With the Welsh Open shortly upon us, here’s my countdown of the ten best players ever to come out of Wales.
Comparing eras is a complicated business and such countdowns often result in a flood of abuse from those who believe one player’s achievements have been unfairly maligned. Please regard it as a bit of fun and hopefully instructive.
Well, I’ve given the matter plenty of thought and here goes in reverse order, starting with numbers 10 to 8...
10) WAYNE JONES
Years on tour: 1984-2001
Highest ranking: 22
Jones, like so many Welsh players, was grounded in the game from boyhood, hailing from the mining village of Abertysswg.
He was Welsh amateur champion in 1983 and turned professional the following year. It took a while to make a breakthrough but he beat Dennis Taylor on his way to the 1986 UK Championship quarter-finals.
Jones’s best moment came in 1989 when he reached the Mercantile Classic final, beating Jimmy White, John Parrott and Willie Thorne before losing 13-11 to his great friend and compatriot Doug Mountjoy.
He played at the Crucible four times, beating Neal Foulds 10-9 in the first round in 1989.
9) CLIFF WILSON
Years on tour: 1979-1994
Highest ranking: 16
Wilson was an extraordinary long potter in the Mark Williams/Ronnie O’Sullivan/Neil Robertson mould. He was a very talented amateur but stopped playing competitively in 1957 as the game went into abeyance.
However, 15 years later he returned after a friend asked him to play in a league match. In 1978, he beat Joe Johnson in the World Amateur Championship final in Malta and a year later joined the professional ranks, where he would beat, among others Doug Mountjoy, Mike Hallett, Jimmy White, Willie Thorne and Ronnie O’Sullivan in the future world champion’s first season.
Wilson spent one season in the top 16 in 1988/89. This meant an automatic entry to the Wembley Masters and it was typical of this gregarious character that he spent the mid session interval of his first round match not in his dressing room but chatting to a group of Chelsea pensioners in the audience.
He was a natural extrovert and at times outspoken against those he disapproved of. He played at the Crucible eight times but failed to win a single match, an unwanted record he shares with Rex Williams. In 1991, Wilson recovered from 4-2 down to beat Eddie Charlton 5-4 in the final of the World Seniors Championship.
This great character sadly died in 1994.
8) DOMINIC DALE
Years on tour: 1992-present
Highest ranking: 19
Dale was actually born in Coventry but represents Wales through parentage and has won more ranking titles than all but three of the players above him on this list.
So why isn’t he higher? For whatever reason, Dale has found consistency hard to discover. After winning the 1997 Grand Prix as a huge outsider it rather went to his head. He was not himself prepared for such a big moment and, rather than take his career forward, it knocked him back.
Something of an eccentric, Dale was nicknamed ‘the Spaceman’ because it was felt that, at times, he was on another planet. He was 1991 Welsh amateur champion and runner-up to Noppadon Noppachorn in the World Amateur Championship later that year.
Dale was a World Championship quarter-finalist in 2000, he appeared in the semi-finals of six ranking events and won a second title at the 2007 Shanghai Masters, but again suffered a collapse in form after doing so.
A free spirit, he now lives in Vienna and can be heard commentating for BBC Wales and, sometimes, for Eurosport.