Phil Haigh reflects on the 2022 Ranking CLS

Right in the aftermath of the first ranking event of the 2022/23 season, Phil Haigh has published this well-thought-out piece:

Championship League Snooker: Five things we learned from the latest edition

Luca Brecel and Lu Ning
Luca Brecel beat Lu Ning in the final in Leicester (Picture: Matchroom Sport)

The Championship League opened the snooker season on 28 June and it finally came to a close on 29 July with Luca Brecel crowned the first ranking event winner of the campaign.

Let’s be clear, this is nobody’s favourite tournament, even the Bullet wouldn’t be putting it in his top five events as he carries the trophy back to Belgium.

Very short-format matches, over a quite incredibly long time, behind closed doors and with many players rusty after their summer break.

The Crucible it ain’t, but that’s enough of the negatives because despite all that there are things to take away from the Championship League.

Of course the biggest names do not take it as seriously as when they head to Sheffield of York, or even Milton Keynes or Brentwood, but over a month-long ranking event plenty has cropped up.

We have seen 106 centuries over the tournament as players warmed up to the task and having played 10 matches to lift the trophy, Brecel deserves a lot of credit for emerging from a high quality field.

Luca Brecel is talking the talk and walking the walk

Luca Brecel
Brecel is a player on the up (Picture: Matchroom Sport)

Brecel is announcing himself as a regular contender at the top of the sport both with his words and with his cue.

After winning his first group, the 27-year-old made it clear he was expecting to do well and we should all get ready to see him win a lot more matches.

‘I practiced a lot during the summer, playing some really good stuff in practice so it’s not a surprise, but it’s always nice to do it on the match table,’ said Brecel.

‘I feel like I’m playing a lot better than last season so hopefully it’s going to be a good season again.

‘I don’t have many points to defend this season so the only way is up. If I can get some good results like last season, I could finish maybe top four by the end of the season, so a lot to play for.’

It is a huge task for him, but the Bullet will climb to ninth in the world after lifting the trophy, his best ever ranking. It is his third ranking title and the first time he has won them in successive seasons.

He showed great poise under pressure in his third group, needing to beat Zhao Xintong 3-0 in his last game to reach the final, which is exactly what he did. At 1-1 in the final he made two big breaks looking incredibly calm to get over the line.

Brecel has always had the talent, but with confidence, experience and a winning habit now added into the mix, he is going to be a threat in everything this year.

Zhao Xintong is close to the top but not quite there

Betfred World Snooker Championship - Day Six
Zhao Xintong showed fragility when it mattered in Leicester (Picture: Getty Images)

Zhao Xintong was making the Championship League look extremely easy when many others were not. There were plenty of rusty players on show, but the Cyclone wasn’t one of them.

He breezed through his first two groups and kicked off the final Friday with two wins, meaning he just needed to avoid a 3-0 loss to Brecel in his last match to reach the showpiece.

Having looked imperious, Zhao faltered for the first time in the entire competition, missing a number of balls he would expect to get when he really needed to get them.

Zhao won’t be losing too much sleep over it, but it was a concerning lapse at the crucial point. The 25-year-old is heading for the top of the sport, but he still has things to learn and improvements to make.

He showed off his talent and work ethic in this event, both of which mean that he could dominate snooker at one point, but it is not going to happen quite yet while he still shows fragility at times.

Pang Junxu is going places

2014 Haining Open
Pang Junxu continues his ascent through the world rankings (Picture: Getty Images)

22-year-old Pang Junxu cemented his position as one of the brightest young stars in the sport as he continues his march up the world rankings.

The Chinese won Rookie of the Year after turning pro in 2020 and he is improving all the time, working hard at the Ding Junhui Academy.

China’s greatest ever player has claimed Pang is the hardest practicer in the academy, which says a lot, and it is paying dividends as he makes the kind of progress early in his career that so many youngsters find difficult, if not impossible.

Pang topped his first group ahead of Ryan Day, Dylan Emery and Reanne Evans, before much more impressively seeing off Ronnie O’Sullivan, Ali Carter and Yuan Sijun from his second group.

He didn’t emerge from his final group, but did pick up draws against grizzled vets Stuart Bingham and Ricky Walden.

Pang is not bursting into finals or anything, but making very impressive progress. We can expect to start seeing him reach quarter-finals in the near future and break the top 32 for the first time. An impressive player.

And while we’re giving a nod to young players to impress, a word for Chang Bingyu, Aaron Hill, Yuan Sijun, Ben Mertens and Florian Nuessle, who all caught the eye at times. There is plenty of emerging talent around.

Mix it up more in the commentary box

One treat of the Championship League is the variety of voices we get in the commentary box during the Matchroom event.

There were a number of players gracing the airwaves, including Kyren Wilson, Michael Holt, Joe Perry, Gary Wilson, Fergal O’Brien, Mark Davis, Steven Hallworth, Peter Lines, Rod Lawler and possibly some others that I’ve forgotten.

It’s great to mix things up and get insight, stories and opinions from players we don’t necessarily hear from that often. It might not work so much in other events, but it’s great when it happens and if players can be given the opportunity to commentate on the odd frame elsewhere, then they should.

Also, a shout out to commentary heroes Dave Hendon and Phil Yates who were working on every single day of that monstrous comp. This is nothing new to learn, but they do a great job nearly the entire year round these days.

