles in the past 23 years.

The players coming through aren’t good enough to knock us off our perch, if you want to put it that way, said Williams on WST.

We also had a lot of grounding growing up, but these youngsters have no decent amateur tournaments to play in really. They are just turning professional, coming up against the top players and getting beaten. We had really good grounding. There were tournaments everywhere. U18, U21s..every weekend there was something.”

“That has something to do with our longevity. The other reason could be is that the other players just aren’t good enough to knock, especially Higgins and O’Sullivan, off their perch.”

That pair could be at the top of the rankings for however long they want to be. There is no question.

It is just about how much work they want to put in to stay up there.

At the age of 46, Williams has his own targets for the new campaign and the world number eight believes he has the ability to remain at the top of the game.

I think if I dedicated myself to it, I know I could get right up to the top of the rankings,” added the Welshman, world champion in 2000, 2003 and 2018 in a show of astonishing longevity. Maybe not number one, but I could get close to it.”

But I’m not prepared to do what I have to do to get as high as that. I’ll do two hours a day rather than worry about winning tournaments and just enjoy it.”

I’m saying now I’ll not play six or seven hours a day, but that could change. In six months’ time, I could say I’m back playing nine or ten hours a day….

John Virgo still thinks Ronnie has underachieved…  well, strictly in terms of pure talent maybe, but Ronnie had to fight some severe mental health issues from a young age – depression, addictions, huge and sudden mood swings – and he had to do it under difficult circumstances (father and mother jailed), under constant scrutiny from the media, and he had to cope whith massive expectations at the same time, the fans’ and his own. There were highs and lows of course, but overall he has coped very well considering, and he has done it for nearly 30 years. It takes a lot of strength and courage to do that. Underachiever? Really? … I don’t think so.

As for Willo … no mention of Judd Trump? 🤔😉 He won’t be pleased you know? 😇

Ronnie speaks to Eurosport as he is at the start of his 30th season as a pro

Here is the interview:

RONNIE O’SULLIVAN ON 30 YEARS AT TOP – ‘I FEEL PRIVILEGED TO HAVE HAD THE OPPORTUNITIES

Six-times world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan will celebrate an astonishing 30 years at the summit of snooker in 2022. The sport’s greatest player has told Eurosport he appreciates the opportunities he has been given in life since turning professional at the age of 16 in 1992. He is also thankful for the support of his partner Laila Rouass and family as he continues to chase new horizons in the game.

Ronnie O’Sullivan will celebrate 30 years at the summit of professional snooker in January, but the game’s greatest player admits he has been fortunate to have been afforded the opportunities in life to reach green baize utopia.

The six-times world champion holds the vast majority of the key records as he begins his 30th season ranked at number three in the world, but it his speed, flamboyance and precision of play that has attracted millions of bewitched fans to the sport over the past four decades.

The numbers stacked up by O’Sullivan are quite astonishing since he set out on his unprecedented golden sojourn at the age of 16 in 1992.

  • 37 – most ranking titles won by any player in history achieved in claiming 2020 World Championship
  • 15 – record number of maximums made in competition
  • Five minutes and eight seconds – fastest competitive maximum compiled at 1997 World Championship
  • 17 years and 358 days – youngest winner of a ranking event at 1993 UK Championship
  • 19 years and 69 days – youngest winner of the Masters in 1995
    1000 – first player to reach 1,000 career centuries at 2019 Players Championship
  • 29 – record number of consecutive appearances at World Championship between 1993 and 2021
  • 58 – record number of ranking final appearances achieved at 2021 Tour Championship final
  • 556 – record number of points scored without reply in 6-0 win over Ricky Walden in 2014 Masters quarter-final lasting 58min 31sec
  • 7 – record number of UK titles
  • 7 – record number of Masters titles
  • 20 – record number of triple crown titles

O’Sullivan made his first century at the age of 10 and his first 147 five years later, but shows no signs of slowing up with Judd Trump recently predicting that he has another decade at the top if he has the desire to continue.

