All through the 1990s, Alan McManus was rightly considered to be one of the toughest players on the circuit.
In the early part of the decade, he was widely seen as a potential world champion. None of his contemporaries would argue that he was a talented matchplayer.
Yet for all this, he only won three major titles and is now 38th in the provisional rankings and very much at a career crossroads.
History tells us that once an established player starts to slide down the rankings they invariably keep on going.
McManus plays Stuart Pettman in the penultimate qualifying round of the Welsh Open today.
If he loses (and Pettman beat him at the same stage of the China Open last month), the Scot has only the World Championship to look forward to this season.
So what went wrong? Well, obviously, nobody goes on forever. Snooker is not a physical sport but decline tends to begin when a player is in their mid 30s.
Some stave it off for a while. All succumb in the end.
At his best, McManus was a fine player and made an impressive start to his professional career. He joined the circuit in 1990 and beat Jimmy White en route to the semi-finals of the UK Championship in his first season.
He also won the qualifying event for the Masters (the first year this was staged), beating James Wattana in the final.
He beat Willie Thorne in the first round at the Crucible and ran Terry Griffiths to 13-12 in the second.
The following season, McManus reached the Asian Open final in Bangkok, losing to Steve Davis, was a semi-finalist in the World Championship and Grand Prix and a quarter-finalist in the Mercantile Classic.
All this elevated him to the elite top 16 after only two seasons, which is some feat, emulated two years later by Ronnie O’Sullivan but by nobody since.
He was clearly good enough to win major titles, including the World Championship, and reached four finals in his third season on the tour but did not win any of them.
He also reached a second successive Crucible semi-final where he and Stephen Hendry were brought into the arena by a bagpiper. Hendry won 16-8.
McManus lost in two more finals the following season until his greatest moment, ending Hendry’s 23-match unbeaten run at the Wembley Masters with a 9-8 defeat in the final.
After a few false starts, he had arrived in the winners’ enclosure. Later that year he beat Peter Ebdon to win the Dubai Classic. He 1996 he defeated Ken Doherty to win the Thailand Open.
He was sixth in the world rankings but never rose higher and he never won another major title.
And although Alan’s career has been better than most, I wonder if he sometimes looks back at some missed opportunities.
Consider this: he has appeared in 49 ranking event quarter-finals and 26 semi-finals but only ten finals, from which he’s won two titles.
This is not a great conversion rate, although it is fair to point out that matches get tougher the longer a tournament goes on.
McManus has always had a philosophical attitude towards victory and defeat. It’s not always easy to discern whether he’s won or lost.
He is a somewhat inscrutable character, which helps in sport to a degree because he doesn’t show his opponents what he’s thinking, but I’m sure his various close defeats have hurt, most particularly in recent years where he has struggled for the form of old.
I did some commentary with Alan for British Eurosport and he is very perceptive and has an interesting insight into shot selection. They don’t call him ‘Angles’ for nothing.
I think he’d make a good coach, although, of course, he wants to remain a player for as long as he can.
McManus is now 38. His best years are therefore behind him but I often think of great players that if they can get a bit of confidence from somewhere a resurgence in form would not be out of the question.
Chilly Prestatyn today would be as good a place to start as any.