By far the most recognisable name in action on day one of the World Championship qualifiers tomorrow is that of Tony Knowles, a three-times semi-finalist at the Crucible in the 1980s.

Knowles was one of snooker’s pin-up boys in the boom time. No doubt to women of a certain age he still occupies that category.

He was also a very good player but never quite landed one of the game’s really big titles.

A couple of ranking event victories did not lead to a triumph at, say, Sheffield or Wembley.

This certainly looked a possibility when Knowles sensationally beat Steve Davis, the then defending champion, 10-1 in the first round of the 1982 World Championship, which is still considered to be one of the biggest shocks of all time.

His first Crucible semi-final came in 1983 and he was very unlucky not to go through after Cliff Thorburn fluked what was effectively match ball to beat him 16-15.

In 1985, he came a cropper to Dennis Taylor and went down to Joe Johnson the following year.

Part of the reason why he didn’t achieve as much as he may have done was undoubtedly the attention he received for what Snooker Scene called a “three-part part farrago of sexual boasting” in a tabloid newspaper.

Indeed, Knowles was fined over this for “bringing the game into disrepute” – perhaps the most bogus offence in sport bearing in mind the disreputable elements that often end up in positions of power in various governing bodies.

Knowles is not renowned for brevity when it comes to giving his point of view. I once asked him, in all innocence, if he thought he could get back to the top of the game and he replied, “well, they ruined the game when they changed the tables in 1986.”

Decades passed, or so it felt, as Tony detailed every single development he believed had taken the game backwards.

He turned up at the qualifiers one year with bandages on his back after somehow tipping a jug of boiling water over himself.

His cult status was assured when Peter Kay named one of Brian Potter’s suites after him in the Channel 4 sitcom Phoenix Nights.

Knowles, now 53, faces Ali Bassiri in the first qualifying round tomorrow.

He won’t reach the Crucible but it speaks volumes for his love of snooker that he has entered the game’s biggest event once again.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

I agree with most of what you say, but I think it's a bit harsh to say Tony was unlucky to lose to Thorburn in 83. Tony missed a mid-distance pink of its spot to win 16-14. He had a chance to win and get to the final, and he blew it.

From a technical perspective he was the last of the really prominent players to drop his cue arm elbow on delivery. Funny how styles change over the years.

John A

Anonymous said...

What a story it would be to see him back again in the big time! Good luck Tony. By the way Dave all this talk about the World's makes me fondly remember the great "Whispering" Ted. Do you know how he is these days?

Dave H said...

As far as I know he's in fine fettle

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much the changes to the tables has effected snooker- certainly I think it has taken some of the expertise out as the pack splits too easily instead of having to skillfully nudge out a few reds.This has led to an emphasis on break making- although as we saw at the welsh open a few closer more tactical frames makes for more exciting battles of the mind on the green baize.

Sparky said...

Nice to see a well-known name amongst the qualifiers. But why don't we see more of them?

Why not the likes of Neal Foulds, Darren Morgan, Kirk Stevens, Tony Meo or Willie Thorne, who are all in their 40s or 50s and would certainly add some more spice to the qualifiers?

I don't know what criteria you must fill to enter round one of the qualifiers for the qualifiers, but I can't imagine that World Snooker would deny them a Wild Card or two?

Dave H said...

Tony can play because he has retained his WPBSA membership.

The other players you mention haven't and there are no wildcards in the World Championship.

RichP said...

I remember Tony playing a world qualifier at Telford when he was on his way down. He came off the table and met with his dad and he could be heard, quite loudly, moaning about the pocket sizes. Shame Knowles didn't achieve more in his career.

Anonymous said...

How about resurrecting the oldies but goodies for a one off pot black. Ah, nostalgia.

Anonymous said...

tony was a star in the 80 on and off the table and a gentleman i have found memories of him a fan from Belgium

Anonymous said...


Paul said...

I used to be associated with the American business partner of BCE, the Bristol-based manufacturer of snooker tables and accessories. We were exhibiting at a billiards show in Fort Worth, Texas, somewhere around 1984-85 and BCE chairman David Fisher, Sr., arranged to send Tony over to provide us Yanks with a look at a real snooker champ. The intention was for him to give a shooting exhibition and help us sell some of BCE's tables here in the States.

Also at the show, representing some other product line, was U.S. pool champ Earl Strickland. From the very first day of the trade show, a friendly rivalry between the two blossomed into some pretty serious pool. Strickland mopped the floor with Knowles in 8-ball, while Tony returned the favor in 9-ball. They played nearly dead even in snooker, although Knowles triumphed eventually.

Then, on the last day, Strickland was nowhere to be found, and Knowles made himself scarce as well. Apparently Knowles had shagged Strickland's long-time girlfriend the night before, and he decided things were a bit too hot in Fort Worth to stick around. The fact that Strickland owned a pickup truck with a fully stocked gun rack behind the driver's seat may have had something to do with it.

It WAS Texas, after all!

Anonymous said...

I worked with someone who said they were once engaged to Tony Knowles, does anyone outh there know how many times he was engaged and to who.
I think she was a fantasist

Anonymous said...

I once was sitting talking to a young lady in a night club in Bolton,when all of a sudden,a man came over(the worse for drink)To say to the girl and myself,Do you know who I am?I knew he was tony knowles,at the height of his fame,I said to him ,NO who are you?Im the world famous Tony Knowles,the best snooker player in the world