Luca Brecel is exactly the sort of player snooker needs.

Just 17, he is a talent improving all the time. He is also shaping up to be the great hope of continental Europe, a territory where interest in snooker is high.

The Belgian plays Ricky Walden in the first round of the UK Championship at the Barbican Centre in York tonight.

Brecel struggled early last season but his rookie campaign came to life when he qualified for the Crucible. He has now come through the qualifiers for another major and is surely going to continue in an upwards direction.

It’s 20 years since Mark Williams was in this position. In his first UK Championship in 1992 – at 17 – he qualified to play Stephen Hendry and came from 8-3 down before losing 9-8.

Williams, who has won this title twice and been runner-up in two further UK finals, was playing brilliantly two years ago when John Higgins pipped him 10-9 but has not been the same since losing the 2011 Shanghai Masters final to Mark Selby in bizarre circumstances.

He’s still in the top eight and still produces performances of the highest quality but to win an event like this he needs to string a series of these together.

Williams faces Mark King tonight, a player who has beaten him six times out of 12. Williams last beat him in 2004.

King has had some very good results of late in the qualifiers. He reached York by beating Xiao Guodong 6-0.

First up it’s Neil Robertson, one of the favourites, against Tom Ford and Matthew Stevens, who won this title in 2003, against Dominic Dale.

Last year’s two finalists are already out following first round defeats yesterday for Judd Trump and Mark Allen.

Trump led Mark Joyce 5-2 but lost 6-5. Many people said he had taken too many liberties against the Walsall man but I think the truth may be more simple.

All players, even the two greats, Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis, have experienced peaks and troughs of form. Trump was excellent a couple of months back but poor in the Premier League play-offs and it may be that he needs the Christmas break before he gets going again.

Here is what he told SportsBeat after the match:

Allen was just outplayed. Only Trump has made more centuries this season than Marco Fu, who made two more and several other sizeable breaks in beating him 6-3.

At the official media day last week Allen had the chance to take back the unfounded slur he made against Fu at the Crucible last season but chose to stand by it. When the press accurately reported his comments and that the WPBSA had written to him asking for an explanation because they had fallen within his three month suspended ban period it led him to Twitter to write the following:

“Why don't people realise its not me who wants to talk about the past. The press' job is to write crap about me. Gullible people believe it!!”

Well, it’s good to see that World Snooker media training was money well spent.

As someone who has spent 15 years writing professionally about snooker I can tell you that this broad brush characterisation of the sport’s press is inaccurate.

It’s true some journalists over the years have treated players unfairly but they have been in the minority. The regular snooker press comprises a small group of people who have worked long hours to try and promote the game, usually with little thanks from anyone, least of all players.

Fu has never said anything bad about any other player, either in public or, whenever I’ve been with him, in private. He can be very satisfied with his performance, although it does underline his wild inconsistency. If he could play like this more often he would win more titles for sure.

Stuart Bingham has started to do just that. A week on from his Premier League defeat of Trump he beat Jack Lisowski 6-2 to reach the last 16.

You can see the confidence in Bingham now. He is not only a top player but believes he’s a top player, which makes a huge difference.

There was to be no fairytale for Steve Davis, who struggled to produce the sort of form needed to beat Ali Carter. Carter duly came through 6-2. He isn’t a player many have tipped pre-tournament but the same was true at the Crucible last season and he reached the final there.


Anonymous said...

"Well, it’s good to see that World Snooker media training was money well spent."

Nice :D

Anonymous said...

What is it with Allen? He's becoming a thoroughly unlikeable young man, with his constant crass comments. Fu, a very likeable person and a credit to the sport, showed admirable restraint in not punching the air in celebration following his victory yesterday.

Trump was a bit of a sore loser, hardly giving Joyce any credit and then saying he will struggle to beat Carter in the next round.

The new generation of sportsmen are a joy, aren't they?

Anonymous said...

No surprise to see Mark Allen acting like a total git again.

[Quote] 'If Marco wants to make it a bit of a grudge match I think that's possibly the worst thing you could ever do, because I'm one of the most motivated players you could ever meet,' Allen said. 'If it turned into one of those sorts of matches, Marco would have no chance.' [Quote]


How did it go for you then Mark, against no-chance no-hoper Marco Fu?

[Quote]It's cost me a lot of money, giving my opinion,' Allen said.[Quote]

It's because your opinions are childish and derogatory, Mark.

Anonymous said...

Would like to mention one thing which is the BBC's Shamoon Hafeez - talking up Mark Allen's comments and quoting Allen as saying that he was "itching at the bit to talk about things I'm unhappy about".

To me this indicates that if people think the BBC operates to higher journalistic standards than other media outlets they are wrong. Allen does himself no favours but there is no need to talk up his every word like he's Alex Higgins. Trying to make him out to be some kind of snooker bad boy won't do anything to attract people to the game - maybe that is what the BBC want.

Anonymous said...

