I only received one threatening phone call after the first part of my Snooker’s Biggest Bust-ups feature was posted last week, which has to be regarded as a result.
On, then, to part two...
STEPHEN HENDRY V MARK JOHNSTON-ALLEN
Hendry was, of course, The Man in the 1990s but the one player he could never beat was Mark Johnston-Allen, a Bristolian who twice reached the final of the European Open.
After two defeats to MJA, Hendry faced his unlikely nemesis again at the 1995 International Open. The result: Johnston-Allen won 5-4 to complete the hat-trick.
This was too much for Hendry. “I keep losing to people who shouldn’t be in the same room as me,” was his conclusion.
Johnston-Allen, about as nice a guy as you could meet, thought this was hilarious but Hendry, embarrassed by an outburst that made him look arrogant, duly sought his foe out at the next tournament and apologised in person. Luckily for Hendry, Johnston-Allen retired a few years later and so caused the great man no further trouble.
JIMMY WHITE V DOMINIC DALE
Dale did not exactly endear himself to the cheery fans’ favourite when he qualified for the 1994 Dubai Classic.
White made what was doubtless supposed to be a constructive comment about Dale’s cue, to the effect that if it was a better model Dom might himself fair better. Remember this was 1994, so Dale’s razor-sharp retort: ‘and if you didn’t miss blacks off the spot you might be world champion’ didn’t exactly have the Whirlwind splitting his sides.
They played each other in the first round at the Crucible in 2002. White won easily, 10-2, and Dale was so disappointed that he broke up his cue and slung it out of the dressing room window, where with great fortune it did not land on the head of anyone passing by.
RONNIE O’SULLIVAN V ALAIN ROBIDOUX
Robidoux, an extremely personable French-Canadian, took the rare hump when O’Sullivan had the temerity to reveal himself to be really, really talented.
They were playing in the first round of the 1996 World Championship when O’Sullivan, winning easily, decided to start playing left-handed. Robidoux took this as a personal slight and, ludicrously, played on when many snookers were needed on the pink in the last frame.
Just as ludicrously, O’Sullivan kept refusing to pot the pink before the match finally ended and they each headed to their respective press conferences to slag each other off.
Disappointingly, this was all patched up very quickly and Robidoux reverted to being the nice bloke he always was.
DARREN MORGAN V PRINCE NASEEM HAMED
Showboating boxer Prince Naseem was a Sheffield boy who liked his snooker. His brother once kindly gave me a fruit pastille, but that’s probably not relevant.
At the 1997 World Championship, Nas came to watch his friend Stephen Hendry in his quarter-final against Morgan, a great competitor who led 5-3 after the first session only to lose six of the eight frames in the second and then the match, 13-10.
Morgan’s explanation for his nightmare session was that Naseem’s presence in the press seats was ‘intimidating’ him, adding: “I have never met Hamed and I have nothing against him as a person. He may be a nice bloke for all I know but he just walked in through the curtains with his missus and sat down right at the front. I just felt he was putting me off and putting Stephen into the mode he needed to be in, so I asked politely for him to be moved.”
Hendry went on to lose the final to Ken Doherty, due largely to Chris Eubanks’s refusal to pitch up and sit in the front row, boxing gloves and all.
STEPHEN HENDRY V BARRY HEARN
Hearn built his empire on shrewd business decisions, associating with the right people (most prominently Steve Davis) and the fact that he has a warm, engaging personality. The players always got on well with him and were grateful for the new markets he developed, most of which were usually then hijacked by the WPBSA.
However, he fell foul of Stephen Hendry, at the time snooker’s youngest ever world champion, at the back end of 1990 after announcing his new Wimbledon-style World Masters in Birmingham, which would feature singles, doubles and juniors and hand wildcards to former world champions.
One such recipient was to be Alex Higgins, who the WPBSA had banned for a season in 1990 for a litany of disciplinary offences. Hendry’s reaction to this was to announce he would not be playing, thus depriving the event of the game’s brightest new star.
Hearn, a man rarely cowed by threats, realised his tournament would not be sanctioned if other players followed Hendry’s lead and so backed down. Higgins was out, Hendry was in and the event went ahead.
PADDY BROWNE V FRANKY CHAN
This is one of those stories that has been embellished over the years, but this version should be as close to what happened as makes any difference.
Chan was Hong Kong’s best player until the arrival of Marco Fu; Browne was an Irishman who once played at the Crucible.
Their unlikely altercation came during a match at the qualifiers at the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool in the early 1990s. There had been a dispute in a frame about a miss call, this being before the rule was refined to its current usage.
At the end of the frame, Chan left the arena to go to the toilet but found a sign on the door to the effect it was out of use. As he went off to look for another one, Browne appeared behind him, also looking to answer a call of nature.
Chan said, ‘No, Paddy, out of order! Out of order!’
Browne assumed this was a reference to the earlier miss rule discussion and grabbed Chan by the lapels, shouting: ‘Don’t tell me I was out of order!’
QUINTEN HANN V ANDY HICKS
These two met in the first round of the 2004 World Championship, a match that Hann had to win to remain in the top 16. It wasn’t a friendly affair, with a few comments here and there as it wound on to its conclusion, which was victory for Hicks.
His remark to Hann as they shook hands - ‘that’s you out of the top 16’ – led to the players having to be separated by the referee, Lawrie Annandale, unwittingly forced to play a kind of Kofi Annan role.
Hann says he told Hicks: ‘You’re short and bald and always will be and I’ll fight you in the street for 50 grand any time you like.’ Hicks, who has never denied being short or bald, declined, although Mark King stepped up to fight Hann in a boxing match – Pot Whack as it was called.
Joe Davis was reported to be spinning in his grave.