5.51pm was the time that Jimmy White finally offered his hand to Jamie Burnett having failed to extricate himself from a snooker he had inadvertently laid on the yellow.

Burnett won 10-4 and White failed to secure a place in the televised phase of the 888.com World Championship for only the second time in 27 years as a professional.

It was a miserable way to end a miserable day for the most popular player in snooker history. Jimmy was visibly dejected afterwards as he faced the prospect of having to watch the game’s showpiece event on television.

The Pontin’s qualifying venue in Prestatyn is a difficult place to have to go and get results for the rank and file but for Jimmy, who has played most of his snooker in big arenas, it’s akin to having the Rolling Stones play the back room of the Dog and Duck.

He was tense from the start and failed to find any sort of rhythm as Burnett did enough to pull away.

Farcically, a fire alarm caused a half hour hiatus late on in frame 2 as players, spectators and officials were ordered out of the building. It transpired that there was no fire, merely a safe had been opened incorrectly and triggered an alarm.

It was hard not to surmise that Jimmy’s career was slowly being extinguished as he fell 6-3 adrift after the first session, despite a 130 total clearance in the fifth frame.

There was to be no comeback and for the first time since 2001 this six times Crucible runner-up failed to reach the home of snooker.

Even the post match press conference seemed hopelessly small scale, conducted as it was in the tournament director’s office with only myself, Phil Yates of The Times, Peter Ferguson of the Daily Mail, Peter Higgs of the Mail on Sunday and World Snooker press officer Ivan Hirschowitz in attendance.

Jimmy was honest in assessing his performance: “I’m devastated that I couldn’t produce the form I’ve been showing in practice.

“I was 3-2 up and had two good chances in the balls but lost position and Jamie played quite well after that. He punished me but I struggled all day. It’s very disappointing.

“The championship will be hard to watch. I’ve not thought about what I’m going to do when it comes round because I wanted to be there but it’s just a game of snooker. I’ve lost before and I’ll be back to try again.”

Burnett, whose only Crucible appearance was back in 1996, could not have been warmer in his appreciation of White’s contribution to the sport and its leading event.

He said: “Jimmy has one of the best records at Sheffield even though he’s not won it. He’s more than a world champion. He’s different class and there’s a reason everyone loves him.

“He doesn’t need his name on a piece of silverware. People love him to death.”

Genuine those these words were, Jamie’s wrong: it is the name engraved on silverware that ultimately matters in sport and White, now 44, must surely acknowledge that his will never appear on the World Championship trophy.

It’s sad to see Jimmy in this state, clinging on to his place on the main tour, yet anyone seeking to pour scorn on him for carrying on in such a lowly position should understand one simple truth: Jimmy White loves snooker, as a game and a lifestyle, as a career and an all consuming passion.

He will not turn his back on it and in turn his vast army of supporters will never turn their backs on him.

Snooker owes him a great debt of gratitude. Never mind what happens to him now, Jimmy White has more than earned his place in the green baize hall of fame.


Anonymous said...


I was fortunate to read Jimmy's misfortune in the Mail/MoS over the weekend. The pictures accompanying the feature on Sunday seemed to sum up White: total bemusement - especially standing outside with fans when the alarms went off. What is it with Pontins and alarms and rave music. White must be sick of the place, and he'll have to do it all over again next season. I remember his failing in 2001. But didn't he have to qualify in 1998. Because his first round draw was Hendry - whom he beat 10-2 in the first round.

What a wonderful quote by Burnett, who having been tipped by the WSA to be a rising star 7 years ago, has not fulfilled his potential.

Am I right in thinking that 1996 world championship match he won over the soon to be retired, Terry Griffiths, was because the Wales player potted the black for the match and, unfortunately, screwed it back into the middle pocket to give Burnett a 10-9 win.

Also, how did Higginson lose? He seemed in such a commanding position against Walden, but loses 10-9. Did you speak to him?

Thanks, Joe

Dave H said...

Jamie was 9-6 up and needed the brown to win 10-6. He potted it but needlessly screwed the cueball back and went in-off, and Terry went on to win 10-9.

The Burnett you're thinking of from the YPD scheme was Alan Burnett, who appears to have stopped playing.

Yes, Jimmy qualified in 1998. The night he went 8-1 up against Hendry ranks as one of the most exciting I've spent at a snooker tournament.

I didn't speak to Higginson. It seemed a bit cruel. Ricky Walden's an excellent player but faces a tough match with Mark Selby.