Judd Trump wants to “fix” snooker

Judd has been talking to Phil Haigh about the state of snooker commentary and dress code

Judd Trump: Snooker is stuck in a rut and this is how to fix it

2020 Coral World Grand Prix - Day 4
Judd Trump wants to see a serious shake up in snooker (Picture: Getty Images)

Judd Trump feels snooker is failing to move with the times and risks being left a long way behind other sports if changes aren’t made to attract a younger audience. The world number one has plenty of ideas on the matter and wants to see commentary, dress code, marketing and TV coverage all seriously shaken up.

The 31-year-old has enjoyed incredible success in the last three seasons, winning his first World Championship and Masters titles and taking his career prize money to well over £5m.

Far from resting on his laurels, though, he believes snooker faces a difficult future as it is not appealing to younger sports fans and he wants changes made fast.

The Ace sees two major problems with how the game is presented. Firstly, how the players dress, which he feels is completely unappealing to a younger audience.

Secondly, he believes snooker has something of an obsession with the past, showcasing veterans rather than young talent on the television, and allowing unbridled waves of nostalgia rather than living in the present.

Trump sees other sports modernising and urges snooker to follow their lead.

‘It’s kind of stuck in a rut a little bit, it’s fallen behind some of the other sports and not enough is being done on the whole image of snooker,’ Trump told Metro.co.uk.

‘I’ve got the golf on and their clothing is all changing, becoming more lenient for the younger generation. People don’t want to go around dressed in waistcoats nowadays, they did 40 years ago but snooker is falling behind, stuck in their own ways and other sports have moved on.

‘I don’t want to be stuck in a waistcoat walking to the Crucible, it’s not cool to be wearing that nowadays, if I think that then I know people younger than me won’t want to be dressed like that either.

‘Golfers are wearing hoodies, got Air Max shoes on. This was all good 30 years ago but to make new stars and make the game popular again in the UK and bring it back to where it was you need to move with the times.

‘Keep the trousers, shoes, just maybe polo shirts or something more relaxed and different. You don’t need to be dressed in a five-piece suit every time you go to a game. It would attract more sports sponsors, it’s difficult to attract different sponsors when you’re doing the same thing year-in-year-out.

‘To be honest, a lot of my friends aren’t big snooker fans. They just watch it for me and they don’t want to be seeing people dressed in waistcoats, it should be more appealing to young people.’

Trump believes that the powers that be are also failing to promote young players in the game, continuing to broadcast well-known names from previous eras rather than take a punt on emerging talent.

The world number one has been watching the World Championship qualifiers this week and felt the event has been a prime example of that problem.

‘It’s how they advertise games,’ Trump said. ‘A lot of younger players are coming through in this World Championship and the social media all seems to be about people who were popular 30 years ago.

‘I’m not picking on Ken [Doherty], but he played and the Twitter was all about, “the 1997 world champion.” They should be advertising the upcoming stars, like Jamie Clarke and Iulian Boiko were playing.

‘They can’t keep these players in the spotlight forever, they haven’t done anything for 10-15 years. Everything they’re doing is 15 years out of date and not enough is being done to advertise the younger players in the game.

‘Things are never going to change unless they take a risk on advertising to different people. Otherwise you’ll get to a point where the older generation of snooker fans will be gone and you’re stuck with nobody because they haven’t appealed to the younger generation now.’

Betway UK Championship
Trump has become one of the biggest stars in the sport over the last three years (Picture: Getty Images)

Trump does recognise that it is a wide range of people that tournament organisers are trying to attract, with plenty of snooker fans wanting to see the old faces they know and love.

The Bristolian feels that this focus is harming the development of young players, though, and it is making it harder to discover the next Ronnie O’Sullivan.

‘I know a lot of people want to watch some of the older players but I wouldn’t even turn the TV on for people from 30 years ago,’ he said. ‘It’s only my point of view, I know people will disagree, but I’m trying to speak for younger people.

‘They don’t want to see people they don’t even remember, it was before my era.

‘A lot of teenagers want to see more appealing quicker players. Jamie Wilson the other day, people like that. How’s he going to get a target audience or make a name for himself if he’s not covered?

‘People love Ronnie because he’s so fast, Jamie Wilson is trying to get through but he’s not going to be seen on TV unless he gets to the semi-finals of the World Championship or something silly.

‘Someone like Wilson, I don’t know how good he’s going to be, but someone who is playing as quick as Ronnie O’Sullivan, it won’t be much more exciting than that. There is young talent out there but the viewing public doesn’t get to see it.’

Trump sees an unhealthy focus on the past in front of the cameras but behind them, especially among the BBC’s veteran group of commentators.

He admits he is lost immediately when tales of the distant past are told and wants to see some more modern voices covering the game.

‘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.

Betway UK Championship
Trump wants to see a more modern look to the game (Picture: Getty Images)

‘It doesn’t have to be every single tournament, but a few new faces. There’s not enough passion in their voices. When you hear people in Formula One, boxing, other sports, there’s someone with passion and a distinctive voice, kind of like what Clive Everton had. I think snooker is missing that at the moment, it’s all a bit samey.

‘It does frustrate me, not all of them, but when they start going on about things from the 1980s, I just don’t want to hear it.

‘Anyone my age, we just have no idea what they’re going on about, all these names, they just lose me immediately, lose my interest.

‘It’s doing nothing for making the game more appealing to the younger generation when they’re going on about something that happened 40 years ago. They need more of a mix, someone a bit younger at the same time as an older person. Then if someone is going on about a fact from 1975 they can just tell them to shut up.

‘It’s a lot of, “my friend did this” it’s just a little bit left behind, especially the BBC. I do like Eurosport’s coverage, [presenter] Andy Goldstein does an amazing job. I think the BBC need to mix it up a little bit more and get a few different personalities in the commentary box, maybe current players, get them in and ask them some stuff.

