Judd Trump is the latest star to shine in snooker’s glittering firmament but for all the attention cuemen such as he attracts the test of a player is what they achieve on the table.
Trump’s performance today in winning the williamhill.com UK Championship was at times breathtaking. His shot-making, flair and courage under pressure mark him out as the standard bearer for the new era.
He has helped get people talking about snooker again. Who could fail to be entertained by the way he plays the game?
Nobody can say for sure who will win the World Championship. The example of Jimmy White tells us this.
What we can say is that Trump will go to the Crucible next spring as one of the big favourites to land the greatest prize of them all. That he is good enough to is not in doubt.
I first saw him play when he was ten. He won the English under 15 national title at Gateshead and needed the rest for every other shot.
The following day he lost in the English under 13 final and took it badly. This was a good early sign. Even at that age snooker clearly mattered. This was not just a hobby.
When he was 13 I saw him beat Mike Hallett 4-1 to win the spring Open at Pontin’s in Prestatyn.
I suspect he remains the only winner of this huge pro-am to celebrate by going on the swings.
I knew then that he was special. It wasn’t just his talent. There was something in his manner. He was dedicated and seemed to believe in himself. He wasn’t going to be the type to waste what he had.
Much of this is of course down to his family. His father Steve drove young Judd up and down the motorways of the UK every weekend to junior tournaments, in particular those organised by Malcolm Thorne in the East Midlands.
They enabled Trump to improve and get used to competition snooker. He formed friendships and rivalries with players he would encounter in time on the professional circuit.
I never doubted he would make an impact as a pro, but the year he has had has been beyond all expectations.
What has impressed me is the way he has developed his all round game. He has good tactical knowledge, as he displayed in winning the China Open, and is comfortable on the big stage, not shrinking from the limelight but embracing it.
Like most players he suffered some early setbacks on the main tour. The free flowing snooker he had always played was in short supply in the qualifiers, where hard-as-nails seasoned players kept him glued to the back cushion and frustrated him.
It was an apprenticeship all players must serve but led some to question whether he had been over-hyped.
In fact, Trump developed at his own pace. He enjoyed good practice facilities at Keynsham Snooker Centre and support from Derek Curnow but, like many of his age, wanted to reach out on his own.
He moved to Romford where he practises at The Grove and shares a house with Jack Lisowski.
He could not have chosen a better sparring partner than Jack, a level-headed young man dedicated to his snooker.
The image of the ‘playboys’ is mainly ironic. I’m sure they do enjoy themselves – as they should – but snooker clearly comes first.
But he has overcome his early shyness and developed into a confident talker, at ease with the media and their growing demands.
Judd seems to have good people around him. It will be hard not to let some of the attention and adoration go to his head, but in my experience a snooker club is a place where you will soon be given a reality check if you start believing your own publicity.
The tabloids will have their fun with him but the truth about Trump is that he is a nice young man, close to his family, who enjoys playing snooker.
And he is unbelievably good at it.
That Mark Allen could play as well as he did, making four centuries and still losing, shows how impressive a display it was.
With success comes negatives too. He will inevitably invite jealousy, carping about minor things, judgements from those who have never met him, hangers-on and those who want a piece of him for the wrong reasons. But the positives far outweigh all this. He is inspiring people who may have drifted away from snooker or never much been interested before.
The best part of it is this: if Trump’s professional career were a day it would still be morning.
There is still so much more to accomplish.