The skies over Tiptree are set to become unexpectedly crowded with the news that Brian Morgan is following Ali Carter’s example by training to be a pilot.

Are the pressures of professional snooker really so severe that players feel the urge to take themselves several thousand feet up into the air to escape? Apparently so.

Carter is newly installed in the top 16 but for Morgan, now relegated from the main tour, the decision is born out of financial necessity.

In the early to mid 1990s, Brian certainly looked good enough to be a top 16 player but the best he managed was 27th.

Looking back, his narrow failure to win the 1996 Asian Classic – in which he lost 9-8 in the final to Ronnie O’Sullivan – may well have taken a heavy psychological toll.

It got me wondering about the best player never to have been in the top 16. I’m talking here about players who could have made it but didn’t, not the likes of Ding Jun Hui who surely will soon.

Andy Hicks is an obvious candidate. He reached the semi-finals of the game’s leading three events within the space of ten months and looked set to become a major force in the game.

For whatever reason, this didn’t happen. He started the 1995/96 campaign 17th in the world but dropped down the list in each of the next eight seasons before producing some kind of resurgence.

His cause wasn’t helped by the huge weight of expectation placed upon him every time a tournament was staged in Plymouth, close to his Tavistock home. OK, so it wasn’t quite Tim Henman at Wimbledon but the pressure of delivering home success inevitably took its toll.

How about Dominic Dale? He won the 1997 Grand Prix and has since appeared in three further ranking tournament semi-finals but could do no better than 19th.

Dominic has always seemed better than the results he’s managed. Perhaps his title victory came too soon, perhaps fate has merely conspired against him. Either way, he failed to make the step up.

Aside from Ding, the only other ranking event winner to fail to join the top 16 was Bob Chaperon, the surprise 1990 British Open champion. The Canadian failed to replicate this success, going no further than the last 16 of any subsequent ranking events.

There are other players, too, who at various times looked good enough to become members of the elite group: Eugene Hughes, Robin Hull, Mick Price, Drew Henry and Dene O’Kane to name but five.

Hicks, though, stands out. Of course, his chance has by no means gone and it would surely be all the sweeter if he could achieve promotion so late on in his career.

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