1979 - TERRY GRIFFITHS WINS WORLD TITLE AT FIRST ATTEMPT
Professional snooker in the 1970s was, essentially, a closed shop. Players wanting to join the pro ranks had to be approved by the very people they would be playing against.
It was akin to swimming through glue.
Unlike today, players did not walk out of school and straight onto the circuit. Terry Griffiths, an outstanding amateur from Llanelli, South Wales, worked as a postman, bus conductor and insurance salesman before taking the plunge at 30 – an age today where players are considered to be close to veteran status.
Everyone told him he should turn professional but he was unsure. He had a young family and saw it as a big risk.
But as he himself said in his autobiography, Griff: “What made my mind up was that I was now 30 years old and I didn’t want to get to 40 and be thinking, ‘would I have done as well as a professional?’”
Such was his record, Griffiths was accepted but made an inauspicious start by losing 9-8 to Rex Williams in the UK Championship, his first match, having led him 8-2.
The entirety of the 1970s had been dominated by three men. Ray Reardon won six world titles, John Spencer added two to his first, won in 1969, and Alex Higgins made a remarkable breakthrough by winning the 1972 championship.
All three, as well as the likes of Eddie Charlton and Cliff Thorburn, were expected to excel at the Crucible in 1979.
Griffiths had to qualify and did so with a 9-2 victory over Bernard Bennett and 9-6 defeat of Jim Meadowcroft.
In the first round, he beat Perrie Mans, the runner-up the previous year, 13-8 but it was his electric 13-12 defeat of Higgins in the quarter-finals that truly announced his arrival in the big time.
Higgins led 6-2 but Griffiths fought back and eventually won the decider with a break of 107.
His semi-final against Charlton ground on...and on...and on...until Griffiths came through 19-17.
Memorably, the BBC’s David Vine came into the arena and thrust a microphone under his nose to ask how he felt. Before Griffiths had time to think, he said simply: “I’m in the final now, you know.”
It perfectly captured his charming naivety and utter disbelief at suddenly being through to the final.
The fairytale was completed three days later when Griffiths defeated Dennis Taylor 24-16 and his life changed forever.
Now, the man who had held off turning pro out of concern he would not earn enough to support his family was being offered lucrative endorsement deals, exhibitions and TV appearances by the bucketload.
His victory transformed snooker, too.
It opened the door for a new era in which younger players would come to the fore, no longer over-awed by the old guard.
Chief among them, of course, was Steve Davis, whose rise to the top was surely the main reason Griffiths failed to win a second world title.
The pair played seven times at the Crucible; Davis won all seven.