Ronnie O’Sullivan really can create a headline out of nowhere

The world champion and world number one has found all sorts of ways to get himself into headlines over his long career and he continues to do so at 46 years old.

O’Sullivan breezed through his first group stage in Leicester but then suffered shock defeats to Pang and Yuan as he fell at stage two.

With little on the line against Ali Carter in his final match, the Rocket was clearing up in the final frame and spiced up the break by loudly breaking wind.

It isn’t the first time the Rocket has done this and he seems to find it very funny, which the referee did as well to be fair, as did a huge amount of people on social media.

Depressingly enough, the clip I posted on Twitter of the incident was far more popular than anything else I’ve ever stuck on that website.

The sport’s biggest star really does attract attention, even for as little as a fart.

Bonus thing we learned…

Some fans might not love the Championship League, but the players don’t mind it at all.

Here’s Anthony Hamilton: ‘It’s a good tournament. It’s a good time of the year to play it.

‘Not too much pressure, not too much money to be lost, if you know what I mean. Just gets people back in the swing of it a little bit, I think it’s good timing.

Thank you Phil for this. It sums up perfectly why I believe that this event is the perfect season opener. 

I will add that, with every match streamed, it’s an excellent opportunity to watch players we don’t see so often on TV, including the rookies. It’s also important for the lesser known players needing sponsors. The main tour isn’t cheap for the players with, basically, half of them earning nothing in most events. In this one it’s “only” a quarter of them earning nothing, and all matches being shown on YouTube or might motivate more sponsors eager to give their brand exposure.

Ronnie was interviewed by the media in Singapore

Ronnie was interviewed by the media in Singapore and here what he had to say, reported by Eurosport:


Seven-time world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan admits tennis, golf, football and athletics pose as more attractive options for parents when looking at sports their children to play. O’Sullivan is launching the Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy in Singapore and will play an exhibition tournament this weekend alongside Zhao Xintong and women’s world champion Nutcharut ‘Mink’ Wongharuthai.


Ronnie O’Sullivan says snooker “needs to get its act together” after admitting he would advise children against playing the sport.

O’Sullivan is in Singapore to officially launch the Ronnie O’Sullivan Snooker Academy, and is set to play an exhibition tournament on Saturday alongside China’s Zhao Xintong and women’s world champion Nutcharut ‘Mink’ Wongharuthai of Thailand.

Speaking about the challenges snooker faces, world champion O’Sullivan admitted the sport is in a “tough position” given its competition.

It’s hard because obviously football is such a big sport now, tennis, golf,” O’Sullivan told SNTV.

You have all these sports so if you’re a parent, and if you’re looking at a sport for your son or daughter to get involved in, would you choose snooker? You probably wouldn’t.

So it’s really difficult to sort of get excited about snooker. You know, I love snooker, I’ve played it all my life, but also I’m a parent as well and I think if I was advising my children on a sport to play, snooker would be the last sport I probably want them to play.

I’d say maybe try tennis, maybe try golf, play football, maybe athletics, you know all that sort of stuff. So snooker’s in a really tough position at the moment, of where it goes, so it’s up against a lot of other good sports.

Snooker needs to get its act together I think, more importantly, and at the moment, you can’t compare it to all the other sports really.

Asked whether a big investment would help snooker, O’Sullivan added: “I think it’d be fantastic for the sport if that was to happen. You need someone like a big backer like the Saudi-people to just come along and say ‘look, this is what we are going to do’ and the players will be like ‘yeah, great’, they probably go for it. That probably would be a good thing for snooker.

It may be China, maybe Saudi (Arabia), maybe one of them places I think. You need someone with deep pockets that can afford to put maybe a hundred million aside, this is it for the next five years, the players’ futures are secured, they know where they are, you know then that would be great for snooker.

O’Sullivan won his seventh world title in May after beating Judd Trump 18-13 in the final.

The 46-year-old admitted he was not entirely enjoying his time at the Crucible, but felt the pressure to perform with a television crew following him for a documentary.

I decided a long time ago that if something got too much pressure, or I thought you know what, I’m not really enjoying this, then it’s probably better that I lose and let somebody else have that place.

And I felt that during this world championships. I didn’t really enjoy it. But I had this film crew following me so I thought, I better try hard because they’re following me. So that was why I won it. It wasn’t because I wanted to win it. It was just that I felt bad for the TV crew.

He added: “I don’t even actually like talking about snooker. I enjoy playing it but I don’t really want to be too involved in it. So obviously winning the world championships, it really turned everything around and everyone was like, ‘Ah you’re world champion this, world number one’, I was like oh no, I don’t want to be known as that person anymore.

I just want to enjoy my life you know, but when you’re in the spotlight, everybody gets excited. I’m like, I don’t really want to be that person anymore.


There a few things in this interview I want to comment on.

First, it’s very obvious that when Ronnie says that he wouldn’t want his son to embrace snooker, it’s “snooker as a profession”. Every parent wants the best for their kids and they want them to be able to earn a decent living and be safe economically. Whatever WST claims, only the top 32 are in that position in snooker, and to be in the top 32, you have to be exceptionally good at it. Only the very top can make enough money to be safe once they retire. Ronnie feels that other “good” sports provide better opportunities to earn, whilst, currently snooker isn’t in that position.

