Barry Hearn, in his great benevolence, gave the pros last week off but, in Sofia, Bulgaria, the European under 21 championship was fiercely fought and won eventually by a Scot, Michael Leslie.

A few years ago the Scottish amateur scene descended into a rancorous swamp of acrimony in which snooker played second fiddle to internecine warfare.

Thankfully this is over now and Leslie’s emergence can only be good news for a country which has produced four world champions, several tournament winners and many other professionals.

Like Christopher Lee in his pomp, snooker depends on a ready supply of flesh blood. New faces are starting to come through but not at the speed of 20 years ago when the game was thrown open.

Perhaps this is a result of the general malaise in the sport which only ended when Hearn energetically took the reins.

Snooker clubs in the UK have been closing down at an alarming rate, and players from elsewhere in the world are at an immediate disadvantage as they basically have to move to Britain if they are to make a serious bid at the professional ranks.

Leslie, 19, will compete on the pro circuit next season. It’s a good time to join the main tour, with PTCs helping new players to learn the ropes.

One player already established on the circuit is Jamie Jones of Wales who has quietly got himself up to a career high 41st in the world rankings.

Jones has just qualified for the China Open and on Thursday plays John Higgins in the opening round of the PTC Grand Finals in Galway.

He has hauled himself up the rankings with an old fashioned method: hard work. Hours and hours of practice at the South West Snooker Academy and elsewhere as well as all the pro events have helped Jones find some momentum.

You only get out of sport what you put in. The same can be said of life. Many players with potential have fallen through the cracks over the years because they preferred one too many nights out, a couple of beers more than was wise and, before they knew it, they were looking back with regret at what might have been.

Jones, though, is only looking forward. He tweeted during the World Open that watching the tournament on TV had inspired him to work even harder.

Good for him. He doesn’t believe the game owes him a living and is instead determined to go and grab himself a slice of the action.

Higgins represents a significant step up in terms of opposition, especially as it’s a televised match, but, win or lose, it’s a reward for all the effort.

Leslie meanwhile beat Shane Castle, just 14, in their final. Castle’s impressive junior record is growing all the time. He’s another boy who puts in hour after hour in his pursuit of the big time.

Like so many young lads, he no doubt dreams of snooker glory. Leslie put it well after he won: “I've dreamed of this a few times, that I'd won the final, and thought please don't be a dream, but then woken up and been gutted.”

Well he can pinch himself all he likes. It’s real; he did it...here’s to life in the pro ranks.


Janie Watkins said...

Michael is not the only player emerging from Scotland. Scott Donaldson also played his heart out, reaching the semi finals.

The future looks very bright across Europe. Our youngest competitor was just 9 years old from France, AND he won a match!

We had 10-11-12 year olds from Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Russia etc.

I'd like to personally pay tribute to every single junior player in Sofia last week.

Without exception they were all a credit to themselves and their families, to their country and to the sport.

Anonymous said...

So all 5 days of the PTC finals are being televised this year - are RTE showing anything or are Eurosport host broadcaster again? Lets hope the final isn't wiped out by an over-running tennis match!

kildare cueman said...

I think a useful initiative that could be started by world snooker would be the provision of free snooker tables to selected schools throughout Europe.

It could be done as a partnership with local authorities/Star tables.

I realise that there is a huge cost involved in such a venture but if you have a trenche of school leavers with snooker skills each year, then the market will supply clubs for them to further their skills.

Something along the lines of the Paul Hunter initiative would do. But it would be an investment for snooker and not a giveaway.

There must be hundreds of used tables in circulation with all these clubs closing.

It would be a way of providing a level playing field for non UK countries to develop grass roots snooker.

John Michael White said...

Those last couple of paragraphs were wonderful - that's what sport is right there.

Anonymous said...

whatever happened to that polish boy that ronnie said was going to be a world chapion one day (and everyone started saying the same cos ronnie said it)?
ive hardly heard a thing about him since.

i dont think hes WC material....

Dave H said...

He had a family bereavement and so went back to Poland. Feel free to completely dismiss him though.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the first day of PTC finals (Wednesday) is being shown on TV, is it?