The Premier League, first staged in 1987, is now the circuit’s fourth longest running event after the World Championship, Masters and UK Championship.

It returns on Thursday with a line-up worthy of its name, featuring all of last season’s major winners.

Ronnie O’Sullivan, an eight times champion, had been utterly dominant under the shot clock format until last year when he was beaten 7-3 in the final by Shaun Murphy.

I can’t believe Ronnie did his cause any good by running the Norwich half marathon on the morning of the final but his failure to win the League reflected his disappointing season as a whole in which O’Sullivan won only one title and lost his world no.1 spot.

I’d be amazed if he didn’t reach the play-offs again but he certainly isn’t nailed on to win the title.

This year’s field is the best that’s been assembled for years.

It includes Neil Robertson, the reigning world champion who also won the Grand Prix last season. The Australian has not particularly impressed in the Premier League before and it will be interesting to see how his game is affected by being Crucible king. It can go one of two ways: either boosting confidence or adding pressure.

Murphy, like any top player, wants silverware and so was probably disappointed by the season just gone but is always a dangerman.

The same applies to Ding Junhui, the current UK champion, who has produced some terrific snooker in the League in the past, although he wasn’t picked for it last season.

Marco Fu had a poor campaign but not at the Championship League where he produced snooker of the highest standard and ended up winning the title to qualify for the Premier League.

Mark Williams, the China Open champion, has never played under the shot clock format. As one of the circuit’s fastest players it shouldn’t encumber him too much but it may take a bit of getting used to.

Mark Selby, the Masters champion, returns having reached the final on his only other Premier League appearance two years ago.

I’d back Selby, O’Sullivan, Murphy and Ding to reach the semi-finals in November and as regular readers will know I’m rarely wrong about such things.

The League, sponsored this year by partycasino.com, is in some ways the natural successor to Pot Black, which brought snooker to TV audiences on a weekly basis from 1969-1986.

With big money - £1,000 per frame and per century – and generally big crowds, the players tend to produce high quality snooker and the event takes the game to various corners of the UK usually ignored.

The action starts at Southampton Guild Hall from 7.30pm on Sky Sports HD3 and Sky Sports 3.

O’Sullivan faces Fu while Murphy tackles Ding. Clive Everton and Mike Hallett will commentate.

Official site.



Judd Trump was the last man standing at the Paul Hunter Classic in Furth, winning the title with a 4-3 defeat of Anthony Hamilton tonight.

Trump, 21 last week, has thus taken a significant step towards qualifying for the grand finals next March.

Having started playing at the age of five, it feels like Judd has been around a long time but he is still a young man and this victory is proof of his considerable talent.

He has risen in the rankings every year he's been on the tour but not at the rapid rate many predicted. However, Trump himself never made any predictions. He has just done what he's always done: played snooker.

If he can curb his natural attacking tendencies and play the percentages more I've no doubt he will be successful in the major events.

I know Ronnie O'Sullivan, who has practised with him at The Grove in Romford, rates him very highly.

And I'd imagine Barry Hearn will be pleased to see this young prospect doing well under his new regime.

Also, well done to Anthony Hamilton - one of the nicest guys on the circuit - for reaching the final after a few lean years.

I understand this now established and popular tournament was very well attended again and no doubt the crowds were cheered by the two oldest players on the tour - Steve Davis and Jimmy White - reaching the quarter-finals.



It was a non-descript Tuesday in Bournemouth 15 years ago when Roger Garrett’s professional snooker career came to an end.

Like hundreds of others Garrett had chanced his arm on the game he loved when the professional ranks were thrown open to all-comers.

He did better than most, getting up to 85th in the world rankings, beating Dave Harold, Dominic Dale and Stephen Lee along the way.

That afternoon in 1995 he had been due to play Harold in the last 64 of the International Open but failed to turn up for his match.

His father had travelled to watch him and knew nothing of his disappearance. Tournament officials thus notified local police who found Garrett’s dress suit and cue in his hotel room.

He eventually phoned his mother to say he was on his way home but withdrew from the Thailand Open in Bangkok, which he had qualified for, on medical grounds and never played again.

