Darren Morgan has always loved snooker and though he dropped off the professional circuit last year the Welshman is continuing to play as an amateur.

He is currently competing for Wales in the European Team Championships in Ghent and marked his return to action by recording a 140 total clearance in his opening match.

Darren won the 1987 World Amateur Championship and would be among the favourites to win this year's IBSF event if he enters.

It's good to see him extending his career past the professional game. He was a fine player in his day, reaching a career best ranking of eighth and winning the 1996 Irish Masters.

He lost 9-8 on the black to Stephen Hendry in the final a year later but was never invited back.

In fact, Darren wasn't the luckiest player. He couldn't defend his Welsh Professional title in 1993 because it was made into a ranking event; the Pontin's Professional Championship was discontinued after he won it in 2000; the One-Frame Knockout tournament, staged in 1991, was never held again after he won it (with trademark absurdity, the WPBSA made the final a best of three).

Darren famously complained the the boxer Prince Naseem Hamed was putting him off when he sat in the front row at the Crucible.

He was always good fun on the circuit and I'm pleased to see he is still capable of producing high quality snooker.

You can follow the European Team Championships here: http://www.globalsnookercentre.co.uk/files/Results/2006-7/2007-ETChome.htm



After his great run to the Welsh Open final earlier this month, Andrew Higginson was today back on familiar turf at the qualifiers for the 888.com World Championship in Prestatyn.

The Widnes pro won eight matches and led Neil Robertson 8-6 in their Newport final before losing 9-8.

The £39,500 he picked up, including £22,000 for a televised maximum, was more than 50% of his previous career prize money in 11 unproductive years on the circuit.

Higginson's final against Robertson was watched by a near capacity crowd and many more on television. For his match against Mark Boyle at Pontin's there were around 20 spectators in attendance to see him come through 10-4.

“I felt more pressure in this match than I did in the final," he told me. "I didn’t want to go from doing so well in Newport to falling at the first fence, so it was a really big game for me.

“It was also very important in terms of ranking points but hopefully I can relax a bit now. I’m playing well enough to get through the qualifiers and I’m full of confidence.

“The feedback has been unbelievable since Newport . I’ve had loads of text messages and people wishing me well. I think I’ve inspired a few players to carry on because I’ve shown what can happen.

“It’s still a weird feeling. As I’ve been practising for the World Championship for the last week I’ve not really been out so it’s probably not until this is over than I can sit down and look back at what I’ve achieved.”

Higginson needs to win three more matches to reach the Crucible. He will have a great number of new fans cheering him on.


‘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.



The first of seven qualifying rounds for this year's 888.com World Championship has been completed at Pontin's, Prestatyn with three times semi-finalist Tony Knowles losing 5-4 to Del Smith.

Former Welsh Open quarter-finalist Bradley Jones compiled a break of 111 in the first frame of his 5-0 defeat of Neil Selman.

The qualifiers run until March 2 and include Jimmy White, John Parrott and surprise Welsh Open finalist Andrew Higginson, who plays Mark Boyle on Monday.

The 16 players left standing go to the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield in March to face the players ranked 17-32 in the final qualifying round, from where 16 qualifiers go to the Crucible to tackle the top 16 in the televised phase.

There will be a lot of snooker - and much heartbreak - before we know the line-up for snooker's 17-day marathon of the mind.

More here: http://www.sportinglife.com/snooker/news/story_get.cgi?STORY_NAME=snooker/07/02/23/SNOOKER_Prestatyn.html


A tournament will be staged in Norfolk this weekend in memory of Colin Brinded, who was one of snooker's leading referees until his death from cancer in November 2005.

A total of 44 players will be in action at Riley's, Norwich, including the current Norfolk champion David Swinburn and former professional Nick Spelman.

Simon Carpenter of the Norfolk and district snooker and billiards league said the tournament has attracted interest from across the county. “It is going to be a great event," he said. "It started off as a 32-man tournament but because of all the interest it attracted we made it a 44-man event.

