Terry Griffiths believes Stephen Hendry will be fired up by being back at the qualifiers.

This in itself is interesting as the minute Griffiths dropped out of the top 16 he chose to retire rather than slog round the anonymous qualifying events after many years as one of the game’s leading players.

He was 49. Hendry is 42. I agree with Terry that Hendry will be motivated. He is a proud man, but this is no guarantee of success.

It’s the first time in 23 years that he hasn’t been a member of the elite group but, as those with long memories will know, not the first time in this period he has had to play qualifiers.

The top 16 used to have to qualify for tournaments outside the UK, although Hendry has not gone through this for some time.

That the UK Championship is first up won’t make much difference. It’s a great event but when you’re not at the venue that means nothing. For everyone it’s a nervy, testing business and Hendry has now joined the ranks of well known faces condemned to endure it.

Who is Stephen Hendry?

He’s a complex man, driven by a desire to succeed that seemed to override every other emotion. He had no interest whatsoever in snooker until his parents bought him a small table one Christmas and yet within a fortnight had made a 50 break.

His manager, Ian Doyle, instilled in him both professionalism and toughness, an attitude which helped Hendry win and also ensured he behaved in a manner befitting a leading sportsman.

The public didn’t always like him due to the monotony of his successes but they admired and respected him. Hendry is the last snooker player to get anywhere near winning BBC Sports Personality of the Year, finishing in the top six in 1999.

In this video, Hendry talks in matter of fact fashion about the greatest career of them all. He was never one to dwell on his triumphs, only ever looking forward. His personal scrapbook of memories must be bulging but it’s clear a few are a genuine source of pride.

He modelled himself on Steve Davis and has been the only player since the Nugget to fully throw himself into life as a snooker professional, with everything that entails.

It’s not just his game or his achievements that make him the greatest, it’s his attitude, which would have stood him in good stead at any point in the sport’s history.

I can’t speak highly enough about his achievements. Some of them are receding into memory, as if they were never that important to begin with, but make no mistake, he was a remarkable player, certainly the best ever under pressure, which is where it really counts.

And Hendry would have been the best in any era because he wanted to be the best. He made the sacrifices necessary to be the best.

There were no off table dramas or distractions. He lived a life consumed by snooker. He played in just about every tournament he could, did loads of exhibitions and built an aura that still stands to this day, even if his form has deteriorated.

His sporting idols are the great winners. He has no time for underdogs and the sentiment that surrounds them.

He took great satisfaction from winning but the trappings of success never overwhelmed him. He was never lazy or content to be, say, a five times world champion when he could be a six times world champion.

Such sportsmen are rare. The majority are happy with any success, and the financial rewards it brings.

Only a few are driven to be even better. And these are the ones who achieve true greatness.

Here’s what Ken Doherty says about Hendry in his new autobiography, Life in the Frame, which gives a good summation of both the player and the man:

“I first met him when he was 14...He understood exactly where he was going and what he was going to achieve in the game. He looked the business and he played sublime snooker even then but he was aloof and he stayed like that to an extent. He wanted to separate himself from everyone else and develop an aura. It’s a great thing to have and it’s the way you’ve got to be to get to the top but it means isolating yourself from everyone else and that’s not something that comes easily to most of us.

“Stephen is the best player I’ve ever played against. At his best, he was awesome, better even than Ronnie O’Sullivan. His long potting and break-building were out of this world and his safety game, when he used it, was strong as well. The only way I could beat him was by breaking him down, playing good match snooker and trying to frustrate him. It felt like you had to hide the cue ball in your pocket to keep him out and stop him scoring. Just when you thought you had him in trouble on the bottom cushion he would pull out a pot from nowhere and make a frame winning break.”

Doherty knows this better than most having been on the receiving end of Hendry’s record seven centuries in the 1994 UK Championship final.

Those days are over. For the 2011 UK Championship, Hendry will have to qualify. He will surely play his match in the main arena at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester, which will be a help compared to, say, a tight cubicle in Sheffield with no atmosphere.

But it is still a long, long way from the years of glory when he was the man to beat.

Hendry is still good enough to beat most players on the circuit, however he no longer beats the top players with enough regularity.

Precisely how much longer Hendry has left I wouldn’t want to say. Davis has been written off many times and keeps bouncing back.

Indeed, I remember asking Steve ten years ago if he was going to retire as he had just dropped out of the top 16.

The great man fixed me with an old fashioned look and patiently explained that, actually, he enjoyed playing regardless of his ranking.

I’m not sure Hendry is the same in this respect, but I tend to agree with Ronnie O’Sullivan, who said last week that Hendry needs to change his attitude and, if he can, lighten up a little, not put so much pressure on himself.

After all, he has nothing to prove to anyone.


Ashton Kutcher said...