Snooker is a lonely game. There are no team mates to share the load and though it is far from the only individual sport, the amount of time it takes to play and the intensity of the emotions felt in the arena, where the action takes place in near silence, make it one of the hardest to cope with mentally.

A snooker player has to face his own limitations. He is only as good as his last match. Past glories count for nothing in the present. Mistakes can haunt a player for the rest of their days.

Fans may give a player stick when he misses an easy ball, fluffs a big lead or doesn’t perform on the day but the player knows already. He doesn’t need to be told. There is no bigger critic than he himself.

Losing can be heartbreaking. It can mean the difference between being able to afford a family holiday or not, getting into the top 16 or not, being world champion or not.

That’s why players should be cut some slack for they way they behave in the immediate aftermath of a defeat.

There is a modern day tendency to regard sport, snooker included, as ‘just a bit of fun.’ You hear things like ‘I do wish he’d smile’ parroted but this is in ignorance of the fact that players are often playing for their livelihoods and there isn’t much to smile about when everthing you’ve worked for is becoming harder and harder to attain.

There’s a difference between an ungracious loser and a bad loser. An ungracious loser blames anyone but himself for the defeat. A bad loser is so downbeat at his own failures that he is often rendered speechless – Stephen Hendry and Steve Davis were bad losers in their prime.

I’ve seen players reduced to tears by defeat. And sometimes gracious words at a press conference are a cover for real feelings, which come to the fore immediately afterwards in the dressing room.

Some snooker players have consulted sports psychologists. Peter Ebdon used to be into meditation before matches.

But in a game so clearly dependent on mental toughness there have been breakdowns, big or small, even among the greats.

Ronnie O’Sullivan experiences mood swings of violent extremes, from exhilarating highs to debilitating lows.

I remember him once playing superbly at the UK Championship against Alan McManus. He was well ahead after the first session and finished Alan off in the second.

In the press conference afterwards I asked him what he had done between sessions. Without any side or pretence he replied: ‘I sat in the bath crying my eyes out. I don’t know why.’

Ronnie has many times failed to derive any obvious joy from performances that snooker fans have been entertained by. He famously walked out early in the sixth frame of his UK Championship quarter-final against Stephen Hendry in 2006, trailing 4-1 and fed up with losing, with snooker, with everything.

O’Sullivan, though, has handled the pressure pretty well in his career. Just a month on from this he won the Wembley Masters. He is a great player, a great champion and a household name.

Roger Garrett is not a household name. I don’t know what he’s doing now but he never returned to the circuit. He was a victim of the pressure that afflicts this intensely difficult sport.

I hope that whatever he is doing has brought him the happiness he was unable to find from playing professional snooker, an occupation which can yield fame, fortune and admiration but also anxiety, uncertainty and disappointment that can be impossible to bear.



I do, of course, pontificate a great deal about snooker and much of this is done from the comfort of my own sofa.

However, you can’t really get a handle on what’s happening in the sport unless you go along and see it close up. Yesterday I was in Sheffield for the last day of qualifying for the World Open.

The general atmosphere was pretty relaxed all things considered. Most players seem to be embracing the new era and relishing the additional playing opportunities.

Not all regard the set up at Sheffield as perfect but overall seem willing to make the most of it.

There was an unusual situation yesterday in that some members of the top 16 were required to qualify for the final stages of the tournament.

Only one of those in action was successful. While Marco Fu got through, Ryan Day, Mark Allen and Liang Wenbo were all beaten.

We’ll never know if they would have won their matches had they been played before the cameras, not least because the shorter format levels the playing field a little, but I could understand it if they were unimpressed by having to go to Sheffield.

There were no crowds so the atmosphere was flat and there was a sense that they were on a hiding to nothing.

Still, well done to those who did make it through, including Davy Morris, who will make his TV debut in Glasgow.

Morris had lost six times in the final qualifying round of ranking events. “People don’t realise but the standard is so high and you need a bit of luck,” he told me.

Luck was something Mark Davis believed he had on his side after beating Jamie Jones 3-0 to qualify, although after 19 years of toil in the qualifiers few would begrudge him some running.

Davis has joined the top 32 for the first time and is now pressing for a place in the top 16.

“I don’t know what it is, really, other than that I’ve been working hard on my game and the mental side,” he said.