Ronnie mentions Saudi Arabia, no doubt because all the noise about the golf  “LIV” tour. I would hate it if Saudi Arabia was getting deeply involved in snooker. This is a terribly repressive regime that tries to rekindle its image – and secure revenues other than those provided by the oil sector – though sports. It’s called “sportswashing” and here is an article by the guardian explaining what their strategy is. It’s 18 months old but still totally relevant. Last March, Amnesty International again raised strong concerns after 81 persons were executed, some of them merely for peacefully protesting. Does the sport we love really want to be involved with such a terrible regime? Alas, they probably would … after all a very lucrative event had been planned to be played there and is probably still on the cards. Now, whilst the snooker authorities can’t possibly ignore the type of country they are dealing with, the players … I’m not so sure. Most of them don’t read much outside the UK news and even then, their interest is mainly about sports. And, of course, China is also a very repressive regime when it comes to ethnic minorities.

That said, that “sportswashing” policy inevitably brings more foreigners in the country. That, in turn, might, in the longer term, force those regimes to become more tolerant to diversity. No matter how hard you try to “hide” some realities, having more “foreign eyes” around will increase the risk of unwanted truths to be exposed. That’s inevitable: such events attract journalists, you can’t keep every single visitor in a “bubble” and some will see beyond the appearances and will talk. If it happens it will eventually backlash.

Finally about Ronnie’s “lack of desire”, I think his very emotional reaction after his win tells us everything we need to know. That said, he isn’t actually telling lies. The World Championship is a 17 days hard slog. Someone like Ronnie has to cope with a lot of tension, a lot of demands from WST and the media, a lot of expectations from the fans.  He’s naturally a rather anxious person. I do believe him when he says he doesn’t enjoy that… not after 30 years in the job and in the media spotligth. Having this documentary filmed gave him extra motivation to try his hardest.


David Hendon and Hector Nunns reflect about Ronnie’s personality and achievements

The immediate aftermath of the World Championship always leaves us with a bit of an “empty” feeling after all the 17 days excitement and rollercoast of emotions…

It’s a time to pause and reflect …

David Hendon reckons that this World Championship has been revealing about the “real Ronnie”:


Ronnie O’Sullivan’s great friend and Eurosport colleague Jimmy White firmly believes he can go on to win as many as 10 world titles. Why not? His game is unlikely to dramatically decline overnight. He keeps himself fit and has the natural talent to underpin the hard work he puts in. Dave Hendon reflects on O’Sullivan’s historic triumph at the Crucible and all it means for him and the sport.


Sometimes it’s the ones you most expect.

Ronnie O’Sullivan came to Sheffield this year newly installed as world no.1 and chasing history. He leaves the steel city confirmed as snooker’s greatest ever player with more success surely ahead of him.

His 18-13 defeat of Judd Trump in the World Championship final made for fascinating viewing, but it was the scenes afterwards which will live long in the memory, O’Sullivan in floods of tears as he held on to Trump before hugging two of his children.

This was the real Ronnie, a big-hearted, emotional man with snooker running through his veins experiencing the dawning realisation that he had tied Stephen Hendry’s modern-day record of seven world titles. It was a moment for the ages.

Later, with typical directness, he described the whole tournament as “torture”. But for O’Sullivan, the pain is the point.

In everything he does, he goes all in. Some players, maybe most, are content to earn as decent a living as they can from snooker without ever pushing themselves to breaking point. The same cannot be said about O’Sullivan, whose love/hate relationship with a sport he has bestrode like a colossus for three decades is well documented.

When O’Sullivan goes running, he’s not out for a jog. He takes his body to its limits. In snooker, it’s his mind that is tested to the full. In 2011, beginning to struggle, he went to see Dr Steve Peters, a psychiatrist who has made his name working with sportspeople.

Dr Peters gave him practical advice about controlling his emotions, which O’Sullivan has clung to in the decade since. It has helped him not only to prolong his career but keep thriving at the very highest level.

Some in the sport complain that too many tournaments become the ‘Ronnie O’Sullivan Show’, but this really was. He was followed everywhere by a documentary crew making a film about his bid for a seventh title, which may have acted as extra motivation to focus hard on every aspect of what is needed to win snooker’s biggest event, on the table and off.

Nobody really threatened him until the last day. Dave Gilbert led him 3-0 in their first-round contest but wilted after the match was levelled. Mark Allen and Stephen Maguire could not come back after falling well behind early on. John Higgins dug in without ever playing his best snooker.

The early part of the final was disappointing as a spectacle before Trump made a fight of it. We want the showpiece match to be close as it is often how the championship is defined. But this one will be remembered for O’Sullivan’s historic feat, 21 years in the making since his first Crucible triumph in 2001.

Before the last session of that year’s final, there was a procession of former champions. Jimmy White, who famously never won the title, was also brought out on the basis that he was the ‘people’s champion’. Observing this from his dressing room, O’Sullivan resolved never to be in that position.

He was 25 and his great contemporaries, Higgins and Mark Williams, had already won the game’s most prized title. There were questions as to whether O’Sullivan’s often traumatic personal life would impinge on his chances. Did he have the discipline to last 17 days in Sheffield?

It was Higgins he beat in the final to settle all doubts. More titles followed in 2004, 2008, 2012 and, despite only playing one match all season ahead of the championship, 2013.

His defeat to Mark Selby in 2014 was a setback it took years to recover from, but he finally did by beating his arch-rival in the semi-finals of the 2020 event, on the way to winning title no.6.

And now it is seven. When O’Sullivan first burst onto the scene, many predicted he would become the youngest ever world champion. That didn’t happen, but he is now the oldest.