‘There’s no talk about the Golden Age of golf when the Masters is on, or the Golden Age of tennis at Wimbledon, it’s just about the here and now. Snooker is too much about 20-30 years ago. Is the standard better now? Nobody cares. The standard is what it is now and all that matters is the tournament coming up.’

2019 Northern Ireland Open - Day 7
Judd Trump plays the fan-friendly style similar to Ronnie O’Sullivan (Picture: Getty Images)

The world number one also wants to see other players take responsibility for making the game a more appealing prospect for viewers, although this is easier said than done for many who are fighting to earn a living on the baize.

‘It’s about making the game as attractive as possible,’ said Judd. ‘Still obviously trying to win, but it’s the manner of how I’m doing it.

‘Open the balls up, make it attractive and if you can bring more people to the game the prize money is going to go up and up rather than if you’re sat there battling a frame out for 50 minutes and boring everyone to death.

‘Some of the other players forget that it needs to be entertainment as well. For me it’s not all about the prize money, you can get sponsorships and other areas to earn money, that’s why I try to appeal to a wider audience rather than taking 30-35 seconds a shot trying to figure it out.’

The Juddernaut does not expect everyone to be pulling off the shots that he does on the baize, but he is aware that whatever he does on the table is a chance to bring in new fans to the sport.

A memorable shot against Barry Hawkins at the German Masters went viral on social media and Trump says he is intentionally trying these things to grow the sport.

‘If everyone was doing the same thing that would get boring,’ he said. ‘Everyone needs to have their own personality, but just the smallest moment like that, I looked like I was out of the game and it sort of spurred me on.

‘That shot appealed to people that don’t even watch snooker, people who would never have it on, but they’ll see it and it could make someone flick on during the World Championship, to then become a fan.

‘Small moments that you think don’t matter can find new followers at any single moment, especially with social media. Different ages, different countries that might not even see snooker normally.’

Trump wants to see things shaken up but hopes his ideas can be seen as constructive rather than him trying to have a scrap with snooker bosses.

He feels he is having to talk for a couple of generations that are being left behind but is happy to use his voice and platform to do so.

‘Everything is taken as a criticism rather than constructive debate, Barry Hearn’s done an amazing job,’ he said.

’50 per cent of people probably love what’s going on and love seeing the older players but the other 50 per cent don’t, so there’s got to be a compromise.

‘A bit more could be done by listening to some of the younger players’ thoughts and how they think we could go about making the game more glamorous and more appealing.

‘That’s where I’m trying to come from on the dress code and that side of things. I’m a bit older now at 31, but I can see it from a young person’s point of view.

‘Myself, Jack Lisowski, a few others, we have different mindsets to other people who, for them, snooker is their whole life and I can sort of see it from a different angle.

‘I can see it’s not quite appealing to the masses. For the younger generation, football, golf, tennis are taking the limelight.

‘We need to appeal to people from the UK and get them competing with the younger players from China because we’re getting left behind a little bit.’

OK, there are things I agree with and others I don’t.

Agreed.

There is too much focus on the past, especially when it comes to the BBC events. I’m 66, not 31 but I’m sick and tired of the 1985 final that was a terrible match except for the last minutes. I’m sick and tired of commentators admitting without a hint of shame that they know nothing about the young lad at the table. A minimum of professionalism involves doing your research. I’m sick and tired hearing them butchering “foreigners” names: if you’re not sure, ask, and if a Chinese/Belgian/German person tells you how to pronounce one of their fellow citizen’s name, listen. I’m sick and tired about the “golf” references: this is snooker and I’m not one bit interested in golf. I would love to see more young players on television or stream and can’t understand why in this time and age we don’t get the choice to watch ALL tables. It’s a contractual matter? Renegotiate those contracts. That way everyone can watch what they want to watch or all of of it if they so wish.

Disagreed

The dress code. There is nothing wrong with dressing smart. Waistcoats don’t need to be boring. There was a lot more fantasy in the past, colours, patterns, frills… go back to that, but KEEP the dress code for the major tournaments. Drop the bow tie for the minor ones. That’s all. Even with the current dress code some players manage to look scruffy, I don’t want to think what they would look like if it’s relaxed! I also don’t want snooker becoming a fashion show or a “vitrine” for over-expensive snobbish brands of shoes or clothes that only top players can afford, unless the said brand sponsors the event and fits ALL players accordingly.

And… this is me, but I’m sure I’m not alone … please keep the long sleeves. I don’t want to see tattoos covered arms, hands or any other body part. As I said, that’s me though.

Suggestion

Instead of systematically deleting matches from platforms like YouTube, work with the said platforms to find a way to satisfy your broadcasters whilst making past matches accessible to the general public. This IS the history of the game, this is how fans like me got interested, got to know and understand the game and how it evolved over time. Here are some suggestions: allow publication but only after a week, or a month … something reasonable. True fans will always want to watch the action when it happens. The delay should make sure that fans remain interested in paying for the broadcasting/stream and the broadcaster is fairly rewarded. Allow only “non-profit” sharing. But DO allow sharing.

WST/WPBSA Tribute to Doug Mountjoy

As the 2021 Welsh Open is about to start in Celtic Manor, WST and WPBSA pay tribute to Doug Mountjoy, one of the greatest Welsh players of the ’70s and ’80s. Dough sadly passed away yesterday at the age of 78.

Doug Mountjoy Passes Away

Doug Mountjoy, one of snooker’s leading lights during the 1970s and 80s, has died at the age of 78.

Welshman Mountjoy won the UK Championship twice, the Masters once and was runner-up to Steve Davis at the World Championship in 1981.

His close friend Cliff Thorburn said: “So sad to hear of Doug Mountjoy’s passing today. He was a true champion and gentleman. He had all the shots and the heart of a lion. You knew he was in the room by his laughter and I spent many a happy time with Doug! My sympathies to his family and friends.”

While working as a miner in the coal valleys around Ebbw Vale, South Wales, Mountjoy had considerable success on the amateur snooker scene, and decided to turn pro at the age of 34 after winning the World Amateur title in 1976.