"Some of the best players from across the county will be playing and we are expecting some great breaks. Colin was really well known and he refereed great players such as Stephen Hendry. A lot of people want to come along and pay their respects.”

Each player will be charged £15 to join the event and £5 of this will go to the Sandra Chapman Unit at the James Pagett Hospital in Gorleston, which cared for Colin.

Members of the public will be asked for a minimum £1 donation on entry and can then enter raffles with prizes including cues autographed by Steve Davis and Jimmy White.

Colin refereed the 1999 Crucible final that yielded Stephen Hendry's seventh world title. He was hugely respected as a referee and regarded as one of the circuit's good guys.

Later this year, a junior tournament will be staged in his memory by the Snooker Writers Association.



Snooker players seem to be an astonishingly patient bunch as a rule.

Every year, their governing body promises good times around the corner. Every year, they fail to materialise.

A few years ago, I attended a press conference at Wembley given by World Snooker and two men from Brazil. They were promoting a tournament to be staged in Recife. Posters were handed out, promises were made and we all looked forward to the trip.

It never happened.

Shortly after this, World Snooker sent out a press release announcing an Asian Tour of China, Thailand and Macao.

Great, we all thought again. At last, snooker is going international.

The tour never happened.

And yet, the talk of better times ahead continues. Last season, there were just six world ranking events. This season, there are seven. In the 1995/96 and 1996/97 seasons there were ten.

Next season, there will be an additional ranking event in Germany. Or will there? It's been announced to the media out there but World Snooker cannot confirm its existence.

There is talk of a second ranking tournament in China but, as of yet, no confirmation.

The best guide to what will be happening during 2007/08 is the Betfred Premier League dates, which have been announced by the promoters, Matchroom and are available to view here:

As you will see, the dates make a professional tournament impossible between the week beginning September 9 and the first weekend of December, apart from the week in October set aside for the Grand Prix.

So there we have it confirmed: there will be no tournaments in November, leaving a huge gap yet again between the Northern Ireland Trophy (assuming it is on again) and the Grand Prix and then the Grand Prix and the UK Championship.

If - and it's a huge if - there are a series of new tournaments they appear to be slated for the first four months of 2008, which already accomodates the Masters, Malta Cup, Welsh Open, China Open and 888.com World Championship.

The circuit is clearly lopsided and players not involved in the League find momentum impossible to attain. There are far too many weeks when nothing at all is happening in the professional game.

A sport as popular and well supported as snooker deserves better than this.



Here are the playing times at the forthcoming Kilkenny Masters:

March 9
Gerard Greene v Michael Judge
Fergal O'Brien v Mark Allen
Barry Hawkins v David Morris
Matthew Stevens v Joe Delaney
Gerard Greene v John Higgins
Mark Allen v Neil Robertson
Jimmy White v Barry Hawkins
Joe Delaney v Joe Swail
John Higgins v Michael Judge
Neil Robertson v Fergal O'Brien
David Morris v Jimmy White
Matthew Stevens v Joe Swail

March 10
Graeme Dott v Group Winner
Ken Doherty v Group Winner
Stephen Hendry v Group Winner
Ronnie O'Sullivan v Group Winner

Semi Finals

March 11
Final first session
Final second session

For further news on this new event, check out its website: http://www.kilkennymasters.net/


I was listening yesterday to The Kinks track 'The Village Green Preservation Society' and it occurred to me that this may be the only song ever to mention billiards.

Does anyone know?



Confidence is rarely lacking in Australian sportsmen but when Neil Robertson announced to his family at the age of just 11 that he would one day be world snooker champion it must have sounded a fanciful proposition.

Fast forward 14 years, though, and Robertson will be one of the favourites at the Crucible in April after producing another top drawer performance to beat Andrew Higginson 9-8 in a gripping Welsh Open final at the Newport Centre tonight.

Robertson has now won two ranking titles this season, having captured the Royal London Watches Grand Prix in Aberdeen last October.

Then, he became the 42nd player to win a ranking event and now becomes the 22nd to win more than one.

