The Mark Allen-Stuart Bingham fall-out at the recent Australian Goldfields Open was a reminder that snooker players have not always been best of friends.
There have been many bust-ups and arguments over the years, adding spice and interest to the rivalries and match-ups that have kept so many snooker fans coming back for more.
Here is my rundown of some of the best: snooker's dirty dozen...
MELBOURNE INMAN V TOM REECE
Snooker was developed in part from billiards and indeed learned much of its aggro from the noble three-ball game.
Though said to be friends, Inman and Reece were fierce rivals on the table at the turn of the 20th century and this boiled over one evening at Thurston’s where the Championship Cup was to be presented to Inman by Lord Alvertson, the judge who had not so long previously ordered the hanging of the murderer Dr. Crippen.
Unable to keep quiet, Reece told his Lordship, ‘if you knew as much about Inman as I do you’d have hanged him and given Crippen the cup.’
JOHN SPENCER V RAY REARDON
These two great champions of the 1970s enjoyed a healthy respect for one another but, different sorts of characters, were not bosom buddies.
In his autobiography, Spencer said of Reardon: ‘he would laugh all day long if he thought it was of benefit to him.’
Reardon’s recollection of Spencer was that, ‘He sometimes beat me but I always beat him in the important matches.’
ALEX HIGGINS V CLIFF THORBURN
These two enjoyed a love-hate relationship in that each loved to hate the other. ‘You’re a Canadian c*** and you can’t f***ing play, either,’ was one cheery Higgins greeting when they found themselves in the same bar. At this, Thorburn, hard as nails on and off the table, floored the Belfast man with a well aimed punch.
Thorburn recalled that this fight was broken up by others and a reconciliation attempted. ‘Eventually, as we went to shake hands, I kicked him right in the nuts,’ he said.
After losing to Thorburn in the 1986 Scottish Masters final, the clean-living Higgins alleged the Canadian had been helped by ‘little bags of white powder’ (although Thorburn was fined and suspended for cocaine use in 1988).
SILVINO FRANCISCO V KIRK STEVENS
Francisco and Stevens contested the 1985 British Open final but the South African, who had lived in a flat opposite Stevens, was convinced his opponent had been using a substance somewhat different to the still water players glug so freely nowadays.
An angry confrontation ensued in the toilets, which was somehow recorded and used as the basis of a front page story (written by Neil Wallis, who was recently arrested in the News International phone hacking controversy), for which Francisco was fined.
Soon afterwards Stevens admitted to being addicted to cocaine, which nearly killed him. A decade later Francisco was jailed for trying to import cannabis into Britain.
DENNIS TAYLOR V ALEX HIGGINS
Taylor was skipper for the Northern Ireland team at the 1990 World Cup but the usually shy Higgins decided to tell him how to do his job.
This disagreement culminated in a foul mouthed, deeply personal diatribe from Higgins, the conclusion of which was, ‘if you ever come back to Northern Ireland I’ll have you shot.’
They played a few weeks later in the first round of the Irish Masters in what remains the biggest grudge match snooker has ever seen. Taylor won 5-2. Higgins was banned for a year after electing to add to his litany of offences by punching a press officer at that season's World Championship.
STEPHEN HENDRY V ALEX HIGGINS
Hendry was a callow youth of 22 with a mere single world title under his belt when he met a fading Higgins in the first round of the 1991 UK Championship.
The omens for a friendly encounter were not good. Higgins offered his hand before the first frame with the words, ‘shake hands with the devil.’
Hendry won 9-4, after which there was a difference in recollection about what Higgins said afterwards. The Northern Irishman claimed it was, ‘well done, Stephen, you were a little bit lucky.’ Hendry’s memory was that Higgins had said, ‘up your a*** you c***.’
PETER EBDON V STEPHEN LEE
Ebdon’s dramatic 13-12 defeat of Lee in the second round of the 2001 World Championship culminated in a triumphant celebration akin to scenes from a documentary on Amazonian tribal dancing.
Lee, if it fair to say, was not impressed, not least because these celebrations began when he could still win with snookers.
The upshot was that Lee vowed not to play in the same England World Cup team as his compatriot unless an apology was forthcoming, which it wasn’t. Shortly afterwards Lee had the satisfaction of beating Ebdon 9-4 to win the LG Cup. The problem of their team arrangement was solved when the World Cup was scrapped.
STEPHEN HENDRY V RONNIE O’SULLIVAN
Like a demented arsonist on bonfire night, O’Sullivan hurled a verbal petrol bomb in the direction of snooker’s greatest ever player on the eve of their 2002 World Championship semi-final.
Among his nuggets of wisdom was the wish to send Hendry – a multi-millionaire with a nice family – ‘back to his sad little life’ and, surely in contravention of the gentlemanly conduct rules, ‘to do a moonie in front of him.’
Hendry said nothing and promptly won 17-12. He commented a year later: ‘Ronnie has been in the Priory being treated for depression. Why would I want his life?’
RONNIE O’SULLIVAN V MARK WILLIAMS
O’Sullivan’s autobiography was being serialised during the 2003 Irish Masters and included some not too kind comments about Williams. ‘He won’t have a book written about him, he’s too boring,’ O’Sullivan explained.
‘If you’re an arsehole, you say stupid things,’ was Williams’s considered view in a row which rumbled on for a day, to the delight of a press room fearful they would actually have to report the snooker.
Late in the evening BBC 5Live phoned up asking O’Sullivan to go on air and explain himself. Ronnie thought it was a wind-up. This was understandable as the name of the producer on the end of the line was, er, Mark Williams.
STEPHEN MAGUIRE V SHAUN MURPHY
After Maguire broke off for his last 64 encounter against Murphy in the 2004 Grand Prix, he realised he had forgotten his chalk and asked the referee if he could pop to his dressing room to get some. No problem, said the ref.
In the meantime, Murphy intervened – although he denies ever asking for a frame to be docked.
By this point, though, tournament director Mike Ganley had appeared and duly docked Maguire by the time he returned to the table, although the Scot still won 5-1. The Murphy-Maguire rivalry has been keen ever since.
GRAEME DOTT V IAN McCULLOCH
McCulloch was so delighted by his defeat of Dott in the first round of the 2005 World Championship that he danced off the stage.
But it was McCulloch’s comment that beating Anthony Hamilton in the second round was a better win that rubbed Dotty up the wrong way. ‘McCulloch has done nothing, and will do nothing in the game, so I find his attitude astonishing,’ the Pocket Dynamo said.
Dott was forced to attend a farcical WPBSA disciplinary hearing, where the charges were eventually dropped. The pair remain the best of enemies.
RONNIE O’SULLIVAN V PETER EBDON
Ebdon’s glacial pace of play during his 2005 World Championship quarter-final against O’Sullivan led his opponent to visibly implode in the arena but, in fact, Ronnie offered not a word of criticism after the match.
This had not always been the case, though. At the 2001 UK Championship O’Sullivan produced a fine quarter-final comeback from 8-4 down to beat Ebdon 9-8, after which he was a little less tight-lipped.
‘He looks like a psycho. He plays like an amateur and has no class around the table,’ O’Sullivan said. Perhaps by the time of their Crucible meeting Ebdon had not quite forgotten this.