“I always knew deep down that I was good enough to get results but you have to prove it.

“The balls are going for me at the moment and I’ll make the most of it because I know it can all turn round.

“If you win a 5-4 it can be a springboard but if you lose one it can dent your confidence. That’s how narrow the difference can be.”

Not all players seem to understand the way the new ranking system will work. Others are already studying the list with a jeweller’s eyepiece. They have Janie Watkins on speed dial and are regularly checking the updates on Pro Snooker Blog.

It’s easy to say it’s too early in the season for this but it was ever thus. It is, after all, their career and the circuit wouldn’t be the same without outright anxiety about the rankings and endless speculation backstage about how some decision or other will favour some and disadvantage others.

You’ll never get rid of the idle chat and the rumours and the griping because that’s part and parcel of the circuit and always will be, and not just among the players.

The difference now, though, is that there are the actual events to accompany it.

The snooker juggernaut moves on to Furth in Germany for the Paul Hunter Classic this week.



Andrew Higginson believes the Barry Hearn era will herald an improvement in the standard of snooker being produced on the circuit.

Higginson beat Liang Wenbo, the world no.16, 3-1 to qualify for the final stages of the World Open in Sheffield today.

And with the new Players Tour Championship giving players additional chances to compete, Higginson reckons fans will be treated to better snooker than ever.

“I think you’ll see the standard of snooker rise this season because there’s competition snooker week in, week out,” he said.

“I haven’t stopped practising and playing this season, whereas last year there were times when you’d put your cue down for two weeks at a time.

“I think Barry Hearn has made a fantastic start. It’s a great time to be a snooker player.”

Of course, the standards are already high but Andrew is probably right that more players will produce a better quality of snooker this season.

Why? Because they are playing all the time in meaningful matches and it is therefore easier to keep sharp.

I certainly think we will see a number of players fire up the chart of century makers.

With seven ranking events, 12 PTCs plus the Masters, the Premier League and the Championship League this campaign it is likely Stephen Hendry’s single season record of 53 centuries will go.

As for Higginson, he has got himself into the top 32 for the first time this season but with the new ranking system, where the list is revised three times during the year, is guarding against complacency.

“I finally got into the top 32 but I don’t want to just be there for five months,” he said. “But I’ve qualified for Shanghai and now the World Open, so I can’t ask for a better start than that.”

Winning breeds confidence. The other side of that coin is that if a player gets on a bad run their confidence is seriously eroded.

Michael Holt has lost all five of his matches so far this season but at least there is still plenty of time to turn things round. A couple of wins at the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany this week would certainly help.



BBC2 will screen a special programme paying tribute to Alex Higgins on September 1 at 9pm.

The programme includes contributions from players, commentators and various others who knew Higgins, who died last month at the age of 61.


So the World Open field is being whittled down in Sheffield and later today the last 64 will be known.

World Snooker have already announced eight matches to be held over to the TV stages in Glasgow next month and another three will be decided later today.

In fact, make that two as Jimmy White, ever popular but a rare presence before the cameras these days, will face Paul Davison in Glasgow.

The decision on the other two matches will be taken by World Snooker and the BBC, the host broadcasters.

They won’t have to agonise for long. If Brazilian Igor Figueiredo beats Dave Gilbert he will be paired with twice world champion Mark Williams, which would be perfect for TV.

If Alan McManus beats Chris Norbury he will face teenager Anthony McGill in what would be a battle of two Glaswegians as well as youth v experience.

Shaun Murphy’s match against Dave Harold is also a possibility, even if they did once serve up the longest frame in snooker history.

The shorter format hasn’t created that many big shocks yet. Much has been made of the World Open being the ‘FA Cup of snooker’ but a big factor in the FA Cup is the venue of each match, home advantage whether at a big stadium or a tiny non league ground.

Even though the World Open matches are shorter than for all the other tournaments, I suspect the cream will still rise to the top.

Some will doubtless feel the matches are too short for a ranking event but it's worth remembering why this tournament is happening at all: the BBC doesn’t want the Grand Prix. The only way they will show four tournaments instead of three next season is if something profoundly different can be found.

The World Open may fit the bill. Then again it may not. But we won’t find out until Glasgow and it’s in everyone’s interests to try and make it work.



