Let’s go back to this day in 1980: a defeated Jimmy Carter is in the White House working out the final weeks of his presidency. Aston Villa sit at the top of the first division. ABBA’s ‘Super Trouper’ is no.1 in the UK singles chart.

And Steve Davis is being driven home from Preston having just won his first major title, the UK Championship. It is the dawn of a golden career. He is 23 and about to transform the world of snooker.

Fast forward to the present day and Davis is today appearing in his 32nd successive UK Championship at the qualifiers in Sheffield. If he beats Mark Joyce he will play Ali Carter in Telford.

Davis won every UK title from 1980 to 1987 bar two. Terry Griffiths beat him in the 1982 quarter-finals and Alex Higgins recovered from 7-0 down to edge him 16-15 in the 1983 final.

This period encompassed an era of dominance so complete that it was hard to see how it could ever end.

Davis was a shy, awkward teenager who found an outlet in snooker. His talent and potential became apparent to Barry Hearn, who ran a chain of snooker clubs and would manage him through a golden decade, indeed who still manages him to this day.

Griffiths opened the door for the new breed by winning the world title at his first attempt in 1979 and Davis was part of the mob of young players who dived through it in his wake.

He became a magnet for trophies, and money too: the old guard who played snooker when there was hardly any financial reward in the game, scratching around the exhibition circuit for a living, must have looked at Davis in awe and disbelief: how could anyone possibly become a millionaire out of the sport?

The answer, of course, was through his on table dominance and the off table savvy of Hearn, pushing lucrative sponsorship contracts his way and, in helping to create the soap opera that was the 1980s boom, ensuring new tournaments, more prize money and a bucketful of personal appearances.

The Davis years would have to end some time but he found it hard to accept that Stephen Hendry was even better.

The 1990 UK Championship saw them go toe-to-toe in the final for a second successive year. They were introduced into the Preston Guild Hall to Tina Turner’s ‘Simply the Best’, an apposite choice for these formidable champions. It was a great match which Hendry eventually won 16-15 and marked the moment the crown was passed.

Davis soldiered on but his ranking position slipped and, with it, so did his aura.

There were more trophies, including a memorable capture of the Wembley Masters in 1997, but in 2000 he dropped out of the top 16.

Precedence told us that when former champions are relegated from the elite bracket they usually keep sliding until their career ends. Davis was constantly asked if he would retire. His answer was always the same: why should I?

And then in 2005 he was in the UK final again after an extraordinary week in York in which he beat Mark Allen, Stephen Maguire, Ken Doherty and Hendry before falling short against Ding Junhui. It was, remarkably, his 100th final after an inspirational run of performances.

Inspiration was the key again at the Crucible last season with his shock 13-11 defeat of John Higgins, a player, like so many, who grew up admiring the ‘Nugget.’

The old aura is restored, not of invincibility but as a cold stone legend. Davis now enjoys universal respect and while once he was booed because his success had become so monotonous, now he is revered as one of the most popular players in the sport.

His love of snooker remains as strong as it was 30 years ago. He is still endlessly fascinated by it. When he reached the Crucible for a 30th time last season he was more excited than any of the other qualifiers.

The world has changed in all sorts of ways in the last 30 years. An African American president now sits in the White House. An American owned football team is top of the league. A group of people unheard of months ago but brought together through a reality TV show are no.1.

Technological advancements have been rapid and spectacular: the fact you can read this now is testament to that.

But through it all, like old man river, Steve Davis has just kept rolling along.


kildare cueman said...

Amazing example of sporting longevity, both by Davis, and Jimmy White, who captured the world amateur title in 1980.

Indeed, having just won the world seniors, White must be the only player, or sportsperson for that matter, to win world titles 30 years apart.

The fact that these two, were playing before most of todays top players were even born, is a testament to their class.

And they're not finished yet.

RichP said...

Very nice piece Dave.

MaximumSnooker said...

Great article, I really hope Steve Davis continues to stay in the top 32 for years to come and keeps pushing through to venues!

Bryn said...

Another great article. It is amazing to think that Steve has beaten every world champion, save for the first two (Joe Davis and Walter Donaldson).
In the 1980s he was the man to beat and learn from and now, three decades on, he shows how will, determination and love of the game can still carry you through to great success and inspiration.
Steve (and Barry Hearn) did transform the game in the 1980s and they are enriching it (quite literally) all these years on. Good luck today Steve.

