In my opinion, Mark Allen is the real deal. He will be one of snooker's top players for many years to come.

Yesterday, I watched part of his match in the Maplin UK Championship against Andrew Higginson, who himself played with great fluency.

Allen impressed me a lot. He compiled a number of big breaks - including a 146 - but his safety was also good and he played the right way in winnng 9-7.

The 21 year-old from Antrim reached the top 32 in the rankings after only two seasons on the main tour, which is good going by anyone's standards. He will surely join the top 16 next season.

I like his aggression and will to win, although he was in the wrong when he swore at the referee during his round robin match with Ken Doherty in the Grand Prix last month.

Allen immediately accepted he had been wrong. Before and after a match he is a mild mannered chap, it's only in matches where he becomes particularly animated.

And what's wrong with that? As long as he curbs his emotions and doesn't flout the game's ettiquette then I think it's refreshing.

At Telford, he will play Stephen Hendry, who beat him in his first pro event, the 2005 Northern Ireland Trophy.

Allen was over-awed then. It's fair to say he won't be when they meet in just over a week's time.

"I was a bit star-struck because it was my first tournament,” Allen told me. “But this is my third year on the tour and I don’t feel I have to look up to anyone any more.

“You have to give every player the same respect whoever they are. I’m just out there to do a job. It’s a tough match but I think I’m capable of winning it.”

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