Stephen Maguire is hopeful a home venue will provide the inspiration he needs to win the World Open in Glasgow next month.

In truth, home advantage can also be home disadvantage.

Yes, an audience that includes family and friends can be a spur but it can also place a player under pressure, as Maguire himself found in the Grand Prix in Glasgow two years ago when he so desperately wanted to impress his grandfather, Paddy, the man who knocked down a wall between two rooms at his house to give young Stephen a place to practise, who was sat in the crowd.

Maguire lost 5-1 to Jamie Cope. He didn’t fare much better last year.

Some players do use home turf to their advantage. Joe Johnson, a proud Yorkshireman, did so at the Crucible in 1986.

John Higgins won the 2008 Grand Prix in Glasgow. Stephen Hendry has won a number of titles in Scotland although, to be fair, he’s won titles everywhere.

James Wattana reached the final of his first professional event, the 1989 Asian Open, when it was staged in his native Bangkok. He would go on to win his home ranking title twice.

Ding Junhui won the China Open in Beijing in 2005 but Ken Doherty never won the Irish Masters (he was awarded the trophy in 1998 after Ronnie O’Sullivan was stripped of the title, but this doesn’t count as a win).

Most of us would prefer to sleep in our own beds rather than in a hotel if we spend a lot of time in hotels, as snooker players do.

But being at home during a tournament takes you out of your routine and leaves you open to everyday realities you would otherwise avoid which can affect your mental preparation: your child is poorly, it’s your wife’s birthday, the dog needs taking to the vet etc.

Snooker players are, by the nature of their sport, solitary individuals who need high levels of concentration. That focus can be broken by normal life whereas at tournaments they exist in a bubble.

As for Maguire, he produced one of the best performances of last season when he beat Mark Williams 5-1 in the quarter-finals of the Welsh Open.

It was the ultimate in foot on the throat snooker. He completely shut Williams – who was playing superbly himself – out of the game and took his own chances effectively without taking undue risks.

It was a masterclass in match snooker and worth watching for new tour pros. You don’t have to go for everything. You don’t have to try and pot every long ball. Play the percentages, play to your strengths.

Maguire’s problem is not his game but his temperament, specifically that he often gets very down on himself very early.

Players giving themselves a gee up for motivation is fine but if you have a negative frame of mind, negatives things tend to happen.

Despite all this, Maguire had a consistent year, reaching a slew of semi-finals without landing a title.

Playing in Glasgow may work to his advantage but only if he treats it the same as every other tournament and does not put himself under to much pressure to perform for his loved ones.



The Paul Hunter Foundation, set up in memory of the three times Masters champion who died in 2006, will sponsor the Disability Sports Events Open Snooker Championships in Manchester in October.

Disability Sports Events organise national championships in a variety of sports for disabled people, from grass roots to international elite events. They provide pathways and opportunities to succeed in sport.

DSE are the event’s arm of the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS), the body for developing sport and physical activity for disabled people in England.

Brandon Parker, Trustee of the Paul Hunter Foundation, said, “Our mission statement is to provide free snooker for non-disabled, disadvantaged and disabled youngsters in the U.K. and Ireland; these were Paul Hunter’s wishes. We are only too happy to be involved in supporting the event.”

It takes place on October 9 and 10 at Rileys, Belle Vue, Manchester.

Paul's death at the age of just 27 was tragic but it is nice to see the charity set up to honour his memory doing good work in his name.



The forthcoming Roewe Shanghai Masters will be the tenth world ranking event staged in China in the last five years.

The first of these was the 2005 China Open in Beijing, won by Ding Junhui and the start of the boom that has created snooker fans of millions.

But these millions, like anywhere else in the world, want to watch the top stars. The days when wildcards were needed to prop up interest are over.

This is why the current system of local wildcards for Chinese events should end.

Years ago, an invited player from the host country had little chance of success. Now, the Chinese players, on home soil and without the pressure of ranking points, have every chance of beating the qualifiers, who are on a hiding to nothing – literally, as they get no money for playing an extra match. In the dim and distant past they received £500.

This is supposed to be a new era, a meritocracy.