I feel privileged to have had the opportunities that I’ve had,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport.

SO I CAN’T SAY THAT I’VE BEEN UNLUCKY. I’VE OBVIOUSLY HAD TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THOSE PRIVILEGES, BUT THEY WERE GIVEN TO ME AND I’VE PROBABLY HAD A MUCH BETTER HEAD START THAN A LOT OF YOUNG KIDS.

“I was fortunate that my mum and dad did okay for themselves and were able to pay for my cab fares to the club, my table time and allow me to go away at weekends to play in competitions.

“Some kids don’t have that luxury. I think in that respect, I had a good opportunity, but had to make the most of it.

O’Sullivan admits one of the career highlights was celebrating lifting his sixth world title alongside his partner Laila Rouass at the Crucible after an 18-8 win over Kyren Wilson in the final.

We had such a good night,” he recalled. “After the final, we went back to the hotel, there was about 30 or 40 people in the hotel.

We had a fantastic evening. It was probably the best night I’ve ever had.

WE HAD KEBABS, BEER AND SAT OUTSIDE UNTIL ABOUT FOUR IN THE MORNING. (FORMER WORLD NUMBER TWO) TONY KNOWLES WAS THERE AND A FEW OF MY FRIENDS FROM LIVERPOOL WERE DOWN. WE HAD SUCH A LAUGH. I’VE LOVED TO ABLE TO EXPERIENCE THAT AGAIN.

That’s a really lovely interview and Ronnie seems to be in a good place. Hopefully this season is a good one.

Phil Haigh interviews Jason Ferguson who answers lots of recently asked questions

Phil Haigh did an excellent job again with this Jason Ferguson interview:

Jason Ferguson talks British Open format, a return to China, the changing snooker calendar and more

Evergrande 2017 World Snooker China Championship - Press Conference & Red Carpet
Jason Ferguson is still dealing with the uncertainty Covid has brought to snooker (Picture: Getty Images)

With fans returning to the British Open on Monday it feels like snooker is returning to some normality in the UK, but there are plenty of challenges still to overcome for the sport’s organisers as the pandemic drags on across the globe.

The Turkish Masters, set for its first ever staging next month, has been postponed till March 2022, we still await a return to China for the string of big tournaments while events in the UK are still being impacted by the various changes that have occurred over the last 18 months.

Metro.co.uk caught up with WPBSA chairman Jason Ferguson who gave the latest on what’s going on in the sport at the moment.

Turkish Masters

The event was postponed until next year with Turkey still on the UK’s red list and wildfires causing serious disruption in the country.

‘I’m disappointed,’ said Ferguson. ‘It’s something we’ve been working on for a while against the odds, so its disappointing to have to postpone it, but I’m really excited about Turkey. I firmly believe it’s going to be one of the best events on the World Snooker Tour in the long-term, it’s such a fantastic location.

‘It’s going to happen, it’s just a case of when we can do it safely. When we do it we want to do it with a bang, not something behind closed doors or anything like that, so let’s postpone.’

On replacing the event on the calendar he added: ‘We are constantly working on opportunities everywhere, but there’s nothing firmed up as to filling those gaps in the calendar at this moment in time.

There are one or two things in the pipeline. The message I would give is that it’s a moving landscape at the minute because of problems that still exist in Covid times. Difficulties with venues, going overseas, broadcast arrangements. Hopefully the players can bare with us because it is a moving feast at the moment.

On the proposed ranking event in Barnsley to replace the Turkish Masters: ‘We’re subject to venues, to broadcast arrangements we can put in place, we had said there was a potential event to fill in, we said we’d try and fill the gap.

‘Unfortunately at this moment in time it’s not possible and we’ll keep working at it. I’m sure things will pop up here and there, but unfortunately it’s just not possible to fill that gap with a ranking event.’

The British Open format

The best-of-five format over the first four rounds of the British Open has created some disappointment among players and fans, with the matches extending to best-of-seven in the quarter-finals and best-of-11 for the final.

