The Crucible Theatre is associated with nerves and tension but John Parrott demonstrated a rare confidence when he won the world title in 1991.
“When I walked in the building on the first day I just fancied winning it,” he said years later in recalling the greatest triumph of his career.
Parrott certainly looked confident in the final, winning all seven frames of the first session against Jimmy White. He nursed this lead all the way to an 18-11 victory.
It was the fulfilment of a potential obvious since Parrott’s teenage days, when he appeared on the BBC’s Junior Pot Black sporting a chocolate brown suit which, for some reason, never caught on.
Anyone who has seen Parrott providing punditry for the BBC know him as a chirpy scouser with a ready wit but this belies his competitiveness. He was hard as nails.
He qualified for the Crucible initially in his debut season, 1983/84, and made an immediate impact by beating Tony Knowles, the fourth seed, 10-7.
He ran Dennis Taylor close in round two, losing only 13-11, and the following year took Ray Reardon the distance in the quarter-finals before losing 13-12.
By 1988, Parrott was emerging as one of the favourites. He had appeared in his first ranking final, the Mercantile Classic, and being in his 20s was well placed to take advantage of the decline of the ageing legends who still dominated.
Parrott’s career in the top flight straddled two eras: those of Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry. The three of them plus Jimmy White represented an authentic big four, players who played the modern way and who each inspired the other.
In 1989, Parrott reached the final but by the time it arrived had nothing left to give. The tournament had begun in the shadow of the Hillsborough disaster a few miles from the Crucible. Parrott was an Everton fan but had spent many afternoons at Anfield. For his first round match against Steve James he wore a black armband as a mark of respect for the dead.
The emotion had contributed to the sapping of his mental reserves and it didn’t help that he faced Davis in the final, the winner for the last two years and five times in total.
Privately, Davis was unhappy with his game but this was not reflected in his performance. He inflicted on Parrott a humiliation: an 18-3 defeat with a session to spare. It remains the greatest margin of victory in any Crucible match.
Ludicrously, Parrott was then made to play an exhibition against Davis in the final free evening session. Spirits were, to put it mildly, decidedly low.
Hendry beat him in the semi-finals in 1990 but the Scot’s title defence ended in the quarter-finals in 1991 and Parrott would face White, under pressure to win the sport’s biggest prize, in the final.
Parrott had exorcised the Davis demons in the semi-finals with a 16-10 defeat of the 1980s Crucible king and played with remarkable fluency as the final began, a century and four half centuries to blow White away.
He led 11-5 going into the final day of the championship but was still nervous. “I was never going to get any sleep. I’d have had better luck nailing a blancmange to the ceiling,” he said afterwards.
Parrott’s title defence began promisingly in 1992 when he beat Eddie Charlton 10-0 in what remains the Crucible’s only whitewash but he eventually lost 13-12 to Alan McManus in the quarter-finals, a stage he would reach six more times without going any further.
Parrott played at the Crucible every year until 2004 and again in 2006 and 2007, where he edged Davis 10-9 and held Shaun Murphy to 8-8 before losing the last five frames.
Tomorrow, Parrott gets the 2012 World Championship underway when the qualifiers begin in Sheffield.
He retired from competitive play last year but, as a WPBSA member, is entitled to enter the game’s blue riband event.
He has drawn Patrick Wallace, one of the best players in this section, and is presumably not expecting much, but such is the allure of the World Championship, such are the golden memories he, like so many, have of the tournament, that he couldn’t resist.