If that is the case then it is grossly unfair on those who have come through the qualifiers to have to play talented wildcards, some of whom were on the circuit last season, instead of going straight through to the top 32, a place they have earned fairly.

But there is another issue. Any sporting event should hit the ground running with its biggest names.

It tells those watching on TV that this is a proper event and worth following for the week.

According to the format, the first TV match on day one will be Jamie Burnett v Tian Pengfei and the second will be Dave Harold v Yu Delu. The other matches in this round are not any more appetising with the possible exception of Ken Doherty, a big name, who, farcically, will play the only non-Chinese wildcard and is therefore certain not to be on TV.

And the knock on effect is that the last 32 has to be played over two days not three and so TV viewers will not see some of the game’s best known faces early on.

On the second evening, Ronnie O’Sullivan plays Burnett or Tian on the first TV table. Marco Fu, as he is from Hong Kong, will play Mark Davis on the second.

This means that Mark Williams v Ricky Walden – arguably the tie of the round – will be out of range of the cameras.

Neil Robertson, Shaun Murphy and Stephen Hendry are all on the same session so, again, one of these will be put round the back.

Long time readers may remember the utter farce of John Higgins and Mark Selby, playing for the first time since their world final three years ago, being put on table 3.

There is actually a simple solution to this, one myself and colleagues have suggested before: play two wildcard matches on the second day and put two last 32 games on the first day. This way you would start with big names and they wouldn’t then find themselves out on table three.

Needless to say, such suggestions have been ignored.

Wildcards are a good way of growing an event but Chinese tournaments have grown sufficiently and there’s no need for them now.

Their effect is a glacially slow start to the event, big names not exposed to TV coverage and an understandable sense of grudging resentment among a number of the players.

It’s time for them to go.



Barry Pinches' capture of the fourth Players Tour Championship title of the season in Sheffield tonight was a victory for a decent, hard working professional.

Like many players, he had formed the view that snooker was not going in the right direction and was thus a staunch supporter of Barry Hearn when he declared his willingness to become WPBSA chairman if a vacancy arose last Dcember. Pinches (pictured with Jason Ferguson, who became WPBSA chairman after Hearn went on to head up World Snooker Ltd) is now benefiting from the increased playing opportunities that have been introduced under the new regime.

He has earned £18,600 so far this season. This is just £1,000 less than he earned throughout the whole of last season and it is only August.

He came from 3-1 down to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan 4-3, a significant achievement even if there was no crowd or TV cameras, a scenario which would obviously favour the three times world champion.

O’Sullivan, who had been in brilliant form throughout the tournament, looked set to win 4-2 but faltered and Pinches made a good 36 clearance before winning the decider with a solid 64.

The PTC is a meritocracy. Pinches has come through from a field of 91 professionals and many amateurs to land the £10,000 top prize.

He has done well to survive on the tour this long. Barry turned professional in 1989 after winning the English amateur title.

By 1991 he had made it to the Crucible but had to wait another 13 years for a second appearance, where he beat Jimmy White and took Stephen Hendry to a decider.

He had found some form around this time after several years of disappointment. He reached the 2003 UK Championship quarter-finals and the same stage of the 2005 Grand Prix.

He drew attention for his distinctive green and gold Norwich City waistcoat and nearly joined the top 16 but after a season at 18th dropped out of the top 32 and back into the qualifying quagmire.

It must be hard to enjoy snooker mired in the lower ranks where the difference between victory and defeat can be getting paid or not.

Now, Pinches is on the up and up at the age of 40. He is surely certain of a place in the PTC grand finals next March.

Good for him. He’s remained committed to the game even when, I’m sure, he’s wondered if he shouldn’t be doing something else.

Pinches is an unassuming sort. He was once described, laughably, by a newspaper as ‘lording it round the snooker clubs of Norwich.’

Nothing is further from the truth but if he feels like lording it tonight nobody could possibly blame him.



In recent years the summer months have been a time of leisure for snooker players.

Now, in the middle of August, they are preparing for the fourth Players Tour Championship event, which starts in Sheffield tomorrow.

The PTC has been a hit with the players. 91 members of the 96 player main tour have entered the latest.

Among them are Ronnie O’Sullivan, back for the first time since PTC1, and Stephen Hendry and Mark Allen, who are each making their debuts in the series.

