‘When the curtain falls, it’s time to get off the stage’ – so said John Major when Tony Blair was elected prime minister in 1997.
Sport can be even harsher than politics as great careers collapse in a matter of months – witness the current plight of Jimmy White.
For snooker’s journeymen there tends to be a more gradual decline: a fight for survival before relegation can no longer be staved off. Some buck the trend – Andrew Higginson an obvious example – while many others have to surrender to the inevitable.
The latest to do so is Paul Wykes, a professional since 1991, who has now retired after losing 10-3 to Alex Borg in the 888.com World Championship qualifiers.
Wykes was 90th in the provisional rankings before the match and is obviously not going to finish the campaign in the top 64.
“I thought I was off the tour last year and decided to carry on this season when I found out I was safe,” he said. “Looking back, that was probably the wrong decision because I’ve just been going through the motions really.
“But although it’s hard to say goodbye to the game, I’ve had a good innings. I could have done better in my career but I could also have done a lot worse.”
Wykes turned professional in 1991 and achieved a career highest ranking of 56 in 1999, twice reaching the final qualifying round of the World Championship.
He enjoyed victories over top names such as Paul Hunter, Joe Johnson, Neal Foulds and Willie Thorne and in 1999 reached the last 16 of the UK Championship in his home town, Bournemouth, where Stephen Hendry made a 147 on the way to beating him 9-3.
Over the last few years, snooker took second place to his business interests and family. The various financial cutbacks afflicting the game meant it was time to look for other sources of income.
As he puts his cue away for good, Wykes is pleased he saw the sport’s best years.
“I feel sorry for the young lads coming through,” he said. “It used to be that if you were in the top 64 in the world you could make a living. Now, you hear of guys in the top 32 struggling to make ends meet.
“I feel very lucky to have played snooker for a living and have had some good times. I’ve played most of the top names over the years and enjoyed myself a great deal.”
And with that, on a rainy Sunday evening in Prestatyn, Wykes got in his car for the long drive back to Bournemouth no longer a professional snooker player, the curtain having fallen on his career.
He won’t be remembered in the same way as the game’s stars – the likes of Davis, O’Sullivan and Hendry – but without the sport’s supporting cast there wouldn’t be much of a show.