‘We’re in this period of a changing calendar all the time,’ explained Ferguson. ‘The British Open was resurrected with only months’ notice, it wasn’t something we planned long-term. It’s been brought back due to lack of overseas events. We thought: “What have we got that’s meaningful and historic that we can use?” the British Open was staring us in the face. It’s going to be exciting.

2019 Betway UK Championship - Day 11
John Higgins won the last edition of the British Open, 17 years ago (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Formats are a little bit short in this current year, we’ve just had the Championship League, it’s quickfire but we are hamstrung a bit by what we can deliver for broadcast and in the timeframe we’ve got.

‘Numbers of players, numbers of matches, we’ve got 128 professional players. It would be easy to do 32 players with long formats but we won’t do that because it’s not right for our player membership.

‘It is unfortunate that the format is a little bit short, I’m a bit of a traditionalist, I love the long format. A lot of players do and a lot of fans do, but a lot of people also like short formats, so we’re appealing to a mixed audience. Let’s see. The proof of the pudding will be in the eating and the broadcast numbers will tell us what fans thought.’

Players missing the British Open

Ng On-yee and Marco Fu

‘It’s purely down to travel. The travel is just so difficult for them, and not just getting here, we think we can get them here but realistically they’ll be here for months at a time and getting back is going to be problematic.

‘Until things clear a little bit the Hong Kong Sports Institute have said, “Our advice is don’t go at this moment in time.” We’ll work hard with the players and the HKSI to get them here.’

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Ng On-yee is still waiting to make her debut as a main tour professional (Picture: Getty Images)

Ding Junhui

‘Yeah he did go back to China, he’d been in the UK on his own without his wife and daughter for a long, long time. He made it here last year, stayed and competed, plied his trade as a professional player as he needs to. He went back for a while and he’s there now. He’s popping up a bit, doing some TV work around the sport, still on the frontline, spreading the good word.

Ronnie O’Sullivan

‘It’s just personal reasons for Ronnie, there’s nothing to elaborate on, there are no issues at all. I think if he wants to take some time out…when you look at Ronnie, he’s won all those titles, broke all those records and he’s still competing at that level, to expect him to compete in every single event is a lot to ask.

‘I’ve got great respect for him and the fact he’s still competing at this level after all these years is quite extraordinary. I tend not to be too concerned if he misses one or two events because it’s a great way to prolong his career.’

Ronnie
Ronnie O’Sullivan withdrew from the Championship League and British Open (Picture: Getty Images)

Returning to China

The tour has not wound its way back to China since the 2019 World Open, due to the pandemic, and it looks like the wait to return will go on for a while yet.

‘I think we’re fairly clear on where we are,’ Jason explained. ‘The Government have been clear that they shouldn’t be putting any international events on until after the Winter Olympics (4-20 February 2022).

‘That’s a major blow in terms of planning for events, but at the same time we understand that strategy that the Government has taken that view to try and protect the Winter Olympics.

‘It looks as though February will be when we’re clear on what we can do. With the China Open usually in March, and we’d planned to put a couple of events there back-to-back, that does look doubtful now to do it in the current season. It doesn’t mean we can’t do the World Cup after the season, but we’re subject to restrictions being lifted.

2019 World Open - Day 7
Judd Trump won the 2019 World Open in Yushan (Picture: Getty Images)

‘The Government’s got a responsibility to protect the Winter Olympics as a major global event. If we’re not going to hear about what we can do in China until after the Winter Olympics then that’s going to wipe out China events for the current season. Realistically we’re planning for the following season. That leaves a gap for Turkey and it leaves gaps for other things that we’re looking at in various corners of the world and some things a bit closer to home.’

Stan Moody

The exciting teenage talent won the English Under-14 title earlier this month in dominant fashion.