There is a bittersweet moment at the end of each World Championship. After the ticker-tape trophy presentation has ended and the champion leaves the arena, the backstage crew move in to dismantle the table and set. It means it is all over for another year and we are left to reflect on the 17 days just gone.

The 2022 edition was a memorable one, not just because of its historic ending. The first round brimmed with quality matches, the best of which was Kyren Wilson’s 10-8 victory over Ding Junhui.

Round two was notable for an unexpected cameo appearance by a pigeon and the longest ever frame at the Crucible. The 85-minute affair between Yan Bingtao and Selby would have made grisly viewing anywhere else, but late on in their best of 25 frame encounter was compelling.

The standout night came on the second Monday when Neil Robertson made a 147 break but was defeated 13-12 by Jack Lisowski, who then starred in another thriller in the quarter-finals, losing 13-12 to Higgins.

The ‘Class of ’92’ all reached the semi-finals, where O’Sullivan won one of the championship’s most dramatic frames on a re-spotted black to lead Higgins 10-6 overnight rather than 9-7.

The other semi between Trump and Williams looked set to fizzle out when Trump led 7-1 but the Welshman roared back to take it the full distance, proving yet again that the pay-off for long matches is the excitement of a close finish after such emotional investment from the audience.

The final was eagerly awaited, but Trump did not really show up on day one. His A-game is frightening but he did not produce it anywhere regularly enough.
However, he grew stronger on Monday afternoon as O’Sullivan began to make mistakes. A huge fluke in the last frame of session three helped leave the match tantalisingly poised at just 14-11.

But when the evening came, it was like a new match again. O’Sullivan sprinted for the winning line like a man who sensed it was his destiny.

As the prize presentation unfolded, Hendry stood by our Eurosport commentary box watching on. His record of seven world titles was set in 1999. That year he beat O’Sullivan in the semi-finals at a time when Ronnie was a somewhat troubled young man.

Back then, it seemed impossible for anyone to threaten Hendry’s title tally, or indeed any of his records. With great persistence, O’Sullivan has come for them. He says they are just numbers but there will surely be a day when he looks back on it all with genuine pride.

His great friend and Eurosport colleague Jimmy White firmly believes O’Sullivan can go on to win as many as 10 world titles. Why not? His game is unlikely to dramatically decline overnight. He keeps himself fit and has the natural talent to underpin the hard work he puts in.

Yet Hendry was never quite the same after his seventh victory. The intensity went and the titles dried up. The mental demands of top-level snooker cannot be underestimated and how many more times O’Sullivan can stand at the bottom of the mountain gazing up at the climb ahead remains to be seen.

But all that can wait for another day. For now, the glory once more belongs to Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Snooker’s greatest showman has done it again.

And Ronnie talked to Hector Nunns about the upcoming documentary:

Fly-On-The-Wall Ronnie O’Sullivan Documentary Gets Its Fairytale Ending

A year in the life of Ronnie O’Sullivan got the fairytale ending – but it won’t be the last dance for the Rocket.

The 46-year-old is being hailed as the greatest player in history after equalling Stephen Hendry’s record of seven world titles with an 18-13 win over Judd Trump at the Betfred World Championship.

World No1 O’Sullivan, the oldest Crucible champion, is not done yet – suggesting Hendy may only get to share the record for a year, and that he could play into his 50s and go for 10.

But the fly-on-the-wall film documentary crew that have been following him around this season were able to capture momentous moments in the iconic Sheffield arena.

Having spent years insisting records meant nothing to him, the images of an overwhelmed O’Sullivan sobbing in the arms of beaten opponent Trump and celebrating with his children told a different story.

And O’Sullivan was quick to see parallels with the film about basketball legend Michael Jordan’s last 1997-98 season with the Chicago Bulls that saw the NBA superstar win a sixth championship.

O’Sullivan said: “I loved that documentary The Last Dance about Jordan’s final season at the Bulls.

And this is a bit of a dream ending to mine, the guys have been following me six or seven months. You couldn’t have envisaged this – they have had a result.

I loved Michael’s energy, professionalism and his confidence. He knew how to get the best out of people. He let Dennis Rodman go to Las Vegas for a few days because he needed it.

Then he didn’t come back so he had to get on a plane and go and get him. It was a great insight, there were so many different characters.

It’s harder in an individual sport, definitely. I said to Steve Peters that I wished I was in a team sport. At least then you can take a week off or be rested for a bit.

You can have that relationship with your manager where you can kind of pick and choose when to play. In an individual sport you’re kind of forced to play even if you feel you don’t want to.

So it’s tougher, but I chose this sport and there’s not a lot I can do about it now.

I’m good with pressure so having the crew around wasn’t an issue. In some ways, it might have inspired me. And things just seem to work out – so I’m not surprised that it ended like that.

And it wasn’t all Sheffield, hopefully a load of it gets in there.

In Llandudno they asked me what I normally do and I said ‘I go out running at eight in the morning, if it’s p**sing down with rain I’m still going out’.

They got in the car and followed me, and got me running up the Orme – and it was p**sing down. Whatever I have done, they have followed me. Everything has been as it is.

O’Sullivan again recognised the huge part sports psychiatrist Steve Peters has played in his career. Four of his world titles have come since Peters stopped him quitting in 2011.

And despite the torrents of praise and acclaim coming his way, the Rocket claims he is not and never will be ‘the greatest’.