Remarkably, he won his first professional tournament, the 1977 Masters,  beating Ray Reardon 7-6 in the final. The following year he lifted the UK Championship trophy thanks to a 15-9 defeat of David Taylor. Mountjoy also won Pot Black that year, and the Irish Masters in 1979.

At the Crucible in 1981 he came through a tough draw, knocking out Willie Thorne, Eddie Charlton, Dennis Taylor and Ray Reardon to reach the final.  In the semi-final against Reardon, Mountjoy compiled a break of 145 – at the time the highest made at the Crucible. But Davis was not to be denied his first world crown, and won the final 18-12. Mountjoy would never again go past the quarter-finals.

For much of the 1980s, Mountjoy’s game was in decline, but he enjoyed a revival towards the end of the decade, after working with legendary coach Frank Callan, who made a significant change to his technique.

In 1988, at the age of 46 and ranked 24th in the world, he beat Stephen Hendry 16-12 in the final of the UK Championship, at one point scoring three consecutive centuries. “Reaching the final was like swimming the Channel, but winning it is like swimming the Atlantic,” he said. In January 1989, Mountjoy made it back-to-back ranking titles  by beating Wayne Jones in the final of the Mercantile Credit Classic.

That proved his last significant victory, though he reached a career-high of number five in the rankings in 1990. In 1993 he was diagnosed with lung cancer and subsequently had one lung removed, though he continued to play as a professional until 1997.

He want on to become a respected coach, firstly in Dubai and then back in Wales.

In a joint statement, WST Chairman Barry Hearn OBE and WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “Doug was a first and foremost a lovely man, who had great friendships with many players on the tour throughout the 1970s and onwards. He had a fantastic dedication to our sport, he simply loved the game and was always willing to help others to improve, both as a player and later as a coach. On the table he was a fierce competitor and a fine champion who won a multitude of tournaments. His revival late in his career to win two events including the UK Championship was an incredible achievement. Doug will be sadly missed by everyone who knew him, and our sincere condolences go to his family.”

Dennis Taylor said: “Just heard the sad news of the passing of one of our legends. Doug Mountjoy a very special Welsh man. RIP my dear friend.”

Jimmy White added: “Sorry to hear about the loss of a great legend of the sport. RIP Doug Mountjoy.”

Article by WST.

Doug played at the Crucible one last time on 9 April 2015, in a Snooker Legends exhibition, along with Cliff Thorburn, Dennis Taylor and John Parrott. Michaela Tabb was officiating and John Virgo was the host and compere.

SnookerLegends 2015 Crucible exho

This is the only time I had the privilege to meet Doug, a lovely man. I took pictures at that exhibition but unfortunately can’t show them as I don’t have them here in Greece where I’m detained for over a year now courtesy of the covid-19 virus.

Snooker Legends ‘Cues of Tomorrow’ Junior Series

Jason Francis, who created the Snooker Legends Tour, then launched the Seniors Snooker Tour, is now trying to help young snooker players to improve their game. 

He is launching the Snooker Legends ‘Cues of Tomorrow’ Junior Series 

Here is the announcement he made on social media, and via email:

Snooker Legends ‘Cues of Tomorrow’ Junior Series What we know so far…

You can now register your interest so you can get the details by email as soon as they are released for the Cues of Tomorrow Junior Series.
These events are not starting until September 2021 but here are the dates.

4th and 5th September
18th and 19th September
2nd and 3rd October
16th and 17th October
6th and 7th November
20th and 21st November
27th and 28th November
4th and 5th December
Finals Weekend 11th and 12th December

We have not published entry fees and prize money… why? because the more we raise in sponsorship and donations the cheaper we will make entry fees and the more we will pay out in prize money.

To enter the Under 14 Competition (U14) you must still be 13 years of age on the 4th September 2021
To enter the Under 18 Competition (U18) you must still be 17 years of age on the 4th September 2021
To enter the Under 21 Competition (U21) you must still be 20 years of age on the 4th September 2021

It does not matter if you have a birthday during the series as long as you are under the relevant age on that date.

The winner of of our U14, U18 and U21 series will get:

1. their entry fee funded for the 2022 Professional Q School
2. entry into the “2022 Q School Entry Preparation Programme” this
will include, but it not limited to, professional mentoring, WPBSA coaching, promotion of the Cues of Tomorrow Junior Series and a session with a famous Champion of our sport to prepare and get hints on what it takes to be the very best! Matt Andrews has already been announced as part of the team.
3. Should any of our Champions earn a WPBSA Tour Card from the 2022 Q School they will also be offered a two-year management contract with Snooker Legends and be assigned a professional player as a mentor for the first season. Should the player be under 18 the contract would be offered to the player via their designated guardian.

If you want to donate or support this initiative, either publicly as a partnering company or anonymously please email me jason@snookerlegends.co.uk

We already have Cue Craft and Legends Cue Sports as announced partners.
To get on the list to get the entry pack details when they are finalized please email, or message me, with the following

1 players’ name
2 players’ age
3 events they would be interested in entering age wise?
4 looking to enter events local to them or all national events?
5 parents’ name if under 16
6 players’ email if over 16
7 parents’ contact email if under 16

By registering…

1 you are not committing to enter
2 you are ensuring you get the option to enter when it opens if you choose and if you agree and accept the terms and conditions of the entry pack.Please share to any juniors you think will be interested in this.

The ‘Cues of Tomorrow’ Series could be a huge new opportunity for all amateur players out there.

Regards Jason Francis

Matt Andrews is a coach, and a mental coach who has helped Ronnie in the past. He was at his side during his famous Masters 2007 win.

Please share ! One kid you know, one kid you helped might become a world champion one day. 