Ferguson said: ‘Quite unfairly I’ve take a bit of stick over the amateur game lately. I’ve seen a few people jumping in, saying, “There’s nothing happening, there’s no talent coming through.” What a load of rubbish!

‘We’ve only just started playing again and the kids haven’t played because they haven’t had the luxury of being classed as elite sports people, through lockdown these kids have missed 12-18 months. They’ve come back out, its not put them off, and there’s an abundance of talent.

‘Stan Moody is unbelievable, he’s the full package, it’s really exciting to see.’

Jamie O’Neill

It was revealed on the Snooker Scene Podcast that Jamie O’Neill is not playing in the British Open due to suspension.

‘He was suspended,’ said Ferguson. ‘He had digressed slightly in terms of Covid policies last year. Those matters were dealt with, he was suspended and he’ll come back out fighting. He’s been full of remorse, been very good about everything, but rules are rules and they had to be applied.

‘He digressed in the way our structures were working around the sport, making sure we were keeping everything in line with policies. It’s dealt with independently of us, I don’t get involved in it and we have to respect the decision of the panel. It’s a temporary suspension at the start of the season.

On if he’ll be back after the British Open, Jason said: ‘He’ll be back.’

A big big thank you to Phil for doing this interview and to Jason for answering the questions candidly.

Just three things…

  • reading this my understanding is that even the China Open is in serious doubt despite being scheduled after the Winter Olympics.
  • It’s a real shame regarding Marco and On Yee but nothing can be done about it. If the situation isn’t resolved soon, they could have a very short season at best. Should that be the case, I would expect them to see their fresh tour cards postponed to next season so that they get a proper chance to stay on the main tour.
  • Jamie O’Neil’s suspension is indeed  linked to his opinions, and subsequent attitude, regarding covid-19 and the pandemics as I suspected.

Willo playing for fun in his 30th season

Mark Williams will play today in the very first match of the season. He has been interviewed by WST:

Enjoyment The Key For Evergreen Williams

Mark Williams insists he will continue to take a carefree attitude into tournaments in the coming season and to focus on enjoyment of the game rather than results.

Williams is going into his 30th professional season

The three-time World Champion has played with a fast and fluid style in recent years, with an average shot time often as low as 15 seconds. And that paid dividends last season as he won the WST Pro Series and reached the semi-finals of two other events, as well as the quarter-finals at the Crucible.

At the age of 46, the Welshman intends to squeeze as much fun as he can out of the rest of his career. “I played as fast as I can last season and loved every minute of it,” said Williams. “I lost a lot of matches I should have won, but also played some good stuff. I looked dangerous for the first time in a while. Maybe that’s because I got on with it. Obviously I want to win, but if I don’t, no problem.

I won’t practise much this season, maybe a couple of hours every day or every other day. That might affect my form, but I have accepted that. It’s enough to keep me in half decent condition. I’m enjoying it, and that’s my aim, rather than to get bogged down. I can have a best-of-19 in the club with Jackson (Page) in less than two hours because we are both pretty quick.

My only target now is to see how long I can stay on the tour for. I would like to see where I am when I’m 50 – whether I’m still in the top 16. I want to see how long I can stay on the tour on merit.

Williams plays on the opening day of the new season on Sunday at the BetVictor Championship League – for the match schedule click here and for details of how to watch, click here.

Déjà-vu feeling? Well, yes. When you go into your 30th year as a professional, when you have been playing seriously since you were a kid and won everything there is to win, how do you keep going? By finding ways to continue to enjoy it.

This is not very different to what Ronnie has been saying in recent years and it’s not surprising as they have started playing at the same time, turned pro at the same time and are both still in the top 16. This approach will probably not yield many titles; we should accept that and be grateful because it will keep them playing and wanting to play.

Judd Trump about playing Ronnie

With the imminent return of competitive professional snooker this was to be expected: Phil Haigh is at it again and has been speaking with Judd Trump … about what it’s like playing Ronnie.