Mark Selby, winner of PTC2, heads the current table with £13,100 followed by PTC3 champion Tom Ford and Mark Williams, who won PTC1.

The top 24 will advance to the grand finals in March. Currently, only five members of the elite top 16 (I’m including Jamie Cope for now) are in the qualifying zone.

There’s plenty of time for all that to change. Including PTC4 there are still nine events to go.

Matches to look out for in the first round include Selby against Zhang Anda, who ran Hendry so close at the Crucible last season, O’Sullivan against Ryan Day and world champion Neil Robertson against Daniel Wells.

But, to me, the most interesting match is Hendry against 19 year-old Anthony McGill: the all time legend of Scottish snooker versus its bright new hope.

Hendry will recognise in McGill much of himself as a younger man: the determination, the fascination with the game and the excitement at being part of the circuit.

Young Anthony has emerged relatively unscathed from the disgraceful way the sport was run in Scotland and has already figured in a PTC quarter-final this season.

Of course, it would be stretching credulity to believe he could have a career that will emulate Hendry’s but there’s no shame in this. Nobody else has either.

So far the PTC is doing what it says on the tin: providing high quality match practice for useful financial reward plus ranking points.

And it’s not just good for the pros. Amateur players are also reaping the rewards by gaining crucial experience against some of the green baize’s biggest hitters.

For instance, Daniel Skingle takes on Cope.

I have no idea who Daniel Skingle is. He’s the only player in the draw I have never heard of.

But what a great opportunity for him to learn from playing one of snooker’s hottest talents.

He’s just another player who has reason to be grateful the Players Tour Championship has been established.



Jason Ferguson, the new WPBSA chairman, is calling for the age limit at which players can turn professional to be lowered.

As it stands right now, players can’t turn pro until they are 16.

In a letter to the WPBSA membership, Ferguson cites the example of Luca Brecel, who won the European amateur title at the age of 15 earlier this year.

Ferguson wrote: “Luca achieved a dream by winning the European Championship and qualified for the main tour, only to be told he could not compete as under our rules and constitution he was too young. Whilst there are issues to deal with like child welfare and education, having taken the appropriate advice, these can be worked out. As a former player, I feel that this is a totally unacceptable situation and therefore we will be looking for you to support constitutional change.”

Brecel can play in this season’s PTC events but will have to wait until next year to turn professional.

I was always under the impression that the age limit existed in part because of tobacco sponsorship, which has of course now ceased, although gaming companies also operate under strict rules regarding age.

There seems no logical reason why a 15 year-old can’t play on the tour, just as they are able to compete in other sports.

Many parents would doubtless say they should remain at school and not be distracted by dreams of green baize glory.

Another counter argument is that they won’t be ready, that they need more time on the junior and amateur circuits.

Possibly. But there’s a lot to be said for sink or swim. The fact is, any player will find it tough in their first reason whether they are 15 or 21. This is because it is tough. Really tough.

There have been a few exceptions over the years. Shaun Murphy played in a couple of qualifiers when he was 15 because the season started a fortnight before he turned 16.

This was not, as many people claim, because his father, Tony, was a WPBSA board member at the time. He didn’t join the board until a couple of years later.

It was, in fact, a sensible solution rather than making Shaun wait another year. However, two years ago Michael White, in almost identical circumstances, was barred from playing in two ranking event qualifiers because he was still 15.

The WPBSA administration of the time doggedly insisted no such exemption had ever been given to Murphy or anyone else – despite the evidence in Snooker Scene and elsewhere that it had happened.

Ding Junhui competed in the 2002 China Open as a 14 year-old wild card but was, of course, still an amateur at the time.

It’s impossible to say when a player is truly ‘ready’ to turn professional. You only find out by actually doing it.

If a player like Brecel has qualified for the main tour through a recognised route then he should have his chance.

Ferguson’s idea is therefore worthy of support, although as he says it will require deft implementation to take into account issues around the welfare of the child and their education.



Last week, Dave Harold laboured for five hours, 45 minutes to shake off Ian McCulloch 5-4 and qualify for the final stages of the Shanghai Masters.

This is what you call taking the slow boat to China.