Barry Hearn reacts to Ronnie’s ideas about alternate events

As expected Barry Hearn has reacted to Ronnie’s ideas about organising alternate events, and, as expected he’s giving him no chance to succeesd. He’s been talking to Phil Haigh:

Barry Hearn gives Ronnie O’Sullivan’s new tour plan ‘absolutely zero chance’ of happening

Hearn and Ronnie
Barry Hearn and Ronnie OSullivan have had their ups and downs over the years (Picture: Getty Images)
Barry Hearn and Ronnie O’Sullivan have a long history of disagreements (Picture: Getty Images)

Barry Hearn has labelled Ronnie O’Sullivan’s plan for a separate tour for ageing players as a ‘crazy idea’ and gives it ‘absolutely zero chance’ of coming to fruition.

Hearn has heard of plans for breakaway tours from O’Sullivan before and does not harbour serious concerns over this new idea coming to pass.

The WST chairman can see why the plan would suit the 45-year-old, but does not envisage any other players wanting to get on board with it.

‘That’s okay because there’s only him,’ Hearn told Metro.co.uk of O’Sullivan’s ambitious plot. ‘What you’ve got to realise is that Ronnie O’Sullivan is a genius on the snooker table, but geniuses are flawed personalities and sometimes they have crazy ideas.

‘Ronnie is great on the table and has crazy ideas off the table.

‘99% of the playing membership are delighted with the way snooker is going and delighted to play every week because they are professional players. There just aren’t any players like Ronnie.

‘When players can’t win on the tour then they may be interested in what else is out there. But whilst there is a dream of winning on the tour, and all the top players still have that, of course some are getting older, the Class of 92, John Higgins, Mark Williams, but these guys are still earning a great deal of money and they love to play snooker.

‘There will come a time where they don’t want to, of course, and Ronnie may well have two or three players that would rather just do exhibition snooker than tournament snooker.

‘But at the moment, as the tour gets bigger, we’ve had a Covid setback obviously with no China events this year, but we will bounce back stronger when this situation clears, and frankly Ronnie’s ideas about alternatives are only for Ronnie O’Sullivan, they’re not for anybody else.

‘Don’t be confused. Ronnie’s ideas are only ideas that appeal to Ronnie.

‘The other players are very much aware of that, which is why he has zero support anywhere else.’

RonniePuffingCheeks
Ronnie O’Sullivan is looking for an alternative from the rigours of the main tour (Picture: Getty Images)

Hearn expects O’Sullivan and his contemporaries, such as Higgins and Williams, to remain on the main tour for years to come because they are good enough to compete at the business end of tournaments for some time.

He recognises that older players will not enjoy the rigours of the full-time tour as much as their younger rivals, but that is the nature of any sport and rules cannot be bent for the veterans.

‘The experience these players have got over the years makes them so difficult to beat, even with their B game,’ said Hearn of the veterans of the baize.

‘Ronnie O’Sullivan definitely falls into that category. Ronnie O’Sullivan could probably be top 16 for another 10 years, if he wanted to.

‘But ideally he’d like things different to suit him better, but unfortunately that doesn’t suit the sport better.

‘So he has no absolutely zero chance of doing anything like that, it’s just words.’

Well, I agree with Hearn that Ronnie is very unlikely to get his project to become reality, unless he has someone like Jason Francis in his corner, someone who has experience with setting up events, negotiating with venue managers, sponsors, and possibly broadcasters. And I wrote like Jason, because Jason himself has more than enough on his hands with the WSS tour and won’t be available for this, even if he wanted to.

Ronnie has neither the experience, nor the mental resilience to do such a thing successfully. Pat Mooney tried something like that with John Higgins, in 2007-2009. It was called the World Series of Snooker. There was a trial event in Warsaw in 2007, then it ran for the whole 2008/09 season, but the 2009/10 season was never completed.  They even had Eurosport support. They had some really good and popular players on board as well: John Higgins, Dott, Murphy, Selby, Ding, Jimmy White, Doherty… But, even so, it wasn’t sustainable economically. They ended up in debts.

So I agree with Hearn, but not necessarily for the reasons he puts forward. I’m pretty sure that there are quite a number of players, and not nessarily only the “older” ones who would be happier with a lighter schedule. Hearn will tell you that they don’t have to enter everything, which is true, but the way the rankings work, they are in fact  forced to enter everything or about, which is exactly what Hearn wants because it’s what the sponsors and the bookies want.

Looking back at 2020

2020 has been a strange and extremely difficult year for everyone. The covid-19 crisis has disrupted our lives, we have been locked down for long periods, most of us still are. We have been separated from loved ones, some of us have got the disease, some of us have lost someone dear to them to the disease. Most of us have struggled – still struggle – economically and mentally. And, we are not out of it just yet, unfortunately.

In the middle of this disaster, Barry Hearn and WST have managed to get our sport going. Yes, it’s been mainly behind closed doors, yes, many are tired of Milton Keynes and events outside UK have been either moved or canceled BUT most players have been playing and have been offered earning opportunities, and fans have been able to watch a lot of great snooker. Also, great efforts have been put into making the setup attractive and different for each competition.

Thanks you Barry Hearn, thank you WST!

Big thanks also, to all the players, the WPBSA, the officials, the fitters, the pundits, the commentators, the sports journalists, the television crews and everyone behind the scenes who have made it possible.

Thank you!

And the news broke off yesterday evening that Barry Hearn has been awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours for his services to sport. 

So, to keep the tradition alive, here are my awards … and the golden turkey.

The Awards

Player of the Year: Judd Trump

Judd Trump is well ahead of everyone in terms of ranking points, he has more than 800000 points more than Neil Robertson, who is ranked second. He has won six ranking titles during the year: the 2020 German Masters, the 2020 Players Championship, the 2020 Gibraltar Open, the 2020 English Open , the 2020 Northern Ireland Open and the 2020 World Grand prix. He reached two more finals: the 2020 Championship League (October 2020 edition) and the 2020 UK Championship. He has played 103 matches over the year, won 84 of them. He played 721 frames, won 456, made 97 centuries. The only disappointment for him is probably that he started the year as World and Masters Champion and finishes without holding any of the “Triple Crown” titles.