In truth, though, there were two winners at Newport. It was Robertson's title but the week belonged to Higginson.

His inspirational run from the first qualifying round to the final - with a televised maximum along the way - was extraordinary. Furthermore, it was a timely counter to the complacency of some of the game's top players who don't seem especially interested at the moment.

Some 11 years in the making, Higginson deserves much praise for his exploits. He's back in action in a week's time when he tackles Mark Boyle in the first qualifying round of the 888.com World Championship at Prestatyn.

It was a good tournament, though the crowds were generally poor. This has not happened before in Newport and could in part be due to extensive work going on outside the venue.

One final thing: the tournament desperately needs a new trophy to replace that aesthically displeasing piece of slate.

As Joe Johnson said in his Eurosport commentary: "It looks like it's fallen off my roof."



What a week Andrew Higginson is having.

The 29 year-old from Widnes is today appearing in his first ranking event quarter-final and has just compiled the 56th maximum break in professional snooker history.

His 147 came in the second frame of his match against Ali Carter and was the 33rd to be made in a ranking event, the 29th on television and the third in the Welsh Open.

It earns Andy £22,000 - easily his highest ever cheque.

Will he complete the fairytale by winning the tournament?



It is heartening to see Andrew Higginson finally making some progress some 11 years into his professional career.

He was relegated from the main tour two years ago having enjoyed little success - just one appearance in the last 48 of a ranking event.

But Higginson carried on, finished second in the Pontin's International Open Series, and is now a man reborn.

The 29 year-old from Widnes beat Jimmy White and Steve Davis en route to the last 16 of this season's Malta Cup and last night came from 3-0 down to beat John Higgins 5-3 and reach the same stage of the Welsh Open in Newport, describing it as "without a shadow of a doubt the best victory of my career."

Higginson used to practice at Widnes Snooker Centre but left for the perfectly good reason that it burned down.

He himself has now risen from the ashes of disappointment and frustration that is common currency for the circuit's journeymen fighting it out at the qualifiers.

Higginson could easily have given up the sport when things were going badly so his determination and sheer effort in achieving success should be applauded.

He's worked hard for his day in the sun and is sure to enjoy it.



The Welsh Open, which starts tomorrow at the Newport Centre, is the third longest running ranking event on the circuit behind the World and UK Championships.

It is always well supported by snooker fans and the local media and has been won by many of the game's leading lights over the years.

It became a ranking event in 1992 having previously been a tournament solely for Welsh players.

Stephen Hendry was the first winner before Ken Doherty claimed the 1993 title and Steve Davis the crown in both 1994 and 1995.

The Welsh Open provided local man Mark Williams with his first ranking event trophy in 1996 before another Hendry triumph in 1997.

Paul Hunter, at just 19, became the event's youngest winner in 1998, after which the Welsh Open moved from Newport to the Cardiff International Arena - one of the best venues snooker has ever been staged at.

Williams beat Hendry 9-8 in the first final there and John Higgins prevailed in a decider over Stephen Lee in 2000.

Doherty won his second Welsh title in 2001 and Hunter his a year later.

Hendry's victory in 2003 was the last at the CIA. Because of cost cutting, the tournament moved to the less than impressive Welsh Institute of Sport in 2004, where Ronnie O'Sullivan came from 8-5 down to beat Davis 9-8 and win the title for the first time.

O'Sullivan edged Hendry 9-8 a year later as the tournament headed back to Newport while Lee was triumphant in 2006, beating Shaun Murphy 9-4.



Bill Sinrich, an influential figure in the sports business world through his work for IMG/TWI, has died. He was sufefring from depression for some time.

TWI produce the BBC's snooker coverage and act as sponsorship agents for the WPBSA.

In 1988, Sinrich, Barry Hearn of Matchroom and boxing promoter Frank Warren formed a consortium to rival the WPBSA but were ultimately unsuccessful.

Michael Payne, former marketing and television director of the International Olympic Committee, said: "Bill made a major contribution to the sports broadcast industry throughout the world by opening up broadcast solutions beyond the traditional level.