He added: “If it hadn’t have been for Steve Peters I would probably be in some hot country like Portugal living in a nice beach house and coming to the UK once every six weeks to see my family.

The size of winning the seventh title and the enormity of it is so important to everybody- and I can feel that.

But I don’t consider myself the greatest ever at all. There are a lot of players out there that I wish I had elements of their game in my game. I try to develop my game on what they do better than me.

I just enjoy playing, enjoy competing. Does it really matter who’s the greatest? To me it doesn’t.

We all make this sport fantastic. You guys in the media, the players, the officials. It’s just great to be at the high end of your sport.

I won’t consider myself the greatest even if I win eight, not at all. There are a lot of players out there that I wish I had elements of their game in my game. I try to develop my game on what they do better than me.

I just enjoy playing, enjoy competing. Does it really matter who’s the greatest? To me it doesn’t.

We all make this sport fantastic. You guys, the players, the officials. It’s just great to be at the high end of your sport.

I won’t consider myself the greatest even if I win eight, not at all. I don’t want to be considered the greatest. I want to be known as someone who loves snooker and loves playing.

I have a love/hate relationship with the game because I hate it when I’m not performing well.

When I’m playing all right I get a great buzz out of it and enjoy it. I’m able to cope with not playing well better than I used to.

The video, shared by Betfred, shows Rob Walker, John Virgo and Shaun Murphy reflect on the championship, the class on 92, funny and awkward moments, interviews with the champion, the Crucible staff, Barry Hearn and more … It’s really good stuff!

It’s the last year of the Betfred sponsorship. You know my views on gambling and my worries about how much snooker still relies on the betting industry for sponsoring, but I must say the Betfred hospitality was always fantastic through the years at the Crucible.

An Award for Ronnie …

This is rather late news and it didn’t really get a lot of publicity. Actually, it’s only thanks to Silvry that this hit this site.

Ronnie got an award, earlier this month…


He was competing in the Scottish  Open at the time and sent them video message to thank them. It’s on youtube and is/was on Ronnie’s Instagram.

I have to admit that I had never heard about this organisation before, or how they choose and proceed to select their nominees, but it’s nice all the same.

This is how they describe Ronnie’s award:

Competitive Sports Award

This award is for someone who has demonstrated tremendous belief, focus and determination to reach the pinnacle of sporting glory. This may also be someone who has set up an entity that manages fosters or facilitates sports or involved in a sports league.

This is their website.

And their Instagram page.


Snooker players away from the baize…

Peter Devlin hasn’t really enjoyed much glory on the main tour so far, but was given a great opportunity to show … his showman side whilst helping WST to promote the coming English Open

Here is what he posted on his facebook page today:

Had a brilliant day as the guest at Milton Keynes Dons Stadium MK
Did a few interviews, and performed a rap live in front of just under 10,000 football fans. Standard 😂😂
Massive thanks to World Snooker Tour for giving me this opportunity to help promote the upcoming English Open, and the Snooker Tour in general 😁
Also met John Motson, and was a bit starstruck hearing his standout commentary voice in real life!

Asked by a friend if he enjoyed it, he replied:

(It) was awesome mate! I wish I could have that kind of confidence at snooker! Literally no nerves whatsoever doing that in front of thousands. But put a cue in my hand and different story 😂

Ronnie supports a terminally ill artist and is full of admiration for the positive way he deals with the situation

An award-winning artist is selling his work for charity after being diagnosed with brain cancer and given only months to live.

Antonio Russo from Bovingdon, AKA Stony, who went from being a street graffiti artist to winning global art prizes, is raising money for The Brain Tumour Charity.

The father-of-two, who was diagnosed in 2019, has been producing work with inspirational messages throughout his career and they have been bringing hope to people with cancer.

Snooker star and art lover Ronnie O’Sullivan has become a close friend after buying one of his canvasses.

Ronnie O’Sullivan and Antonio Russo

Mr O’Sullivan said: “He is a great friend to me. When I met him I thought ‘I really like this guy’ – he has a lovely way about him.

We stayed in, starting talking, eating and watching Formula 1.

Now I know his family – his daughter and son. We also come from neighbouring villages in Italy so we share that culture, so there was an Italian connection too.

I love his art. Antonio has his own unique way as an artist and I think it is fantastic.”

Ronnie O’Sullivan with Stony’s canvass

Mr Russo, 56, said: “I’ve been involved in art and music all my life and have been fortunate to travel the world and work with some amazing people.

I stay positive despite my diagnosis and it is fantastic that my work inspires people and helps them through tough times.

In January he was given six to nine months to live but has been on a clinical trial drug which he says he draws great strength from.

My cancer is terminal but I’m the biggest survivor in the world,” he added.

Artist Antonio Russo

Mr Russo continued: “Ronnie is a fantastic guy and a good buddy, and he’s also really knowledgeable about art.

I’ve got work in big galleries and have lots of high-profile clients but the most important thing for me is that my work touches people and helps them.

Mr Russo was born in Luton but moved to Sicily as a baby before returning with his family to the UK when he was 12.

He had been drawing and painting since he was three years old and was drawn to street art as a teenager.

Artwork by Stony

He added: “Graffiti was a way of expressing myself and I joined a community of street artists who were just dedicated to their art.

They were artists, not taggers who just went around painting their names or one design – I was always creative and colourful and it was about expressing myself through art.

Mr O’Sullivan said: “The illness is so bloody sad but he is so positive – he has a great spirit about him.