Achievement of the Year: Ronnie’s sixth World Title

Ronnie hadn’t reached the one table setup at the Crucible since his defeat to Mark Selby in the 2014 Final. His last appearance at the Theatre of Dreams had been a nightmare as be went out in the first round to James Cahill, an amateur at the time. His season has been an indifferent one by his standards. For once the bookies weren’t making him a favourite. Very few, if any, expected him the to win the 2020 World Championship,  but he did. He went on to beat Thepchaiya Un-nooh, Ding Junhui, Mark Williams, Mark Selby and Kyren Wison to become World Champion for a sixth time, at the age of 44, the oldest winner at the Crucible since Ray Raerdon in 1978. He made 12 centuries during the Championship. He admitted that the reduced media duties, and the absence of crowd had helped him in that there were less distractions, and less pressure as well. It was all about playing… and play, he did, fully focussed from start to finish.

Match of the year: Ronnie O’Sullivan v Mark Selby Semi-final

I have chosen this match because of its signifiance in the context of the rivalry between Ronnie and Mark Selby. Speaking to Stephen Hendy over Instagram during the lockdown, last June, Ronnie had admitted that, if there was one match he would like to be able to “take back” and play again, it would be the 2014 World Final, a match where he lead by 10-5 and ended up up losing by 18-14.

Here is the piece Eurosport did about this conversation:

‘I LOST ALL RHYTHM’ – THE MATCH RONNIE O’SULLIVAN WOULD LOVE TO PLAY AGAIN

Five-times world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan has named the one match he would like to replay – naming the 2014 World Championship final as his major regret. 
RonnieWC2014
O’Sullivan looked set to win the world title for a third straight year when he led Mark Selby 8-3 and 10-5 six years ago only to see the Leicester player mount a rousing recovery to complete an 18-14 win with a comeback boosted by a watertight tactical game.

It denied O’Sullivan the chance to join Steve Davis and Ray Reardon on six titles in the modern era and continue to leave him two adrift on Stephen Hendry’s record haul of seven.

The Essex player has not been beyond the quarter-finals since 2014 as he prepares for his latest bid to recapture the sport’s biggest title at the Crucible next month.

O’Sullivan insists he won’t be drawn into long tactical exchanges with Selby – who added two mores victories in 2016 and 2017 – if he comes across him this year.

“The match I’d like to play again would be Selby in the 2014 final because I’d have played it differently,” said O’Sullivan during his latest chat with Hendry on Instagram.

“I would have done everything I could to not get bogged down and keep the game open.

WHEN I LOOKED BACK I THOUGHT I’D GOT SUCKED INTO HIS GAME. IT WASN’T UNTIL AFTER THAT GAME THAT I THOUGHT, ‘YEAH I MIGHT LOSE TO YOU AND I PROBABLY WILL LOSE TO YOU AGAIN, BUT IT’S GOING TO BE ON MY TERMS.

“I’m just going to blast them open, I’m not getting sucked into eight or nine frames of 50-minute frames, because it destroys you.

“I tried to compete with him and play that sort of game, but then I sat back and thought, ‘I’ve lost my own rhythm.’

“I’d rather lose three frames on the spin but keep my own rhythm, because given the chance I could go bang, bang, bang and win three frames back.

“It got to the point that even if he left me amongst the balls I
weren’t even going to make 20 because I just had no rhythm. I learned a lot.”

O’Sullivan certainly seemed to dictate terms in their previous meeting, running out a 5-1 winner in the Welsh Open last eight in February boosted by breaks of 85, 95 and 142.

“Certain players have your number and I think Selby kind of had my number for a bit, I struggled against him, even though I had victories against him,” said O’Sullivan.

“I thought, I might lose to you, but it’ll be on my terms. Ever since I’ve played like that I’ve enjoyed every game I’ve had against him, even if I’ve lost to him.”

Well, given the opportunity to play Mark Selby over four sessions, Ronnie did exactly what he had told Hendry he would do. He refused to get sucked in his opponent game, he refused to enter into safety battles. He went for “hit and hope” shots when in  snookers and it  worked. Ronnie could easily have lost that match, he was behind for most it. IIn the end, He was 16-14 down and produced an extraordinary salvo of three frames to snatch victory.

Guess what? Mark Selby didn’t like it. He though that it was “disrespectful” from Ronnie to play this way. When he won in 2014, he was praised for “finding a way” to beat Ronnie, and rightly so. This time it was Ronnie who “found a way” to beat him by refusing to let him dictate the pace and the style of the match. He too should be praised for it.

Frame of the year: Kyren Wilson v Anthony McGill World Semi-final decider

This is certainly the most extraordinary frame I have ever watched.

Here is how WST descibed it in a recent article:

One of the most extraordinary deciding frames in snooker’s rich history. As it progressed, wizened Crucible veterans gawped at the screens backstage, wondering what could possibly happened next. At one stage the two players seemed to have invented a new game within a game, taking turns to bounce the cue ball off the baulk cushion to try to flick the last red into a centre pocket. That was after Wilson gained 43 points in fouls to leave his opponent needing snookers, then somehow contrived to go in-off twice. Eventually it was settled by another freakish moment as Wilson fluked the green during a safety exchange. He was on the verge of tears as he potted the last pink, completing the unique frame score of 103-83. “I have known Anthony since we were kids, and in the last frame we were just two young lads out there feeling the pressure,” said Wilson. “We fought so hard for three days, toe to toe, we both gave it everything. It was just the maddest match.” A gracious McGill smiled: “I feel as if the match was stolen from me – not by Kyren but by the snooker Gods. I really enjoyed the fight, it was played in the right spirit.”

But words can’t really convey the drama ir produced… so here it is for you to watch (again)

Most dramatic day of snooker of the season: Saturday 14th of August, 2020

Yes, actually, the third day of the 2020 World Championship semi-finals, was, in my opinion, the most exciting and dramatic day of snooker, if not ever, certainly since I started following the sport some 15 years ago. Both semi-finals were remarkable, tense, dramatic and  went to a deciding frame.