“He was an absolute professional across rights management and in creating technical solutions to enhance sports broadcasts.”



There will be eight local wildcards for March's China Open in Beijing - a good thing too as it will increase interest and give up-and-coming Chinese players a chance to experience top level snooker.

Ding Junhui himself had such an opportunity as a 14 year-old in 2002 when he lost 5-2 to Mark Selby in Shanghai.

However, the eight qualifiers who must play the wildcards - Jimmy White included - are to be expected to do so for no extra money, which is surely unfair, not least because some have already come through four qualifying rounds at Prestatyn.

In years gone by, those playing in the wildcard round received £500. Belts have been tightened at World Snooker in recent seasons but as its chairman, Sir Rodney Walker, never tires of informing all and sundry how he has turned a profit surely players competing in an extra round should be properly rewarded?



Almost 30 local bands of all musical genres have so far been confirmed to perform at a series of gigs at two Leeds music venues, Cert 18 and The Junction, at the end of May as a tribute to Paul Hunter, who died of cancer last October.

Local businessman Rob Scott, of Elvington, near York, was inspired to organise the events after reading messages posted on an online condolence book in memory of Paul, whose brave battle moved so many around the world.

Scott, who runs York-based firm Discerning Images Photography, contacted the author of the tribute website and suggested staging music events to raise money for the snooker star's chosen charity, the NET Patient Foundation.

Co-organiser Paul Cunniff, who runs Acomb Music, said they had been "overwhelmed" by support from local bands, who had offered their services for free.

The gigs will take place during the day and night on the Bank Holiday weekend from Saturday, May 26, and Monday, May 28.

"This has turned into something much bigger than we expected," Cunniff said."We are expecting a big turnout with hopefully up to 1,000 coming through the doors. It will be an integral part of the York Music Live festival and I think it will be the largest rock event of the weekend.

"I've been amazed by the response of the bands - they have been so generous. It will be a great weekend to remember Paul Hunter and raise money for his charity."

For more information about the weekend, visit the website www.acombmusic.co.uk or phone Paul Cunniff on 01904 781574.

Paul Hunter music weekend: The schedule

Saturday, May 26

Cert 18
1pm to 5pm: Punk/indie/ electro rock

Sgt Johns Zombie Brigade
New Soul Company
Testtone 3
(Grinny Grandad)

6pm: Rock/indie/Britpop

Third Conduct
Angel Of Sin
Velvet Star
The Plug
The Universals
The GT's
Autumn Noise

Sunday, May 27
Cert 18

8pm: Heavy metal evening

Method In Madness
Project Side 7 (aka Angel Bass)
Hand Of The Daedra
Megawatt Winged Avenger

Monday, May 28
The Junction

1pm to 5pm: Blues/ indie

Player 1
Diego Snail
The Volcanoes
The Jones

6pm to 11pm: Blues evening

Craig Whitehead
98 Pages
Rotten Karma



The world champion is rightly regarded as being an ambassador for snooker. His progress is followed keenly and he is expected to conduct himself in a professional manner: giving interviews, making personal appearances and generally representing the sport.

In this regard, snooker is lucky to have Graeme Dott, whose victory over Peter Ebdon in the 888.com-sponsored event last year was a well deserved triumph for this most determined of competitors.

Why, then, is he constantly being snubbed by the schedulers?

His first match as world champion was played at 10am in Belfast last August, the only session at the Northern ireland Trophy not televised.

At Wembley last month he was made to play in the morning at the Saga Insurance Masters.

And at the Malta Cup this week not a single one of his first three matches has been televised.

Today, he plays Shaun Murphy, who he succeeded as Crucible champion. This is an intriguing match but the TV cameras will instead be showing Stephen Hendry v Ali Carter. Of course, Hendry is a huge draw but we've already seen him twice and Dott not at all. (Eurosport, who show the event, have no say in this - it's decided by Malta TV and World Snooker.)

The Scot himself spoke out about this earlier in the week and has a valid point: if he is expected to behave like a world champion then he should be treated like one.