Anonymous said...

Arise Sir Steve Davis.

Anonymous said...

The 1990 UK Final has to be the most pivotal match ever staged outside the World Championship.

It was goose bumpingly gripping.
I wanted Davis to win so his rivalry with Hendry could remain equal for a while longer.

As it was Hendry won and took that confidence on to steamroller almost everything for several years afterwards.

Betty Logan said...

You can argue that O'Sullivan and possibly Hendry were more brilliant, but at his best Davis was the most flawless player that ever lived. If you ask the players what they remember most about Davis it was being left on the balk cushion, ask the fans they remember him clearing up frame after frame. Pound for pound he is the best player ever.

Mills1976 said...

Really great piece good luck today Steve and many more days!

Betty Logan said...

Indeed, having just won the world seniors, White must be the only player, or sportsperson for that matter, to win world titles 30 years apart.

Possibly in a single discipline, but Fred Davis of course won his first snooker world title in 1948 and won the billiards world title in the early 80s.

Dave H said...

Raymond Ceulemans won the world 3 cushion billiards title 38 years apart (and a lot of times in between)

Colin M said...

Steve's a true legend and it's about time he wrote another autobiography covering the many years after "Frame and Fortune" ...

Arise, Sir Steve!

Anonymous said...

Long live the nugget.

That was a VERY enjoyable read, Dave. Thank you.

Betty Logan said...

Why doesn't snooker have a knight? Every other sport has one. Snooker has been successfully exported to the Commonwealth, Asia and Europe at some stage so the players that were part of that have performed "services to the country". Given Davis' historical role in establishing snooker as a proper international sport and O'Sullivan's modern day role in furthering the appeal of the game beyond British shores, it's probably about time both of these players are knighted! Is snooker overlooked because it's perceived as a British sport, or maybe it is still not considered a proper sport by the establishment? Or possibly its working class origins are standing in the way of knighthoods...whatever the reason is I find it a bit strange that not one single snooker player has ever received a knighthood.

jamie brannon said...

It is certainly high time we had some more snooker autobiographies.

There would be a demand for John Higgins to write one, also we have had nothing from Stephen Hendry, or Steve Davis in recent times.

jamie brannon said...

Is it just me or is Global Snooker not as quick with updates as it used to be? Trying to follow Wattana and Gould, it is still 2-2, they must be further advanced than this.

It is still a good site, but befor e it was near perfect.

Anonymous said...

Great article Dave, very nostalgic.

Anonymous said...

I've still got my Matchroom aftershave somewhere

Anonymous said...

My missus used to say the logo design had more allure than the scent it produced.

Nathan said...


Redandblackblog said...

Look what happens, you build him up and then he gets stuffed by a relative unknown! And before anyone argues a case for Joyce - he's unknown to most who aren't snooker anoraks.

Anonymous said...

Stephen Hendry wrote a book when he was 22 or something insane like that - nothing has happened to him since. As for snooker not having a knight, given Ronnie doesn't have so much as an MBE yet, I think the chances of a has-been getting a gong is at the bottom of the list.

kildare cueman said...

Dont think Davis is ready for his real autobiography yet. I think when hes finished playing and has a couple of years on the board could be about right.

Anonymous said...

Look what happens, you build him up and then he gets stuffed by a relative unknown! And before anyone argues a case for Joyce - he's unknown to most who aren't snooker anoraks.

Unfortunately for you Redandblackblog this is a snooker blog and most people on here could have made a very strong case for Joyce, shame you couldn't.

jamie brannon said...

What's the name of this Hendry autobiography? A fair bit has happened since he was 22, just his total domination of the sport!

Dave H said...

It was called 'Remember My Name'. Funnily enough the guy who wrote it called me today.

Don't think Davis will be writing ione. He's said in the past that he doesn't want to do one.

However, I know of one player autobiography coming out next year (hopefully) that I've helped to write. Not allowed to say any more than that, though.

jamie brannon said...

I would like to read it, I guess it is not around much now.

The second Ronnie one never materialised this year, when it was felt it might.

The best sports autobiography I have read is the one by Stanley Victor Collymore.