John Higgins has been awarded an MBE in the New Year's Honours list.

This is in recognition of his second Crucible triumph last season as well as his many other achievements in the sport.

Congratulations to John, who joins the likes of Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Parrott, Jimmy White and Mark Williams in being honoured in this way.



We’re shutting up shop for another year here at Snooker Scene Towers so would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Looking back at 2007, what’s striking is how little snooker there has actually been in terms of tournaments. Just eight ranking events and a handful of invitation tournaments for the top professionals.

However, I think 2008 will be much, much busier with John Higgins’s new ‘World Series’ and, I understand, more events on the cards in the Far East.

Any major sport looking for exposure in the media needs to create a feeling of momentum, which has been severely lacking in snooker in recent times.

Having whole months go by with nothing happening makes the sport look like its in decline when, in fact, across Europe and China it is booming.

There was no player of 2007 even if the year was book-ended by Ronnie O’Sullivan’s fine performances in winning the Saga Insurance Masters and Maplin UK Championship.

Shaun Murphy was the most consistent player and there were also strong showings from the likes of Neil Robertson and Stephen Maguire but Higgins came good when it really mattered at the Crucible.

The last week of the 888.com World Championship offered what snooker at its best can: great snooker, close finishes and plenty of drama.

There are still problems in how the game is administered but at least there is now stability and little in-fighting.

There’s every reason to be positive heading into 2008.



What do the following have on common? – Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, Ray Reardon, Terry Griffiths, Jimmy White, John Parrott and Mark Williams.

It’s not just that they have all been great players but that they have all received honours from the Queen.

Missing is John Higgins, who is surely due one after his second Crucible triumph, and Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Ronnie’s colourful off table life probably precludes him from receiving one in the eyes of many but why should it?

He has, more than anyone playing the game today, sustained the popularity of a sport that has been a huge favourite with television viewers for more than three decades.

Furthermore, his great natural style of play has created many new snooker fans around Europe who are seeing the game for the first time on Eurosport.

Ronnie is also one of British sport’s leading characters and most sublimely talented exponents.

Add in his considerable on table achievements and, even if you believe that the Honours system is highly questionable in many regards, he deserves recognition from his country.



What an end to 2007.

Ronnie O’Sullivan’s first ranking title for 33 months came courtesy of a highly polished display against Stephen Maguire, who failed to produce any sort of form in the opening session.

It wasn’t the classic Maplin UK Championship final we’d been hoping for but the scenes that followed – Ronnie’s daughter Lily standing on the table – will live long in the memory.

It was nice to see this often troubled cueman with a broad smile on his face and holding one of the game’s major trophies aloft once again.

His maximum in the decider of his semi-final against Mark Selby was a slice of sheer genius, an incredible end to an absorbing contest.

The crowds turned out in force during a successful week in Telford and were treated to some excellent snooker. The sponsors should also be commended for their efforts in creating a buzz around the event not just limited to events in the arena.

And O’Sullivan’s capture of the title was the perfect way to mark the 30th anniversary of this great tournament.



In what could potentially transpire to be one of the best things to happen to snooker in recent years, world champion John Higgins and his manager, Pat Mooney, are to launch a 'World Series' of events around Europe next year.

Four tournaments are planned between May and August with Higgins hoping the mini-tour will grow in future years.

Eurosport's blanket coverage of major events has done for snooker in Europe what the BBC did for it in the 1970s and 80s.

Warsaw, Moscow, Jersey and either Germany or Holland have been chosen as the stopping off points for the first four tournaments.

"I've been looking forward to doing something like this for a long time," revealed Higgins.

"The idea is to get some small invitational events going - and with time they will grow and grow. The future of snooker is in Europe.

"I've always wanted to give something back to snooker and, being the world champion, this is the ideal opportunity.

"My name carries a lot of weight in the game, so I want to do my best to promote the sport. I've been happy to sit in the background in the past, but with my business head on I know I've got to push myself more.

"This is a very exciting opportunity for snooker, myself and a lot of other players."

The tournaments, which will all be televised, will feature top players plus local hopefuls and will compliment rather than clash with the main World Snooker events.

This could be the start of a genuine expansion of the game across the continent.



Myself and Joe Johnson have just commentated on the longest ever frame of televised snooker, a 77 minute, 31 second grind between Mark Selby and Marco Fu which Selby eventually won to edge their Maplin UK Championship quarter-final 9-7 at Telford.

This beats the record of 76 minutes held by Bill Werbeniuk and Eddie Charlton in their match against Les Dodd and Jim Bear in the 1985 World Doubles Championship.