Judd Trump relishes the Ronnie O’Sullivan ‘argy-bargy and mind games’

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Judd Trump and Ronnie O’Sullivan have had some memorable matches in recent years (Picture: Getty Images)

Judd Trump says playing Ronnie O’Sullivan is ‘not like a game of snooker’ but he relishes the challenge of the ‘argy-bargy and mind games’ that come with taking on the Rocket.

The world number one has an excellent record against the six-time world champion, winning his last three matches against O’Sullivan to give him a winning record in the head-to-head.

Trump has won five of his last six meeting with the Rocket, including the Masters final and three finals of the Northern Ireland Open, and says facing O’Sullivan in showpiece matches, in front of rowdy crowds is ideal for him.

Facing the sport’s most popular figure in front of a full house would be intimidating for many, but Trump loves the challenge, which is unlike anything else in the sport.

‘Whenever there is a crowd in town – it hasn’t been the same for the last 18 months – you want to play Ronnie because the atmosphere is different class and everyone gets behind him,’ Trump told Sporting Life.

‘For me, that spurs me on to go out there and shine and take away his fans. I know it’s going to be a bigger audience when Ronnie’s around, so for me it’s an extra chance to show what I can do.

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Ten
Trump had great results behind closed doors but is excited by the return of crowds (Picture: Getty Images)

‘It’s completely different to playing anyone else. If you’re playing any other player, you just play your own game, but when you’re playing him, it’s like you’re playing in his show.

‘He really feels like he owns the table and it can be quite difficult to play against. His mannerisms and everything, he’s quite in your face; it’s not like a game of snooker, there’s a bit of argy-bargy and mind games going on at the same time. It’s a massive match-up.’

Judd and Ronnie have met just once on the biggest stage in the game, with O’Sullivan winning 17-11 in the semi-finals of the 2013 World Championship.

Trump has gone on to great success since then though, winning the world title in 2019, and fans would love to see the two biggest draws in the game currently clash once again at the Crucible.

Both Trump and O’Sullivan are entered into the Championship League, starting on Sunday, with the world number one not playing till 6 August in Group One, while the Rocket is in action on 20 July in Group 32.

Participation is not confirmed yet, but both are expected to be playing in the British Open in August and could face each other at any stage with a random draw being made at the end of each round.

There will be no seedings in the tournament that boasts a top prize of £100,000 so top players can meet at any stage at the Morningside Arena in Leicester.

Shown live on ITV, the event runs from 16-22 August

This is an interesting interview because Judd’s perception is quite astonishing, Well, it is to me at least.

I’m not sure how Judd Trump perceives his own game, but in my eyes, there is no player currently on the tour who is more “in your face” than himself.

Also the bit about “taking away his fans” is a bit baffling to me: I’m not sure that many Ronnie fans in the audience warm to Judd when he is in the process of beating their favourite player, no matter how well Judd might be playing. Quite the opposite in fact. It was the same with the Hendry fans back in the days: the vast majority would stay with their man no matter what.

Also, it’s not about being a fanboy, or a fangirl: a lot of true snooker fans appreciate certain players more than others because they are attracted by the way they play.

Ronnie’s game is daring, but it’s also and mainly about cue ball control, putting the white exactly where he wants it, making it all look simple, easy, natural. That’s what I like most about his game, and that’s why I’m a Ding fan as well and still hoping that he gets back in the winning circle soon.

Judd’s game is a lot about showing off: his abilty is quite extraordinary. It’s impressive, spectacular, no question. I do understand why people would be “fans” of that sort of game and Judd is the best exponent of it currently.  Alex Higgins was like that too (*). But it’s not my thing and I’m not alone in this.

John Higgins is a great, great player, I know that, I understand what he does … but he bores me to death. Don’t ask.

(*) Judd is a much better and more complete player than Alex IMO

WST talks to Joe Perry

Joe Perry was born in 1974, one year before the “Class of 92” trio and started playing as a pro in 1992 just like them. He doesn’t have their record, but he has been, and still is, a very, very solid player, well respected by his peers. He has been ranked as high as 8th in the World, and, at 46, he is still ranked 20th.