Shot of the year: Stephen Maguire incredible “trick shot” at the 2020 Masters

It has to be this …

I love Maguire’s celebration …

Luckiest man of the year: Stephen Maguire

Stephen Maguire didn’t qualify for the Tour Championship, but got the opportunity to play in it when Ding – who had opted to return to China as the pandemic unfolded in the UK – withdrew. Stepen made the most of this unexpected chance as he went on to win the event, earning himself £150000. Stephen had also previously earned £30000 for reaching the quarter-finals of the 2020 Players Championship. That was enough for him to also win the “Coral Cup” and the £100000 bonus coming with it. Basically he got £250000 by playing in an event when he should’nt even have been in the draw. It had to be won though, so, well done Stephen Maguire!

The Golden Turkey

Golden Turkey

Barry Hearn’s insensitive treatment of Anthony Hamilton

Anthony Hamilton had qualified for the television stages of the World Championship: he had beaten Sam Craigie by 6-3 and Scott Donaldson by 10-5. He was due to return to the Crucible for the first time since 2008. Anthony had turned 49 in June. Over the last decade he had suffered countless back injuries. He was really looking forward to it, knowing that this may well be his last opportunity to play on the biggest scene of all. People like David Hendon and Hector Nunns, who were on-site, were clear about it on social media: Anyhony was absolutely dlighted to have qualified and definitely wanted to play.

The qualifiers had been well under way when the news came that fans would be allowed into the arena, and they would not be tested, and there would be no temperature checks. Anthony Hamilton only learned about it after he qualified. He had been shielding, as he suffers from asthma. He felt that it was undsafe for him to play. He withdrew.

Barry Hearn’s reaction was particularly insensitive and unfair.

You can read here what I wrote about it at the time.

It’s worth reading the comments as well.

The reigning World Champion at the time, Judd Trump, did himself no favour as he jumped on Hearn’s bandwagon

Judd Trump has hit out at Anthony Hamilton for withdrawing from the World Snooker Championship on the eve of the tournament, calling the world No 48 “selfish” and suggesting he should have pulled out prior to securing his place at the event instead of taking an opportunity from another player.

Ronnie however wasn’t impressed by the decision to have fans back, stating that players were treated like lab rats.

Ronnie O’Sullivan says allowing spectators into the Crucible Theatre for the World Championship is treating snooker players like “lab rats”.

The tournament, which begins on Friday, will be the first indoor sporting event with crowds, allowing around 300 supporters to attend each session.

Qualifier Anthony Hamilton, who suffers from severe asthma, says it is “ridiculous” and “too early” for fans.

Five-time world champion O’Sullivan said players “all run a bit of a risk”.

….

Those that have booked tickets to attend the Sheffield venue will be placed in ‘bubbles’ of up to four people – limited to a maximum of two households – and will be socially distanced from others in the arena.

Temperature checks will not be in place and although face masks must be worn around the venue they can be removed once spectators are seated inside.

World number 48 Hamilton pulled out of the Championship League – the first event that was played on the sport’s return – because of health concerns and called the decision to allow people to take off their masks in the auditorium “a mad thing”.

He added: “Let’s say one person gets ill and dies from the Crucible, that is one person who has died for no reason, just for entertainment.

“I won’t be comfortable in there personally. I don’t know why anybody would be comfortable – we all know it is airborne.”

However, O’Sullivan said: “I defy anybody if they have been keeping their distance from people for four months to say, oh right, now you’ve got to go into a room full of people – unless you have got a death wish, and some people have in many ways and they just don’t care.

“But if you are one of these people that happens to care about your health and are taking it seriously, I totally get how [Hamilton] feels.

“I would feel a bit strange walking in a room with 10 people I don’t know, and I have done. I didn’t feel comfortable.

“So I totally respect where Anthony is coming from, and where other people are coming from – they want crowds in there, they want things back to normal. We have a choice – we don’t have to go and play. We all run a bit of a risk.

“I have the option not to play but I’ve decided to play. Maybe with 5,000 fans I could see it’s a bit of an income you’re going to lose, but 200 fans, is it really?

“Maybe they have to start doing a test on crowds at some point and I’ve heard people say they’re treating the snooker event a little bit like lab rats – you’ve got to start somewhere, start with snooker players.

“Less insurance to pay out for Anthony Hamilton than there is for Lewis Hamilton.”

O’Sullivan says he has had friends die from Covid-19 and has not been within 20 feet of his mother, who is in the ‘high risk’ category because she had pneumonia last year.

“It’s not until you’ve had people close to you that have gone through it, and know someone who has died,” he said.

“I don’t think it has been taken seriously enough.”

The worst aspect of it, is that Anthony’s fears, and Ronnie’s views were vindicated as the “experiment” came to an end after just one day. It was deemed too risky by the UK government

If that premature, reckless decision to allow a crowd in hadn’t been made, Anthony Hamilton would have been playing at the Crucible. He was the one ‘robbed” of a golden opportunity. 

But Barry Hearn never apologised of course…

Statistics source: cuetracker.net

Ronnie’s plans for the future

Once again Phil Haigh has conducted a great interview, this time with Ronnie about how he sees his future in snooker.

Thank you Phil!

Ronnie O’Sullivan plans to drop off tour in three years and create new events for ageing players

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Ronnie O’Sullivan may play in major events for just three more years (Picture: Getty Images)

Ronnie O’Sullivan has given himself ‘three or four years maximum’ competing on the main snooker tour, before he plans to create different events for players who are slightly past their peak.

The Rocket is the reigning world champion and remains the sport’s biggest star, but feels his time at the top is coming to an end.

The 45-year-old can clearly still compete at the elite level, as he proved at the Crucible this summer, but he is feeling the strain of the relentless snooker calendar and does not expect to keep up a packed schedule for much longer.

From 16 November to 20 December this year, four tournaments were played without a day between each of them, highlighting just how busy players’ diaries have become.

O’Sullivan says he can’t and won’t keep up with this schedule into his 50s, despite wanting to keep playing the game that he loves, so he has come up with a plan.