Re Judds exit.until he adapts his game from the gung ho approach he now has,he will will be a multiple world champion,no chance.He reminds of kids in the local snooker hall going for a pot on every occasion,while exciting to watch,he will get found out more often than not.Time to take a look at your game Judd.The next O sullivan? Never in a million years

Anonymous said...

Advice for Mr Allen.Engage brain before opening mouth.You have made a complete fool of yourself again.What a silly boy you are!

Anonymous said...

I like Mark Allen. He's got an edge about him that makes him stand out; he gives our great sport some much needed publicity.

We need characters like Allen in the game.

Anonymous said...

They should make an example an suspend this moron.

Anonymous said...

Flicking between York and the ITV4 darts, it's interesting to see how in that Sport Hearn has created 'characters' based around likeable people... snooker seems to be struggling to do that.

Anonymous said...

That would be the Cash Converters championship at Butlins Minehead...

Sorry, that might seem like a low blow, but there is a wider point. The PDC has more prize money that snooker at the moment, but Darts is a big sport only in the UK and Netherlands (although growing in Germany). Snooker is on a whole different level and has infinitely more potential as an international sport.

Trying to create Peter Manley and Wayne Mardle characters won't do anything for snooker - it needs to be about the best players in the best tournaments - not just bums on seats in the UK.

jamie brannon said...

Yeah I'm no Trump-basher but recent interviews are not coming across well. He's sounding arrogant and immature.

On what basis is Mark Allen accusing Marco Fu? This is a ludicrous slur on one of snooker's most likeable players.

jamie brannon said...

I find it hard to believe that Dale has one more ranking event victory than Stevens. The Carmarthen cueman is a couple notches above Dale when it comes to ability.

Anonymous said...

id love to see a pot whack between fu and allen

Anonymous said...

QUOTE "He can be very satisfied with his performance, although it does underline his wild inconsistency. If he could play like this more often he would win more titles for sure."

That sums up Marco Fu. He is capable of making deep runs in major championships but you don't know which Marco will turn up really.

Anonymous said...

Some people should also see another side of Mark Allen: he donated a part of the prize money of the PL to help a little ill boy. It is not all black or white.

Anonymous said...

re an earlier posting, there is no point in complaining to the BBC Trust about the loss of the six interactive channels on the satellite - they are gone, the satellite channels given up for reuse, cost savings achieved.

In the same round of consultation wrt to cost cutting there was a massive objection to cutting BBC local radio but the cuts are still going ahead after Xmas.

Yet we all know an internet feed is not as good (buffering, picture quality) as a satellite channel, no matter how fast the internet connection into your home.

jamie brannon said...

In the absence of O'Sullivan, I'm switching my allegiance to Stevens for this tournament.

A snooker travesty that he's won just one ranking event.

Anonymous said...


Stevens has ability but has far too many mental scars and can lack bottle at times. Ability alone doesn't win you tournaments. Look at the likes of Cope and Day whose breakbuilding and potting are lethal, but they weak B games and don't handle the pressure well.

Anonymous said...

441 I know plenty of idiotic people who id say have all done nice things every once in a while.

doesn't stop them being idiots...

Anonymous said...


can you just stop mentioning that other idiot?

guys not even involved and the same people keep bringing him up.

tchobello said...

You should give more credit to what happens on the baize.
Marco Fu played some fantastic snooker & Allen cheered him at the end.

jamie brannon said...

I'm supporting Stevens this week, not tipping him.

He's achieved more in the game than Cope or Day, he's in a different bracket to those two.

However, he should have won more as he is more than comparable in terms of talent to the likes of Stephen Maguire, Mark Selby, Paul Hunter and Stephen Lee.

One reason I'm getting behind him, is I'd like to see him fulfil some of this prodigious talent. He also appears to be a an affable guy.

Luca Brecel would be a great winner for the sport and there was a lot to like about how what he produced in the closing stages against Walden. Some of his safety play was clever, and although he had a favourable run, kept his composure well to turn a 5-4 deficit into a memorable 6-5 win.

King up next, which is winnable, particularly as now that the Belgian has got a big win under his belt, he may now elevate his game to greater heights than he produced in the Walden match.

Anonymous said...

You don't deserve anything off talent alone. Other players just strike a better balance between talent, hard work, composure and tactical aptitude, and that is why he has only won one ranker. He's a great lesson for all the "natural talents" in the game: talent only gives you a head start, it doesn't get you across the winning line.

John McBride said...

Dave, Re: “It’s 20 years since Mark Williams was in this position. In his first UK Championship in 1992 – at 17 – he qualified to play Stephen Hendry and came from 8-3 down before losing 9-8.”

Forgive me for questioning you Dave but are you sure about that? I was playing in Sheffield the week after & his Uncle Vic, bless him, used to let me have a lift with them back & forth from the B+B & the venue & I asked Mark about that game with Stephen Hendry the previous week & Mark said “I went 8-6 up & Stephen only let me pot 2 balls in the last 3 frames as he didn’t let me see anything.” Maybe its me that is mistaken Dave however that’s how I remember it 

Dave H said...

I shall have to go back and check but you may well be right