Joe was interviewed by WST ahead of this season

Here it is

Perry Refreshed For New Season

World number 20 Joe Perry believes the starkness of the sporting reality throughout the coronavirus pandemic has acted as a catalyst for him to inject new enthusiasm into his preparation for tournaments this season.

The Cambridge cueman struggled to produce his best snooker during the 2020/21 campaign, registering just one quarter-final appearance, which came at the UK Championship.

Having toiled under behind closed doors conditions, 46-year-old Perry hopes that the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of the return of spectators can inspire him to up his standards.

With the new season just weeks away, we’ve spoken to Perry about how he coped last season, his thoughts on the year ahead and how he found working as a commentator at the World Championship…

Joe, how are you feeling about the new season and how much are you looking forward to potentially returning to a more normal circuit?

“Last year gave me an opportunity to think about what I want to do. I decided that I want to really get my head down, stay up the top for a bit longer and aim to win another trophy. Everyone has been forced into different sorts of situations over the last year. I was very lucky to have a table at home, so I could play when I wanted to. Ultimately I didn’t really utilise it. That made me look at things with a bigger perspective and I made a conscious decision to make more of an effort this season. I’ve realised that playing every other day for a couple of hours isn’t going to cut it. That may have been good enough several years ago, but it isn’t anymore. I’m looking forward to the season, getting back in the club and I’ve already had some games with other players. You need to be ready, because the standard is too high.”

Who have you been practising with so far this summer?

“I’ve had a couple of games with Peter Devlin, he is keen and happy to come to the club and play. I’ve got games lined up with Sean Maddocks and young Jamie Wilson as well. All of these people were contacting me for games last year and I just wasn’t really interested. I would come up with excuses and put them off. I’ve accepted the offers this time. I’m hoping to keep busy this year and see what happens. It doesn’t give you a God given right to win matches but it will give me a chance.

“I’ve really enjoyed playing with the younger guys. I know how tough it is when you are starting out to get games with the higher ranked players. Some of them can be pretty elusive and hard to get hold of, so I try to make myself available. Hopefully it can help them to progress and come through. I’ve never been very high on confidence as a player. When I play these young players, they are full of life and full of confidence. That helps me. It also reaffirms that I can play the game, because ultimately I do normally win these practice matches. It shows to me that I do have a future in the sport.”

Your only victory on the tour so far came in Thailand at the 2015 Players Championship. How much would it mean to you to win one on home soil and be able to share it with friends and family?

“That is the main thing that is keeping me going, my biggest motivation. Don’t get me wrong, I’d jump at the chance to win something overseas, but to do it at home and be able to share that with friends and family is a big motivation of mine. I do believe that I have that win in me. Whether it comes or not, I don’t know. There are 128 of us starting out the season all believing we can go out and win one. Things have to go your way on a given week. There is no reason if those things come together that I can’t do it. I just have to be on my guard at all times because it is so tough.”

What did you miss most last season from the normal snooker environment?

“One of the things I really did miss last season was not being able to go out and watch the matches in the arena. I’ve never been one for sitting around in my hotel room and watching box sets. Going out into the arena helps me to get a feel for things. I like to be in and around the player’s lounge, chatting to people and watching the snooker. I really missed that and found killing time in between matches really difficult last year.

“I think I get more benefit from watching a match in the arena for an hour, than I do having an hour on the practice table. Practising for an hour isn’t going to give me a better chance of winning a tournament, but if I stay engaged with the whole thing and concentrate on snooker stuff, I feel I’m better prepared for my next match. I turned up for so many matches last year feeling like I was about to go for a best of seven down at the club. Because the standard is so ridiculously high these days, you can’t afford to have that attitude. You need to be switched on at all times. I did lose a lot of matches last year which I was quite a heavy favourite to win. My normal preparation just wasn’t available to me and I found myself going into games very cold.”