I don't think he would have made the top four prior to the 80s, when the thick cloths weren't conducive to break-building. You required rock solid tactical play to make it to the top back then, and he has never been a top 4 tactician at any stage of his career. Faster cloths made the game easier, and to an extent allowed lesser players such as Hendry and O'Sullivan to thrive.

Anonymous said...

Some people said Hendry had no natural talent. Three years after picking up a cue, he turned pro. Five years after that, Hendry was World champion and World no 1. And that's without having natural talent.

Anonymous said...

"Some people" obviously haven't a clue what they're talking about then. You don't get more naturally talented.

John F said...

First time commenting on another excellent piece from Dave. Felt compelled to write after the unbelievable comment from Ashton K...

I once referreed a bounce game between Stephen and John Higgins (best of 9 for £5!) and Stephen made 5 successive centuries...Higgins, breaking into the top 10 in the world at the time, scored no points.

Stephen is totally driven and supremely talented as he showed in that bounce game to keep the young pretender at bay. Best ever imo

Anonymous said...

he has more than any

others who are bestowed with that saying took years more to get high up and nobody reached his bars of greatness.

long live king hendo

Anonymous said...

to make a 50 break after only 2 weeks holding a cue on a 6ft table is remarkable in any ones book.

and from that christmas 1981 present he won his first Ranking title in october 1987 thats just short of 6 years after already playing at the crucible.

Anonymous said...

honestly speaking, someone has to have natural talent when he starts playing at the age of 13 and makes a 50+ break in a couple of weeks.

But most people judge natural talent as a thing that you have in a even younger age.

But you have to look how long did someone take to become competitve. And in Hendry's case it was very fast.

But for me the most naturally talented player ever will be Ronnie O'Sullivan.

wild said...

Ashton Kutcher said...

I don't think he would have made the top four prior to the 80s, when the thick cloths weren't conducive to break-building. You required rock solid tactical play to make it to the top back then, and he has never been a top 4 tactician at any stage of his career. Faster cloths made the game easier, and to an extent allowed lesser players such as Hendry and O'Sullivan to thrive.

dsont talk through your arse.

Anonymous said...


to find a natrual talent at a younger age you had to actually play the game at a younger age.

hendry never saw a table until he was almost 13.

4 years older than judd trump was.

kildare cueman said...

Ashton Kutcher is obviously a wind up merchant or a rosy eyed nostalgic.

I saw a Hendry exhibition in Ireland when he was 16, in which he made 4 centuries in 6 frames.... on a club table with an extremely slow cloth. He just never missed a long pot.

You say Hendry wouldn't have survived pre 1980?


He'd have given 3 blacks and still dominated.

Mal said...

Hendry's talent is undeniable - people rightly hail Jimmy, Ronnie and Alex - they were all great talents, but which oen of the them got as good at the game as quick as Stephen did.

It's well known that Ronnie had a small table and then a full size table and by the age of 12/13 was making a century, but he had practised constantly 8-10 hours a day at the time - by which stage Stephen hadn't picked up a queue.

Alex and Jimmy both spent most of their childhoods in their respective snooker clubs playing constantly - This is not knocking them - lots of kids did/do, they were different class, but Stephen became great without being an afficiando and in a shorter time frame and also changed the game!

jamie brannon said...

I'm not convinced that Hendry would have definitely been the best player of the last ten years even playing like he did in the 1990's. He would have won multiple majors like John Higgins and Ronnie O'Sullivan, but I'm not convinced he is better than them.

O'Sullivan using various criteria and human judgement is superior in the breakbuilding department, and Higgins' all-round game would've have made him a comparable to Hendry at his peak.

I still believe Hendry to be the gratest of all time, as he won more of what mattered in a difficult era, which is only a marginally inferior to the last ten years or so.

However, if O'Sullivan had the same desire to make snooker the defining thing in his life, then he could have garnered just as many world titles.

No need to print the Hello comment, I only posted it as for the last week none of my comments were published due to technical gremlins.

Ashton Kutcher said...

"Ashton Kutcher is obviously a wind up merchant or a rosy eyed nostalgic."

Aye, I like old stuff.

Anonymous said...

Stephen Hendry is the greatest player ever. Let's just leave it there.

Anonymous said...


ronnies about 6 years behind SH in years

ronnie played for many more years than stephen before making any inroads

natural talent? cos he can play fast?

hes talented. very! and using his left hand hes talented too, but hes not more naturally gifted than anyone. he worked hard to get to a decent standard, let alone to become the 2nd best ever.

Anonymous said...

we all know jamie or shiefer will disagree with most and bring ronnie into it. AGAIN.

some people just cant be civil and unbiased when someone other than their favourite player is talked about QUITE RIGHTLY as the best ever.

Anonymous said...