The six-time world champion wants to assemble a few players at similar stages of their careers and put together a set of events away from the main tour for ageing greats of the game in a bid to keep the competitive juices flowing.

‘I’ve accepted I’ve got another three or four years maximum of playing top level snooker,’ O’Sullivan told Metro.co.uk.

‘I don’t want to play much longer than that, so the next three years I just want to enjoy with an eye on playing on a tour that is maybe a bit more suited to how much I want to play. So I can compete but I’m not going to be a slave to playing tournament after tournament.

‘I can’t play and compete the way it is at the moment, they’re literally playing every day. It is every day. It doesn’t seem like there’s a separation from one tournament to the next.

I would still like to play into my mid-50s, I still think I could make maximums and play to a very high standard, I don’t think I’m going to be able to compete week-in-week-out, physically you just don’t recover.

‘I’ve noticed if I go deep into a tournament now, then for two or three days I’m knackered. I can’t keep up with the younger people, it’s not so much of a physical thing, it’s more of a mental and just an age thing.

‘I suppose at some point there’s going to be a few players in my age bracket feeling the same way. I think Marco Fu has decided to jack it in, staying in Hong Kong. James Wattana too. All very, very good players but it’s an age thing, you just get to an age where the mind says “yeah I can do it” but the body can’t keep up.’

The Seniors Tour is available to players over 40 who are no longer competing at the top end of the main tour, but the Rocket wants to plug a gap between the two.

He recognises it would be for a small group of players, but has plans to make it work for those not willing to go through the rigours of the main tour, but are still too good for the Seniors.

‘Obviously there’s the exhibition circuit that I can always do, but it’s nice to have a platform to play,’ Ronnie explained. ‘A little bit like the Seniors Tour, but I don’t think I’m ready for the Seniors, I’d like to do something a bit in between, where players are still capable of making 147s and playing to a very high standard, but we’re all on a level playing field.

Ronnie 6th WC
O’Sullivan won a sixth world title in August (Picture: PA)

‘So it might be eight or 10 tournaments, something on those lines. It’s for when I’ve finished on the main tour but I still want to play but I’m probably not good enough or young enough to compete on a level playing field with the rest of them.

I think it would be unfair to go on the Seniors Tour, but I think there’s a gap in the middle for an 8-man event, 12-man event. Playing against people who are a little bit older but not past their sell-by date and can still play well enough.

‘They just can’t travel, aren’t fit enough or haven’t got the energy or motivation to go from one tournament to the next. It is a young man’s game now, whether you like it or not.

‘I’m not saying the younger players are better, because they’re probably not, you’ve still got a lot of 40-45 year olds playing the best snooker. But it doesn’t become about who’s the best, it becomes about who can outlast each other, who can recover quicker. Obviously a 25-year-old can recover quicker than a 45-year-old.

‘That’s why I say there’s somewhere in the middle with the right amount of playing so you can prepare right and perform to a very, very high level.’

If this plan doesn’t come together, O’Sullivan says retirement is looking likely in three years, despite still wanting to play the game.

That would be something I’d look at at some point to hopefully carry on playing snooker and if that’s not possible then I would definitely retire after three years because it’s just impossible for me to do it from a stamina point of view,’ he said.

O’Sullivan would have to recruit some fellow players to remove themselves from the main tour and join his events, something that he recognises will be a difficult process.

He wants to create a competitive structure for a specific set of players, but these players can still earn huge amounts of money on the main tour.

While Ronnie says he is not financially driven, it is not going to be easy to attract professionals away from their home at World Snooker to back his new venture.

‘I can’t speak for the likes of [Mark] Williams and [John] Higgins and I’m not talking about breakaway tours because I’ve already said I’d play for nothing, it’s not like a money thing,’ the world champ said.

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John Higgins turned professional in the same year as Ronnie O’Sullivan (Picture: Getty Images)

‘Obviously if other people were to come on it they wouldn’t play for nothing, but for me it’s not about money, it’s just that I enjoy what I do.

I’ve got a hardcore of fans that enjoy watching me play and I feel that I’ve got a duty to them, in a way, to only retire when I feel that it’s the right time to retire.

It wouldn’t be a rival tour, because you’ve got the elite 128 players that are competing every day, but for me to prolong my career I’d definitely have to hand in my card, but I’m happy to play for nothing.

‘I know that it wouldn’t be for nothing, I’m sure sponsors and TV and the right management in place, they’d provide all that sort of stuff, all I want to do is play snooker. But I want to enjoy what I do and that’s the key.

I definitely think I can possibly get two or three more years as it is, but then after that…I could still compete, I know that, but it would become too much hard work and I probably wouldn’t enjoy it that much. I think the key is to find a happy medium.

O’Sullivan is playing as much tournament snooker as he has for a number of years, entering nearly every event so far this season, so his drive to play is unquestionably intact.

He has spoken in the past of fear driving him on to compete, the fear of failure and not living up to his own exacting standards, but that is no longer a motivation for him.

The Rocket plays without that pressure on himself anymore, or at least without feeling it as much as he did, and while that allows him to enjoy the game more and be more care-free, he does admit it has taken away some of his killer instinct and a sharpness in his game.

‘I obviously have a lot less to prove, I don’t have anything to prove,’ he said. ‘But I think with that loss of fear…I’ve always said that fear drove me on to want to play well and to put the extra hours in, to devote myself to snooker.

When you do that you get such tunnel vision and for the last five years I haven’t had that approach. It’s worked for me, in a way, I’ve been much more relaxed, but I think you get to the point where maybe that intensity isn’t there enough of the time.

I don’t know if it’s lack of crowds but I just feel like I’m missing the odd ball I wasn’t missing before. Against 95% of the tour I might get away with it, but against Neil Robertson, Judd Trump and Mark Selby I’m just not going to get away with it against them.

‘Against all the other guys I will and have got away with it but If I’m to compete with them three then I’ve got to erase them errors.’

The “bold” highligths are my doing, as usual.