He never gives in – he always believes there is something better around the corner.



Snooker, media, charity and Ronnie news

As we have an “empty day” before the Scottish Open qualifiers, here are some snooker related news that  attracted my attention over the last week…

Having recently won the Asian Championship, Pankaj Advani won the 6-reds IBSF World Championship in Doha. Here is the account by the Times of India:

Pankaj Advani wins his 24th world title in Doha


DOHA : Star Indian cueist Pankaj Advani on Tuesday grabbed his 24th world title when he triumphed at the IBSF 6-Red Snooker World Cup with a victory over Pakistan’s Babar Masih in the final.
Advani, who won his 11th Asian title last week, started the final with a comfortable 42-13 win in the opening frame.
Babar drew parity by winning the second 38-14.

In the third frame, Advani made a foul that only he knew he had committed. The 36-year-old won the third and fourth in quick succession to go 3-1 up.
The Pakistani cueist, in no mood to play second fiddle to his worthy opponent, crafted a wonderful 56 break to bridge the gap.
Advani shifted gears and then took the next three to be one frame away from getting his hands on his 24th world winner’s trophy.
Not going to go down without a fight, Babar brought the match to a precarious situation by winning the next three frames as a strong response.
At 6-5, it was touch and go. Babar had found his touch and Advani had more to lose at this point being within striking distance of the finish line. But a classy 32 break off the cue of the multiple world champion put paid to Babar’s hopes.
Pankaj ensured a clean slate of wins over the last fortnight in Qatar across two international championships – Asian Snooker and 6-red Snooker World Cup.
“I am living a dream. Being away from the table for so long, these two back-to-back triumphs assure me that my hunger and competitive skills haven’t diminished,” Advani said.
“Very fortunate to win both as I am aware there is still a lot of work to put into my game once I return. Happy to return home tomorrow with two gold medals for my country.”
Earlier, in the day, Pankaj got the better of the Asian Snooker finalist Amir Sarkhosh of Iran 6-3.

Congratulations Pankaj!

Phil Haigh and Nick Metcalfe had John Virgo as a special guest to their podcast.

John Virgo is always entertaining, but it was not all jokes and laugh as he revealed that the coming Word Championship at the Crucible will probably be the last for him and Dennis Taylor as BBC pundits. 

John Virgo expects next World Snooker Championship to be the last for him and Dennis Taylor

Composite image of Dennis Taylor and John Virgo
Dennis Taylor and John Virgo have been leading voices of snooker for decades (Pictures: Getty)

John Virgo believes the next World Snooker Championship will be the last for him and Dennis Taylor in the commentary box, expecting to be cut from the BBC’s coverage.

Virgo, 75, and Taylor, 72, have been voices of snooker for decades, with Virgo first commentating on the game way back in 1985 and becoming a huge television star through the ’90s thanks to gameshow Big Break.

While no decision has been confirmed by the BBC, Virgo seems sure that his next trip to the Crucible in April will be his last to work behind a microphone.

Speaking to the Talking Snooker podcast, Virgo said: ‘Listen, you never know what’s round the corner in life, but it looks like this will be my last season. Not my choice, theirs [the BBC]. Along with Dennis (Taylor) apparently.

‘Scoop or whatever it is, I don’t know, but that’s what we’re getting, that this will be our last season. I think that’s definite. The World Championship will be our last one. It’s not my decision, I love the game and everything else. But I understand, nothing lasts for ever, I understand that.’

The World Championship, played from 16 April-2 May, will likely represent the end of an era for two of the most significant commentators the sport has had, and Virgo says it will be hard to deal with when it comes around.

The former UK champion first played at the Crucible in the first year the venue hosted the World Championship in 1977 and it is a venue filled with fond memories for him.

That’s the decision they’re making, so yeah, I haven’t really felt it at the moment but I probably will do come the World Championship,’ he said.

There will be a lot of memories there, memories from when we first went there in ’77. So it will be hard, but as I say, nothing lasts forever, and I’ll give it my best shot and that will be it, yeah.

I think they’re probably looking for people who are more in touch with the modern day player. Although I think all players are the same aren’t they? They play shots, there’s not many shots that people play that I haven’t seen, you know. I’m not criticising the decision, I know nothing lasts for ever.

The BBC have been fantastic to me, in my commentary career, Big Break, if that’s the decision that’s the decision, we’ll just have to accept it and enjoy it on the telly.’

John Virgo at the World Snooker Championship
Virgo enjoyed a successful playing career in the 1970s and ’80s before moving into commentary (Picture: Getty Images)

2019 world champion Judd Trump called for broadcasters to make a change to their veteran commentary teams earlier this year, telling ‘There’s not enough trying out new things in snooker for me at the moment, it’s all the same every season, not enough excitement, not enough different dimensions,’ he said.

Change the coverage, the commentators who have been around a long time, change the way the game is spoken about.

Asked about Trump’s comments, Virgo said: ‘I still think we’ve got something to offer.

‘I don’t think the shots have changed, I don’t think the mentality [has changed]. When somebody misses an easy shot you can put your finger on why they did it.

Day Ten at the World Snooker Championship
Judd Trump has been critical of some of the veteran voices on the BBC (Picture: Getty Images)

If someone’s in a spot of bother…Dennis is the best line-drawer in the business, if someone’s in a snooker.

Being younger, you might put an emoji on the bottom of it, but how are you going to better it?