You commentated for the BBC at the World Championship for the second year in a row. How did you find the experience and do you see TV work as the path you would like to go down when you hang up your cue?

“It was great, as I’ve already said, I’ve really missed not watching snooker. Being in the commentary box gave me an opportunity to watch snooker. I feel like I know the game pretty well and I’ve bridged eras in snooker. The game was very different when I started out and I watched a lot of that. I’ve now seen it progress to the modern style of snooker. I feel like I’ve got something to give with it and I enjoy it and like passing on my knowledge. I get a bit of a buzz out of watching the play and I have no favourites when I’m watching so I’m pretty impartial.

“You just say it as you see it and if it comes across well, then all good. You do learn though and get more comfortable with what you are doing. In the early days I was never sure if I was saying too much or not enough. Working with people like John Virgo this year was an eye opener.  It is great to be up close to these people. They are there for a reason, because they are so good at it. Virgo is a legend in the commentary box and I feel like I learned a lot working with him.

“It is something I’ve been thinking about a lot, with my results dipping in the last couple of years. I’m not silly, I know it is going to come to an end one day. There are players I grew up with who have been hanging on to their tour card. I’m not doing that. I’ll put it on record now and say that once I drop off the tour, I won’t be going to Q School. That will be me done. I’ve played snooker all of my life and I don’t really have that passion for anything else. So ultimately if the opportunity was available to go down the punditry and commentary route I’d go for it. That would be my dream really, if I could nail that down I’d jump at it.”

Joe has only won one ranking title, the 2015 Players Championship, when that tournament was the “conclusion” of the PTC/ATC season and the reward for the 32 “best” in that series of events. Joe had been the player who had dominated the Asian Tour Championship that season, earning 12000 points on that tour; only Stuart Bingham (10600) and Ding Junhui (11500) had come close. A lot of UK/European players had given the ATC a miss, but not Joe. He loves playing, always has and he would take every opportuniry offered to him.

In the above interview, Joe explains that he loves practicing with younger players and why. This interest, and care, for the younger players is nothing new. Joe has always been like that. When Neil Robertson arrived in the UK, a penniless teenager, Joe helped him massively. Neil has got a much better career than Joe, but he wouldn’t be where he is today without Joe’s help. It’s well worth reading this piece by Nigel Slater. As he was potting the last balls to win the 2014 Wuxi Classic, Neil had tears in his eyes. He would never lose on purpose but he would have been happier if it was Joe clearing the table that time.

Also, Joe mentions that he likes to sit in the arena and watch. Indeed I have spotted him doing that countless times when I was around the tour. Mark Williams is another one who does it too. Snooker is in his blood. Joe says that he won’t go to Q-School if he was to drop off the tour. Maybe… He certainly will not want to embarrass himself, but I’m not so sure that he will be able to stay away for good. Seniors Tour maybe?

 

 

Anthony Hamilton and the Art of Reinvention

After rookie Dean Young, it’s veteran Anthony Hamilton’s turn to get interviewed by WST.

Reinvention Refuelling The Sheriff

Former German Masters champion Anthony Hamilton says that constant reinvention has been crucial for prolonging his time on the tour and maintaining his standards.

The 50-year-old admits he is in the twilight period of his career, having suffered from eye and back problems in recent years.

Hamilton enjoyed a career highlight victory at the 2017 German Masters, defeating Ali Carter 9-6 in the final to pick up a maiden ranking crown after 26 years as a professional.

In the years that followed, world number 54 Hamilton has only reached a further two ranking event semi-finals. However, the Sheriff of Pottingham is now preparing for his 31st season on the circuit and takes satisfaction in the longevity that represents.

Hamilton said: “I think the longevity is something to be proud of. At least it shows you can stay the course. You need to get out of bed every day and go again, which of course everyone needs to do in real life. To spend 31 years doing the same thing, you do have to reinvent yourself quite often. You need to try to find new goals and new styles of thinking to keep things fresh. Snooker doesn’t change. You may change as a person, but snooker remains exactly the same as when you were a 16-year-old. Once you start playing, you turn into a medieval man and start competing with others again. To me the competition is the best part of it.