Ronnie’s statement that it would be unfair to play in the Seniors Tour is neither arrogant, nor contemptuous.

It is certain that, if he did compete in the Seniors tour, it would attract a lot of fans, but on the other hand it might drive a lot of seniors players away from that tour, the amateurs in particular. As it is, the Seniors Tour can’t afford to scrap entry fees. Would they still enter events if they feel they have no chance?

The Seniors Tour has produced, great moments and great stories for the over-40 amateurs: Aaron Canavan, an amateur from Jersey, someone who had only rarely played outside the Channel Islands, became a World Champion, Rodney Goggins from Ireland, played a Final in Goffs, in front of a full house, Michael Judge became UK Champion, beating Jimmy White in the final. The Tour’s motto is “Dare to Dream”. If players like Ronnie, John Higgins or Mark William were to compete in it, in a close future, it would probably kill the dream for many, and they wouldn’t enter as they wouldn’t probably believe that they stand any chance.

It has also offered Greats from the past who are really past it, fantastic opportunities to shine again. Jimmy White struggles to win any match on the Main Tour nowadays, but he is the reigning Seniors Champion, having finally lifted a World trophy at the Crucible last year. Cliff Thorburn won the Seniors Masters at the Crucible, aged 70, and it was an incredibly emotional moment. It mattered so much to Cliff. Their ability may decline, but the competitive spirtit never goes.

Those thing could be destroyed if players like Ronnie, John Higgins or Mark Williams started racking all the trophies. They may no more be at their best, or willing to compete day-in day-out, but they are still far too good for the Seniors Tour in its current form. So, yes, maybe, something in-between would be a good idea and one that could work for everyone.

Main Tour news …

Yesterday WST published two posts on their website:

The results of the AGM:

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) has today (Wednesday 23 December 2020) held its Annual General Meeting online.

The AGM saw the election of a further two current members to join the first Board of WPBSA Players, a new body which received formal approval as part of a governance review and wider constitutional changes passed at an Extraordinary General Meeting held on 25 November.

Eight members stood for election: Nigel Bond, Ding Junhui, Joe Perry, Mark Davis, Rod Lawler, Barry Pinches, Lee Walker and Tian Pengfei.

The result was that Nigel Bond and Ding Junhui were successfully elected by the membership and will join existing directors Ken Doherty, Mike Dunn and Peter Lines on the new WPBSA Players Board.

The AGM also saw the presentation of the Accounts and Directors Report, including the latest independently audited accounts, which were unanimously accepted by the meeting.

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “I am today pleased to welcome both Ding Junhui and Nigel Bond to the Board of WPBSA Players following their successful election.

“For over 15 years Ding has been a trailblazer for our sport in Asia following his landmark victory at the 2005 China Open and at last year’s UK Championship he reminded everybody of his class by claiming the title for a third time.

“Away from the baize he has also continues to play a significant role in our sport, having become almost a father figure to many of the young Chinese players competing on the World Snooker Tour. Already he has represented players in China on behalf of our colleagues at the China Billiards & Snooker Association. In this new formalised role, I am sure he will not only be a fantastic representative for Asian players, but for all players who travel great distances living away from home within our sport. Part of our vision to create WPBSA Players was to increase global representation within key roles and I am delighted to this is now becoming a reality.

“Like Ding, Nigel Bond is a former World Championship finalist who brings to the board a wealth of experience at all levels having maintained an unbroken spell on our tour dating back to 1989. A former World Seniors champion, he remains capable of competing at the highest level as he showed with his stunning victory against world number one Judd Trump last year in York.

“Alongside his playing career, he has also become a successful coach around the world and has become an integral part of the WPBSA Coaching Programme, sharing his experience to help train the next generation of qualified snooker coaches.

“I am confident that both will bring significant value to WPBSA Players and that the recently announced constitutional changes will achieve our goal of better serving our member players, as well as furthering the world class governance and development of our great sport.”

First of all congratulations to Ding Junhui and Nigel Bond!

I was surprised when I read that Ding was running for a seat on the board. He’s only 33 and it’s hard to combine a playing career at the top and the duties of a member of the board. Shaun Murphy found it difficult and eventually stepped down from the board to concentrate on his career. On the other hand, China has been investing a lot of money into the game in recent years. About one in six main tour player is from China, including 15 of the 27 players aged under 25. It’s obvious that they need a voice on the board, they need to be represented, and who would be better equipped than Ding for the role? He has the required status, both in the sport and in his country, his command of English is now excellent.

An announcement about the (possible) 2021 World Cup:

Plans to stage the Snooker World Cup in the city of Wuxi in China in 2021 are taking shape, with 24 national teams to battle for the coveted trophy.

WST is currently in discussion with partners in China, with the ambition to hold the event early in the 2021/22 season.

Scotland are the defending champions as the pair of John Higgins and Stephen Maguire beat China in the 2019 final. That ended a run of three consecutive World Cup victories for China.

Higgins names the moment of lifting the trophy as one of the proudest moments of his glittering career. He said: “The pressure is tenfold compared to playing for yourself. When I first played with Stephen (Maguire), I played a deciding frame against Mark Allen and lost. I’d never felt pressure like it in all of my life. World Championship finals, you name it.

“To win it was a brilliant feeling – the proudest feeling in the world. Scotland haven’t got many World Champions so we were delighted to win it for our country. I always feel that if I am lucky enough to get into the team, I’ll be with a very good partner and we’ll have a chance to win it again.”

The Snooker World Cup has a tremendous history having first been staged in 1979. Wuxi, in China’s Jiangsu Province, hosted the event in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

Further details on the 2021 World Cup, including the teams and format, will be announced in due course.

 

The World Cup has been hosted in Wuxi before, including the last edition, so it’s maybe just coincidence that this announcement comes at the same time as Ding’s election as member of the board. However, Ding was born in Yixing, in Jiangsu province, and Wuxi is a major city in Jiangsu, only about 90 km from Yixing, Ding’s presence on the board can only help opening doors in his country, and in particular in his “home” region.