Listen Brannon - Hendry won 7 (seven) World titles, which is as many as ROS and Higgins put together.
If today is so much better than previous eras then how come Higgins has won 3 of the last 5 world titles and Williams got back to world number 1? Jimmy White would have probably won 3 World titles had been been playing at his peak at the turn of the century.

Anonymous said...

All the whatifs, maybes and couldhavebeens aside .. How do you measure natural talent? What is talent anyway? G.o.a.t.? Not one player is that. Can you name just one film or song that truly outranks all the other great ones? Same principle applies for snooker players .. At least for me. I'd need to name at least 5 or 6.

Higgins said...

natural talent is not enough. you need to have desire, discipline and focus.

I can definitely relate to Ronnie O'Sullivan's flawed genius gig. That man has natural talent indeed.

Stephen Hendry is remarkable and worth looking up to. Some may find him boring and rather monotonous but he never fails to amaze me.

Anonymous said...

will the hendry qualifier be streamed (free)?

Anonymous said...

I still get my hopes up every tournament Stephen plays but the last handful of years have been frustrating. I really get a bit sad every time he is defeated and never quite knowing why he isn't the Hendry who won 7 world titles in his 20s.

So I'm glad for Terry's apparent knowledge of his enthusiasm but will it matter when his game is suffering from god knows what?

Anonymous said...


broken cue!

Anonymous said...

Loving it Jamie - you start by saying "I'm not convinced he is better than them (Higgins and O'Sullivan)", then go on to declare Hendry the greatest of all time. So if he's the greatest of all time, how can you not be convinced he's better than the other two?

Also, just out of interest, what does "O'Sullivan using various criteria and human judgement is superior in the breakbuilding department" actually mean? I'm genuinely interested.

And although it's a matter of opinion, I've no idea how you can describe the Hendry era as inferior, even if only marginally, to the last 10 years. Please let's not buy into this tedious, ill-considered BBC party line that "standards just get better all the time".

gerard said...

Yes, it's sad to see him lose most of his matches and drop down the rankings.

I never realised it, but in that interview he clearly says that he's never been the same after his cue being damaged. Could it really have been the turning point of his carreer?

Does anyone know if he's still suffering from 'the yips'?

Anonymous said...

To be fair he wasn't much different before it. 2000 he didn't win a title, 2001 he won just one, 2002 nothing, 2003 two titles—one with his new cue I believe, nothing in 2004, another title in 2005. It's not like he was winning everything and then zip. First it was the cue, then the yips, but in reality it was just the next generation of snooker player. They could match him in break-building, and were tactically superior and he struggled to compete against better players. He just became obsolete.

Anonymous said...


i know stephen. have done for years. i believe he wasnt near the same player ever again. in patches, yes, but not anywhere near as consistently good. then that affected his confidence.....

the standard has improved over the years, but its mainly been from 16-48, so the best players in the late 80s to now were roughly as good as the crops since then, but the ones above them have closed the gaps.

Anonymous said...

Great article, Dave.

John Lim said...

"After all, he has nothing to prove to anyone."

But himself.

Anonymous said...

So pertinent the point about changing his approach, if he could do this half as well as Steve Davis he could still be in the top eight for another 6-8 years, as he still has the break building game when he is in, but he just needs to stop going for shots and accept that his long game has gone and learn to scrap and tighten his safety.

Anonymous said...

Stephen's game was always based on going for his shots. I understand that he doesn't want to change this philosophy but if he did I think he could be 100% more successful, because the main reason for his poor recent form is leaving opponents a glut of easy chances from taking on too many long pots with little success and element of safety. It's interesting that Stephen's form started to slip around the age of 30 while Higgins and O'Sullivan remained high quality well into their mid-30's. However, Stephen is a true legend and he has the ability to climb back up the ladder, but it needs a combination of circumstances including, most importantly, stopping to put so much pressure on his own shoulders. It's easy to say but much harder to do when you're born a winner.

Anonymous said...



stephens game really started slipping 6 years ago, around about the time he was 35.

ronnies for has been terrible in the last 2 years compared to his form in years previous to this (dont include the premier league joke rule tournament in his stats)

guess what age ronnie was 2 years ago....

yeah, roughly same age as hendry, and ronnie wont be in the top 5 in the world again IMO

jamie brannon said...

Firstly, O'Sullivan won the UK Championship at 17, so didn't take long for a breakthrough.

There is a difference between being the greatest and the best. I remember Jimmy White saying Hendry was the greatest winner, but O'Sullivan was the best player he had seen.

For me, O'Sullivan can be humanly judged as the better breakbuilder by watching the sport, he has the sharpest breakbuilding brain ever, and in terms of stats, has made more centuries in his career when it comes to the averages which are published on Chris Turner's site.