The previous record in a ranking event was 74 minutes, 8 seconds set by Graeme Dott and Peter Ebdon in the 2006 world final.

Time for bed, I think.


It's a year to the day since Ronnie O’Sullivan walked out of the Maplin UK Championship trailing Stephen Hendry only 4-1 in the quarter-finals and it already seems like a distant memory.

He was classy in accounting for a 6-2 lead over Jamie Cope this afternoon and so anxious to get on with it that at one point he asked the referee, Terry Camilleri, to wait until he had walked round the table before retrieving the potted colour.

This is ominous form as O’Sullivan attempts to win his first ranking title since March 2005, but he still faces some tough opponents at Telford.

Marco Fu or Mark Selby awaits in the semi-finals with Stephen Maguire or Shaun Murphy to meet in the final.

I predicted last week that the cream would rise to the top and, for once, I’ve got something right.



One of the biggest misconceptions about snooker today is that ‘there aren’t any characters in the game.’

This is usually trotted out by people who have never spent any time on the circuit. If they had, they would know there are plenty of characters, not to say a fair number of eccentrics, among snooker’s travelling circus.

On Monday, Michael Holt was beaten 9-6 by Ronnie O’Sullivan. It was a disappointment because he knew he had a chance to win.

The Chris Evans show on BBC Radio 2 wanted to speak to him and he waited patiently at the venue for more than two hours to take part in the interview.

Evans was so taken with Holt that he immediately invited him back on yesterday’s show.

It takes players like Holt to put themselves out to assist the media and World Snooker in promoting the sport. Most players are helpful in this regard. Indeed, the relationship between press and players is generally very good.

However, shifting perceptions that snooker is a sport populated by robotic automatons isn’t easy.

What doesn’t help is the insistence of World Snooker that players should not say anything remotely controversial.

Graeme Dott said he didn’t like Ian McCulloch back launching the Grand Prix in August. It was the sort of meaningless spat that happens pretty much every day in football but Dott has now been threatened with disciplinary action.

If the players aren’t allowed to stray beyond some carefully crafted corporate image, how are their personalities supposed to come to the fore?



Ever the innovator, Matchroom supremo Barry Hearn has found another gap in the market and intends to fill it by staging what is in affect a qualifying event for the Premier League.

It will run between February and May and be shown in betting shops and on the internet.

Read the official press release here:



Mark Allen’s victory over Stephen Hendry and Jamie Cope’s excellent performance last night against John Higgins, taken together with defeats for the likes of Ken Doherty, Peter Ebdon and Stephen Lee, raises the question of whether we are entering a new era of snooker in which the old guard is being swept away.

I’m not so sure.

Nobody goes on forever in any sport and Allen are Cope are bona fide stars of the future but let’s not forget that Doherty, Ebdon and Lee weren’t beaten by young up-and-comers but vastly experienced players in the form of Nigel Bond, Ian McCulloch and Mark King.

Even so, there are clear signs of a changing of the guard represented by the likes of Shaun Murphy, Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui, Stephen Maguire and Mark Selby coming to the fore in recent years.

Cope has already been in two finals and he produced the break of the day yesterday in clearing with 53 to win the sixth frame of his match with Higgins, bringing two reds off cushions and appearing as nonchalant as a multiple world champion as he knocked in a tough pink using the rest and a far from simple black.

New eras tend to be created gradually with young stars improving while the established elite begin to decline.

However, we can only say the old guard’s days are numbered if they start winning tournaments on a regular basis.



I thought Ken Doherty played as poorly as I’ve ever seen him in losing 9-7 from 7-4 up to Nigel Bond in the first round of the Maplin UK Championship in Telford last night.

He didn’t seem able to do anything right – evidence, perhaps, of his lack of practice having become a father for the first time just over a week ago.

The defeat means Doherty is almost certain to be ranked outside the elite top 16 in the provisional world rankings heading into the New Year.

As we’ve seen with Matthew Stevens and, possibly, with Mark Williams, no-one is too good to be relegated.

It’s all about results and if you don’t win, you won’t survive the increasingly competitive drop-zone.

Shaun Murphy entered this event top of the provisional standings but returns level at 4-4 with Paul Davies and a shock result cannot be completely discarded.

Murphy is a fluent player whereas Davies is far more methodical and, if the Welshman can disrupt Murphy’s rhythm, he could spring a surprise.

Meanwhile, Ronnie O’Sullivan appears to be in good spirits and I expect him to have too much firepower for Michael Holt when they start out this afternoon.