But no, I understand. I think over the years we’ve had the experience to talk when we need to talk, to be quiet when we need to let the pictures tell the story.

‘It will change, sooner rather than later, but I won’t have any complaints because I’ve enjoyed it.’

The BBC has been approached for comment.

Well… I at least hope that the BBC will not got for the “excitement” bit. I’d absolutely hate “football style” commentary on the snooker. And indeed, their knowledge of the shots and understanding of the table situation are excellent and make for interesting commentary.

That said, I could do without the golf digressions, and discussions about “great players” from 50 years ago that most viewers never had the opportunity to watch except maybe in some blurry Youtube bit.  Also, too many times, there have been admissions that they had never seen this one or that one guy playing before. They don’t seem to watch much snooker unless it’s on the BBC. Their choice, but at least do some research.

Also, completely butchering overseas’ players names is not acceptable. I have been contacted by ITV pundits who wanted to make sure about the pronunciation of Belgian and French players’ names and I truly appreciated their efforts to get that right.

And then there is this bit about a great charity challenge initiative where Ronnie will play a very modest role:

Runners set to navigate all 315 London Underground and DLR stations on foot

Psychologist and author Dr Kevin Dutton and Great Britain rower John Collins are embarking on a brutal two-week challenge to raise crucial funds for charity

metro train at railroad station

On Sunday 19 September Dr Kevin Dutton, a psychologist and author, and Great Britain rower John Collins will embark on a unique leg-sapping challenge – navigating all 315 London Underground and DLR stations on foot, over a two-week period. But that’s not all. They’ll be sleeping rough in between legs and, on Day 15, they’ll conclude their challenge by running all 26.2 miles of the London Marathon. The pair have badged the 305-mile feat the ‘Metro Marathon Challenge’.

Combatting homelessness

So why are the pair taking on such a gruelling feat of endurance? Dutton and Collins are raising money for The Running Charity – a charity harnessing the power of running to support young people who are experiencing homelessness or managing complex needs.

The Running Charity believes that running is as good for your mind as it is for your body. Running builds resilience and self-esteem, and they use this to improve the lives of 16-25 year-olds who are homeless or at risk from homelessness.

‘The last year and a half has been tough on all of us,’ said Dutton, ‘but it’s been even tougher for those without a roof over their heads.’

Metro Marathon Challenge logistics

Dutton and Collins have called on a team of data scientists from Capgemini Engineering to help them plot the route. The data scientists have calculated the optimum start point and shortest possible route between the 315 stations, beginning in Chesham and ending in Lewisham, the station nearest to the London Marathon start line.

The pair will be sleeping rough for the entire duration of the challenge, mostly in parks along the route, but sometimes, in a friend’s garden. On Day 10, they’ll be dropping in on none other than snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan to refuel with some of his home-cooked pasta.

There will be a few other famous faces supporting Dutton and Collins on their journey, too. The pair will be started by former London Marathon winner Hugh Jones, and former SAS soldier Andy McNab will also be on hand to support them at various points along the route.

‘The Metro Marathon Challenge is eccentric, original…but genuinely bloody hard,’ said McNab. ‘It’s 50/50 in my book whether Kev and John manage to pull it off. I hope they do – it’s for a great cause. But it’s going to take a monumental effort of guts and willpower, not to mention extreme fitness.’

You can follow Dutton and Collins’ progress on Instagram here and donate to their Just Giving page here.

Ronnie left them a supporting message on his Instagram page



Is Eurosport anti Selby?

I have deliberately waited before going for this one until the rage and “word war” have come down a bit on social media. It all turned about two main issues.

Issue 1 – the studio discussion about the “snooker behind the brown”

During the 2021 World final and in the aftermath of it, there was a lot of criticism targeting the Eurosport coverage, and a perceived “anti Selby” bias.

The whole thing started when the pundits had a discussion in the ES studio about a difficult situation on the table.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has said it “ain’t right” that Mark Selby was able to benefit from a controversial re-spot in the World Snooker Championship final against Shaun Murphy.
Selby got a taste of his own medicine during the 19th frame of the World Snooker Championship as Murphy had him in a world of trouble with a very sneaky shot with the cue ball rolled in behind the brown, leaving a horrible snooker.
But after three misses on the tricky snooker from an extended ‘spider’ and ‘swan’ rests, Selby was strangely suddenly able to use a normal rest to eventually get out of the shot at the fourth time of asking.
Using freeze-frames in the Eurosport studio, experts O’Sullivan and Neal Foulds made it clear that the re-spot was not correct and the normal rest should never have been a possibility to get out of the original situation.
In O’Sullivan’s mind, it clearly was not right that Selby was suddenly able to play the shot with the different rest – and he was shocked that Murphy did not get out of his chair to flag the incorrect re-spot.
If the white was put back where it was originally, this shot is just not possible,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport. “Because you can’t hit enough of the white, and if you did, you would probably miscue and the white would go towards the yellow.
“So if this shot was playable in the first place, he would have done. But even still, even when the white has moved [from the re-spot] quite considerably, really, he still couldn’t hit enough of the white to come that side of the red.
“So that shot was just never possible. You try not to blame the players, but in that situation, if the player has got the spider out originally and then he is using the rest, surely they should be able to use the technology to see the balls are not right. Because if they were right, you [Selby] would still have the spider in your hands. So maybe they should have used the technology to get it right.”
Foulds added: “Listen, you don’t want to get too involved in blaming players, but the balls were not put back correctly, we know that because we saw how they were put back and it was not correct, so the referee, the marker and the player at the table really have the responsibility. Murphy didn’t leave his chair; he will always take it on trust from the other player, but I’m a little surprised that happened the way it did because the shot was not on that he ended up playing.”