“The adrenaline rush of going to a match and preparing for a match still gives me a buzz. I am quite a finicky guy, so it takes a couple of hours preparing for a game and doing very precise things. It all builds up and is a routine I have from over the years. I like that. It takes up your soul and all of your thinking. Then you go and play like an idiot and get back to improve in the next one! Hopefully you get your day in the sun. Fortunately, I’ve had a couple of days where I’ve experienced the starry bit at the end of it. That is really fun, but I even enjoy qualifiers and trying to beat the youngsters.

“The reinvention is mostly thinking and mostly mental. You also can’t keep doing the same thing if it isn’t working, as that is madness. If you are playing at a certain speed or being too defensive or too attacking, you just have to see what works. Nothing works forever in snooker, unfortunately everything has a shelf life. The brain works out that you are hoodwinking it and it gets bored. That is just how it is. You can change your thought pattern, but you always have to be humble and know the game will always win. You just have to do as well as you can.”

Having spent a large part of his career chasing a maiden ranking title, Hamilton believes that he could have been more malleable with his mindset during his younger years. With his playing career heading towards its latter stages, Hamilton is starting to look towards a potential move into coaching and hopes that his experiences, both positive and negative, can help budding professionals.

“I don’t think I did enough reinvention when I was younger. You get stuck in a rut thinking you are doing the right thing, but the results should tell you that. If the results are great, just keep on doing it. When the results weren’t going my way, I should have changed my mindset a little bit more. When you are younger there are more things going on, life gets in the way and you just can’t be bothered going that deep into it. You also think you are invincible when you are younger. When you are older you realise you need to put more into it. That is what coaches are for, trying to pass more advice on. Hopefully when I get into coaching I can pass my advice and my experiences on. I think by doing that, it can cut down the learning process. It took me 30 years to figure things out, hopefully I can cut that down to three or four months with another player.

“I’m interested in all walks of coaching and all standards, but especially young professionals finding their feet. I think it is helpful for young players to listen to people who have done it, good and bad, but especially bad. They learn more off that. Most of my coaching will be based off what I should have done rather than what I did. You learn more if you are struggling then when you are doing well. Hopefully I can impart some of that knowledge.”

Despite being one of the sport’s most respected figures, Nottingham’s Hamilton is typically modest about his achievements in snooker, a trait which contributes towards his popularity on the circuit and among fans. The former world number ten does believe that he has underachieved, but Hamilton carries no regrets and is determined to make the most of his remaining days on the tour.

“I’m not particularly proud of my career. I did alright. I lived too much of a lifestyle in my 20s and 30s. I’m not bothered about that, because I had a good time. Winning a tournament was the icing on the cake for me. Playing tough matches, losing tough matches, winning tough matches and getting out of bed for something I wanted to do was a blessing. Most people live doing something they don’t want to do. I’ve been very lucky in that regard.

“I’ll lose a little bit of focus and direction in my life when I retire, until I find something else to do. Sportspeople are a little bit wacky, as we need all of these things in place to get through the day and a tournament. I’ll miss that, but I’ll replace it with other things, whether that be coaching or commentary. Hopefully I’ll change my lifestyle and be more relaxed, because as a professional snooker is always in the back of your mind. It will be nice to shut those voices down and chill out.”

As you would expect with Anthony, it’s a quite interesting interview. Anthony is intelligent, modest, unconventional and blessed with a wicked sense of humour. He’s also his own man and a very, very fine player. It’s hard to understand how he hasn’t won more: only he will know… maybe. If he takes on coaching, those who are willing to listen will learn a lot, mainly about the mental and tactical sides of the game.

This may be his last season. He’s provisionally 75th on the end-of-season ranking list. He needs to catch up about 10000 to get in the top 64, which of course earning a lot more.