It is 25 years to the day since John Parrott played his first match as a professional.

As a 19 year-old he beat Paul Watchorn 5-0 on September 3, 1983 in the qualifiers for the Professional Players Tournament – which became the Grand Prix – at Stockport (thank you to Chris Turner for this information).

JP has, of course, come a long way since then. He won’t mark the anniversary by playing in this week’s Shanghai Masters qualifiers as he is honouring a pre-arranged charity golf day.

As his manager, Phil Miller, told Snooker Scene: “You can’t very well have the John Parrott Golf Classic without John Parrott.”

Truth be told, Parrott could put his cue away for good. He doesn’t play for the money and doesn’t really have huge ambitions of rising back up the rankings.

But he continues to play because he enjoys it. His chirpy persona has always belied a competitive heart and, once on the table, he still has an iron will to win.

As a boy, Parrott would accompany his father to Preston Guild Hall to watch the UK Championship.

He rose to prominence when selected to compete in Junior Pot Black, sporting a chocolate brown suit that has caused much amusement and embarrassment since.

Studious and determined, it was apparent that he had huge potential. In his first season, after only a few months on the circuit, he reached the semi-finals of the Lada Classic in Warrington, losing out 5-4 to Steve Davis.

He then qualified for the Crucible where victory over Tony Knowles – at the time the world no.4 – was followed by a narrow 13-11 defeat to Dennis Taylor.

A year later he reached the quarter-finals at Sheffield where he lost a 13-12 thriller to Ray Reardon.

It took three more years for him to reach his first ranking final, the Mercantile Classic, and a further year for him to capture his first title, the 1989 European Open.

This was, in many ways, a farcical tournament. It was played in Deauville, France where snooker was as alien as cricket would be in Minnesota.

One player, Eugene Hughes, was mistaken for a waiter after coming off the table in one of his matches.

Parrott, though, showed good form, especially in beating Terry Griffiths 9-8 in the final.

He had truly arrived as a contender for the game's biggest title but was to suffer a humiliating defeat to Steve Davis on reaching the Crucible final later the same season.

Davis handed out an 18-3 drubbing to his future BBC colleague. This was dispiriting enough but, as the match had finished a session early, the players were told they would have to play an exhibition in the evening to keep ticket buyers happy.

Even Parrott’s legendary scouse wit wavered a little at the prospect of that.

In truth, he had been emotionally spent by the time of the final. On the first day of the tournament, the appalling horror of the Hillsborough stadium disaster was unfolding a few miles from the Crucible.

Parrott, an Everton fan who enjoyed a friendly rival with Liverpool supporters, wore a black armband during his first round victory over Steve James.

Hendry beat him in the 1990 Crucible semis but, a year later, he arrived in the steel city full of confidence. “I walked in the Crucible the first day and just fancied winning it,” he would later recall.

A 16-10 defeat of Davis in the semis was a real morale boost and he took the final by the throat by winning the first session against Jimmy White 7-0.

John Spencer, three times world champion, described it as “the finest single session performance I have ever seen.”

White could not claw it back and Parrott won 18-11.

This was some achievement in an era where Davis, Hendry and White were all at the top of their games.

It was also a win which endeared this popular player to the public. Parrott explained afterwards that he had been nervous heading into the last day with a big lead.

“I was never going to sleep. I’d have had more luck nailing a blancmange to the ceiling,” he said.

He beat White again to complete the World and UK Championship double later in 1991 and was only denied the prestigious Wembley Masters by Hendry, who beat him in three finals.

For a family man who disliked being away from home it was strange that JP enjoyed so much success outside Britain: all but three of his ranking titles were won away from the UK and he has won tournaments in nine different countries.

It’s been some career. Nine ranking titles, a total of 18 finals, 39 semi-finals and 73 quarter-finals.

Parrott spent three years as world no.2 and won several invitation titles, including two in China long before the current boom.

He belongs in anyone’s all time top 10.

Of course, top flight careers do not go on forever but JP shrewdly branched out into other areas, notably the media where he spent several years as an amusing team captain on the BBC’s A Question of Sport.

He has since become a regular BBC pundit alongside Davis and worked on the BBC’s Grand National coverage.

He was awarded the MBE for his achievements and joked it stood for ‘missed balls everywhere.’

Parrott has not won a title since the 1998 German Masters and is no longer a member of the top 32 but, when he plays, he wants to win – as he proved by beating Davis and running Shaun Murphy close at the World Championship last year.

At 44 and now 39th in the rankings he is under no illusions that, as a player, his best days are behind him.

But what days they have been.


Monique said...

Happy snooker birthday John! Hopefully we enjoy your wits and sense of humour for many years to come ...

ProSnookerBlog said...

Would be interesting to see how good a player like him could still be if he practiced as much as he did back in the day.

Anonymous said...

"He belongs in anyone's all time top 10" is an interesting opinion.
By stating such an opinion you are intimating he is one of the top 6/7 players of all time(everyone would argue about the bottom 3 or 4 places of such a top 10.)I'm not so sure of this.
A top 10 would surely include the following players ahead of JP:
Hendry,S.Davis,Ronnie,J.Higgins and Williams.These all played at the same time as JP and have superior records.
To compare him to players of a different generation is more subjective but surely both Reardon and Joe Davis have to rank higher than him?
A fair case could also be made for Alex Higgins and John Spencer as they both won more world titles.
Of the current generation of players is JP better than Ebdon or Doherty?
Some would/will also argue that White was a better player and that the cases of one or two others deserve consideration.
I'm not saying you are wrong just that it isn't,to me,as definite as you suggest.

Anonymous said...

I think Chris Turner may have got the score wrong for the match in 1983 as far as I know Paul Watchorn was beaten 5-2 and not 5-0