Jimmy White loves snooker. He loves it now at the age of 46 every bit as much as he did when, as a kid, he used to bunk off school to play it in the afternoons when he should have been receiving an altogether different sort of education.
Snooker suffers from an overly nostalgic tendency to hark back to the ‘good old days’ but regardless of this it’s genuinely heartening to see Jimmy still in there fighting.
He came back from 8-6 down to beat David Grace in the first qualifying round of the Maplin UK Championship and last night edged Ian Preece 9-8 to reach the third.
If he makes it from the Sheffield qualifiers to the final stages at Telford he will play Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Jimmy’s career is usually talked about in terms of the six world finals he lost. These defeats came to define him as the game’s nearly man, although did nothing to reduce his status as ‘people’s champion.’
He certainly should have won in 1992 when he led Stephen Hendry 14-8 (although Hendry played some great stuff to come back) and had the title in his hands in 1994 only to miss a routine black in the decider, the pressure ultimately overcoming him.
Had Alex Higgins not conjured up his miraculous 69 break to stay in their 1982 semi-final Jimmy may well have been champion that year.
But let’s not forget this: he won ten ranking titles, including the 1992 UK Championship, and a clutch of invitation tournaments, not least the 1984 Wembley Masters.
He’s had a far better career than most and it’s still continuing, albeit in the relative obscurity of a chilly Sheffield.
There’s no webcam so Jimmy’s many fans who can’t attend the qualifiers are reduced to staring at live (or sometimes dead) scoring and cheering him on from afar.
There aren’t many players who would inspire such devotion.