The images above show the situation on the table, before Mark Selby’s first attempt, and before the last one. It’s obvious that the brown is sticking out more on the right side of the white in the second image.

The ES pundits were definitely right in their assesment of the situation. No player would have taken the extended spider or the extended swan-neck if they could reach with the extended rest. Originally Mark Selby needed to cue “on top” of the white because he wasn’t seeing enough of it to cue on the side.

The ES pundits have discussed controversial situations like this, at length, including when Ronnie was on the wrong side of it notably the incident with the extented rest happened during his match against Luo Honghao during the 2018 English Open. At the time nobody accused them to be “anti-Ronnie” and Ronnie was branded a cheat on social media because “surely” he must have felt it.

Well, I will say that surely in this case Selby should have seen it, or at least questioned why he was suddenly able to play a shot that wasn’t on before. Yet, I haven’t seen anyone branding him “a cheat” on twitter.

To summarise my sentiment about this incident: it was not a case of being “anti-Selby”, even less a case of being “Selby haters”, it was a relevant question, and discussion, about a controversial table situation, and it is puzzling that Mark Selby didn’t question the replacement of the balls. This is a non-issue.

Issue 2: Desmond Kane article after the final

After the final, the always prolofic and lyrical Desmond Kane wrote a long article where he basically defended the idea that Mark Selby is bad for the game.

The article is quite really a long one and it’s mainly nonsense. 

Mark Selby plays to his strength, he’s out there to try his hardest and win and it’s what he has to do. As a fan, you may or may not like to watch it, but it’s clever, skilful and within the rules, unlike what Ebdon did during the 2005 World Championship QF against Ronnie, where is was plain time wasting. Clearly Desmond doesn’t like it. I’m not a great fan either, but I disagree with the article all the same.

Desmond quotes various pundits/commentators to support his own views:

Quoting Ronnie:

O’Sullivan compared his old rival to a “boa constrictor” on Eurosport in his ability to tighten his grip on opponents with balls welded to cushions and Murphy left frozen in some sort of snooker Siberia.

Selby is keeping balls tight on the side cushion,

But he overlooks the fact that Ronnie actually admires Selby for being able to play that way, and that his advice to Murphy was just to do what himself had done last year in the World’s semi-finals to avoid being trapped in Selby’s game.

Quoting Steve Davis:

Davis – who was hardly the life and soul of the party himself back in the day – rather cruelly compared Selby to a villain from the Harry Potter canon of fiction called the Dementor, a sort of grim reaper figure. They are said to “glory in decay and despair, they drain hope and happiness out of the air around them” which pretty much summed up Selby’s mightily effective, but soul-destroying dismantling of fellow Englishman Murphy

One for the purists? Most definitely. One to win a popularity contest? Most definitely not.

Mark Selby adequately answered those criticism 

“What’s the point of going out there just to entertain the crowd if you keep losing? It doesn’t make sense to me. Look at your CV,” he said.


Quoting Stephen Hendry

The claws are in and they are in deep, Mark Selby is like a snooker vampire. He sucks all the life and adrenaline out of you,” opined Hendry, the record seven-times Crucible holder.

Stephen Hendry is probably the one who really struggles to see positives in Mark Selby’s game because himself played the exact opposite uncompromisingly.

Also, although Eurosport got all the stick, it’s worth noting that Davis and Hendry don’t work for Eurosport. they work for the BBC. Yet, I didn’t see any criticism aimed at the BBC for those comments and, to my knowledge, no one suggested that they were “anti Selby”.

Quoting Graeme Dott

I don’t think that is a good advert for snooker tonight,” said Dott. “That is just my personal opinion. I don’t like being involved in games were lots of people are actually leaving.


Now those quotes date back to January 2013… people were leaving indeed, but surely, the fact that Ally Pally is a rather isolated place, that it was freezing cold and snowing and that the last busses were about to depart had something to do with it. I would know, I was there, duly missed the last bus and caught the mother of all colds.

Desmond also brings in Judd Trump:

All the players need to do their job and make the sport as exciting as possible

Well, for me, one of the beauties of snooker is diversity and not everyone is “excited” by the same things. At the risk of being branded an “odd ball”, I’m not excited by Judd Trump’s game, and certainly would not watch the sport anymore if we had 128 “Judd Trump” clones on the tour.

And Stuart Bingham:

It was gruelling. It’s tough to lose a close game like that,” said Bingham. “Funnily enough, it’s the same sort of player, time in, time out, who plays slow. Does he do it on purpose or what?
I want a free-flowing game. Everyone knows there was one shot which took three minutes. It’s close to gamesmanship.”

So, regarding this issue, for me the main question is: is it a “Eurosport” view, or a “Desmond Kane” view? And should Eurosport distance themselves from the article, if they think it’s going too far, and doesn’t reflect accurately their position as a brand?

Journalists should have the freedom to express their opinion, as long as they stay factually correct. They are the ones responsible for those opinions. The media for which they work should have the possibility to distance themselves if they think things are going too far. I’m not a fan of censorship. In this case, my sentiment is that this article reflects Desmond Kane’s views, and his only. It’s not a Eurosport issue