O’Sullivan lies second in the provisional rankings and will be ready to pounce if Murphy slips up.



Stephen Hendry may still beat Mark Allen in the first round of the Maplin UK Championship but - at the time of writing - this seems unlikely.

I well remember when Hendry was beaten 9-0 by Marcus Campbell in the first round of the 1998 event. Various pundits wrote him off and suggested it was the beginning of the end but he recovered to win a seventh world title later that season.

However, that Crucible triumph was the last time the Scot captured one of snooker's 'big three' titles (the UK and the Masters being the others) and there were signs this afternoon that he has real problems.

He wasn't helped by the fact Allen played superbly in claiming his 6-2 lead but, unlike Steve Davis, Hendry has clearly decided not to change his game despite the threat of decline.

The tricky cut-back black he went for leading 60-0 in the seventh frame was proof of this.

Hendry's always been adventurous in his shot selection and, in the glory years, most of them went in but he's starting to miss more and more of these key balls.

The 38 year-old hardly enjoyed a confidence-boosting build up to Telford after he was beaten 6-0 by an inspired Ding Junhui in the Premier League at Glenrothes and 5-1 in the semi-finals at Aberdeen by Ronnie O'Sullivan.

After everything Hendry has done in the sport, it would be foolish to write him off and he wouldn't play if he didn't think he could still win titles but this is surely a crossroads in his career.



Ronnie O'Sullivan has pulled out of the Malta Cup.

Actually, that isn't quite correct. He didn't want to play in the first place and was entered without his knowledge by his management company.

Malta has never been a favourite destination for O'Sullivan (I've no idea why as it's a lovely place) but I understand his main reason for not going is that he doesn't wish to spend a week away from his family when there is a tournament - the Welsh Open - starting the day after the Malta final.

It looks like clumsy scheduling but there is method in this madness: a gap has been left for an eighth ranking event in the Middle East.

However, the signs are that this won't take place this season.

Some will criticise O'Sullivan but he has a right not to play if he doesn't fancy it and isn't to blame for being entered into a tournament without knowing about it.

It is, though, a blow to people who have already booked tickets for the Portomaso event on the understanding he would be playing.

The fear now, of course, is that other players who didn't wish to play and have found themselves in the draw will also pull out, which would cause huge problems bearing in mind the event is played using a round robin system and the players in each group have been carefully selected based on their rankings.



Perhaps the most surprising thing about the UK Championship is the lack of surprises over the years.

Sure, there have been plenty of shock results but surprise winners have been thin on the ground.

In fact, I’d say there had only been three in this great tournament’s 30 years.

The first winner, Patsy Fagan, was by no means among the favourites (which would have been Ray Reardon, John Spencer, Alex Higgins and Doug Mountjoy) in 1977.

John Virgo would not have been tipped by many to win the 1979 event.

Mountjoy was 24th in the world rankings and widely thought to be in terminal decline when he won the title for a second time in 1988.

You could argue that, at 17, Ronnie O’Sullivan was a surprise winner in 1993 but most people recognised his prodigious talent and expected him to start capturing titles sooner rather than later.

Most of the game’s great and good have won the UK Championship, with the notable exceptions of Reardon, Spencer, Cliff Thorburn and Dennis Taylor.

This year’s event looks set to be competitive, but could there be a rare shock winner?

The way snooker is these days it seems more likely than a decade ago. But who are the contenders?

Mark Allen is certainly one. I think he’ll give an out of form Stephen Hendry real problems on Saturday and has the sort of game to go all the way.

Ricky Walden could prove a handful for Mark Williams, but would have to claim a series of other scalps were he to advance to the final.

How about someone like Stuart Bingham? He’s playing Steve Davis the first round, who he’s beaten three times out of three.

Or one of the veterans, like Nigel Bond and Dave Harold, aiming to follow Dominic Dale, Marco Fu and Fergal O’Brien in turning back the clock?

We will see over the nine days of the Maplin-sponsored tournament at Telford International Centre, which is broadcast live on the BBC and Eurosport.

And yet, for all the talk of shocks, I can’t help thinking that by the law of averages O’Sullivan – who is 32 years old today – has to win a ranking event some time soon (it’s been 33 months).

Looking at the draw, I fancy him to beat Shaun Murphy in the final on December 16.

That would certainly maintain the notion that, at the UK Championship, the cream always rises to the top.



Congratulations to Ken Doherty and his wife, Sarah, on the birth of their first child, a son, yesterday.

UPDATE: Ken and Sarah have named their son Christian