The death this week of Malcolm Thorne brought into sharp focus the fact that, though snooker players are engaged in an intensely individual sport, they nevertheless need some help along the way.

Malcolm organised countless junior tournaments and also guided Mark Selby when he first turned professional.

Many snooker players have benefited from having inspirational mentors.

Steve Davis first had his father, Bill, a student of the game who helped him with the playing side and then Barry Hearn, his manager who helped make him a millionaire off the table.

Stephen Hendry had Ian Doyle, another no-nonsense manager who instilled in his young charge the importance of hard work and all out commitment.

Hendry’s own game also evolved after he took part in an exhibition tour with Davis early in his career. Heavily beaten, Hendry realised that, though he was good, he wasn’t yet good enough for the level he aspired to.

Subsequently, Stephen Maguire practised with Hendry while a teenager and through the endless beatings not only learned first hand how to play top level tournament snooker but also developed a resolve to try and one day get to that standard.

John Higgins admits he was nothing particularly special until he met Alan McManus, who mentored him in Glasgow. Higgins would also later practise with Hendry.

Shaun Murphy was tutored by his father, Tony, and Ding Junhui was taken across China by his father to work with the best coaches the country had to offer.

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s prime mentor was also his father, who gave him every advantage he could in terms of practice facilities, opponents and an inner confidence.

When he was sent to jail, O’Sullivan’s sense of certainty was shaken and he was lucky to have Derek Hill in his corner. Hill was, indeed still is, a cheery, relentlessly upbeat character skilled in having his charges look at life as if the glass were half full and not half empty.

Now O’Sullivan is doing his bit for Riley’s Futurestars, now in its second year.

In 2010, Joel Walker, a 16 year-old from Sheffield, was chosen to be mentored by O’Sullivan from the 1,000+ youngsters who entered.

Riley’s are privately very pleased with the effort O’Sullivan has made for this scheme, which carries a £5,000 prize for career development and coaching with O’Sullivan.

Regional competitions held at Rileys clubs will find 120 winners who then go head-to-head until eight players are left standing.

The final eight will compete in Sheffield during the World Championship where they must compete in skills tasks designed by O’Sullivan to test their cue technique and ball control.

It is a worthy scheme, not least because it gives a top player the chance to help someone coming up.

There are few better candidates to pass on advice to new, young professionals than older players who have been there, seen it, done it, and had the t-shirt sponsored.

However, new pros receive no formal advice from anyone and never have. They just pitch up and play and have to navigate the treacherous waters of professional sport without much of an idea what it entails.

This is probably why so many have been ripped off by dodgy managers or allowed success, when it has come, to go to their heads.

Players such as Davis, Hendry and Ken Doherty are obvious examples of wise old heads and should perhaps be used in a formal capacity to counsel new players.

Just because snooker is not obviously a team sport, it doesn’t mean a player has to do it all alone.


Anonymous said...

I can't help thinking that this mentoring is entangled with sponsorship. Otherwise he would surely have done it at the Grove where he plays. Hmm

Greg P said...

Dave do you think Ronnie would have won more (and perhaps won the world championship earlier) if his Dad hadn't gone to jail?

Anonymous said...

Does Ronnie's involvement in Riley's Futurestars scheme mean he is really putting something back in to the game - or is he getting paid? My understanding of putting something back in to the game is when you spend your own time helping out, without remuneration.

Also Dave,the picture that's painted of Del Hill is not one I recognise after reading Snooker Scene over the years. Or is it me???

Anonymous said...

Ronnie doesn't need the money

What are you 'putting back into the game' other than sniping at others on the internet?

jamie brannon said...

He definitely should have won more. I think it was a factor, as it instigated his depression, which is perhaps the biggest factor in failing to achieve what his talent merited, although he is a great player and still has been very successful.

Anonymous said...

I Think Ronnie Enjoyd Entertaining More than he Enjoyed Winning Tournaments so Showing Off to a captive Audience that hang on his every word is right up his street.

Anonymous said...

jamie.....most people would say hes got loads of stains on his CV !

Anonymous said...

He wont be winning the Championship League as I have just been told he has withdrawn from Group 3.

jamie brannon said...

If this is true, another sign, perhaps that his heart is not in it, although he may have genuine reasons.

Anonymous said...


always giving him benefit, even though his past suggests its rarely needed.