The average frame time was 39 minutes. If all matches were like this snooker would struggle as sporting entertainment but the game’s hard men should still be saluted.

There’s something about their bloody-minded refusal to lie down that is admirable.

Much has of course been written about Alex Higgins these last few weeks but rarely has it been pointed out what a great safety player he was.

He had to be. In the 1970s, with little money in the professional game, every ball was a pint of blood.

Eddie Charlton was perhaps the greatest grinder of them all. His nickname ‘Steady’ was a clue.

Then again, not for nothing did Cliff Thorburn become known as ‘The Grinder.’ Terry Griffiths was hardly averse to getting stuck in either.

These giants of the game had that never-say-die attitude that other players, though more naturally talented, have lacked and it undoubtedly helped lead to their success.

Today anyone remotely slow is labelled unsporting, a ridiculously simplistic label that ignores the fact that there is no time limit in snooker.

The referee has it in his or her discretion to warn a player if they feel they are taking too long over shots and this does happen occasionally but it is difficult for the officials because they have to judge the importance of the match and the pattern of play against the amount of time a player spends weighing up shots.

A snooker player’s first priority should be to win. The best chance of doing this is to play to your strengths, not your opponent’s.

The old style grinding has pretty much gone. People point to Peter Ebdon but he is one the game’s greatest ever break builders - fifth on the all time list of century makers - and accomplished at winning frames in one visit. He can grind when he needs to but doesn’t do it as a matter of course.

Famously, he slowed down to a slow crawl against Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Crucible in 2005. Five years on, the arguments still rage as to whether or not this was acceptable.

Whether it was or not, it made for gripping drama – both sporting and human – as a genuine clash of styles and personalities was fought out.

As I recall, it ended with Ronnie bleeding from having scraped his nails across his forehead and Peter in tears in the BBC studio when challenged about his tactics.

Psychological breakdowns, emotional outpourings, bitter recriminations...now that’s a proper night at the Crucible.

So I congratulate the Stoke potter, Dave Harold, on his remarkable feat of endurance. It didn’t sound like the most exciting of matches but his dogged refusal to give an inch proves that you can get the rewards if you give it your all.

It’s just lucky for him he wasn’t paying for the light.



So Tom Ford won the third Players Tour Championship and with it £10,000.

He is a player, like so many, blessed with considerable talent who has underachieved. By his own admission he has not dedicated himself to his career as he should have done, preferring evenings out on the lash to an early night readying himself for another day's practising.

Tom explained when he qualified for the Crucible earlier this year that Mark Selby, his fellow Leicester player, provided the perfect inspiration. Selby is a hard worker and success has followed. Ford wants a piece of that too.

Not enough snooker players over the years have realised that what they do really is a profession.

In fairness, when there's six or seven weeks between matches it can't feel like one.

That's all changed now: PTC4 starts at the end of the week and is followed shortly afterwards by the qualifiers for the World Open.

Ford has never really played well on television but everyone knows how good he is. Hopefully this win can be the springboard for a successful season.

I was pleased to see Jack Lisowski reach the final. Only two years ago he had cancer. If anyone was going to grab the opportunity to play professional snooker with both hands it would be Jack.

This season is going to be very interesting. Why? Because there's so much snooker to be played.

The likes of Ford and Lisowski will hope to use the confidence gained from the PTC and go forward with it. That's the value of this new series.

And even the players who lost early have reason for cheer: they can make amends this week.



Barry Hawkins constructed a 147 break in the final frame of his 4-1 victory over James McGouran in the last 32 of the third Players Tour Championship event in Sheffield.

It was Hawkins's first competitive maximum and the second of the season after Kurt Maflin's in PTC1.

Hawkins had made a 129 break in the previous frame.

Mark Selby, winner of PTC2, is among the players through to the last 16.



Back in the day, to use that annoying phrase, snooker on the internet was represented by two websites: www snooker, run by Hermund Ardalen and still going, and Global Snooker Centre, which was the brainchild of Janie Watkins.

Both of these came long before worldsnooker.com, before TSN/110sport, before all the forums and before this blog.

Janie is leaving Global Snooker to work for Paul Mount and his stable of players based at the new South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.

I would like to place on record my personal thanks for her many efforts in keeping the website updated on all manner of events over the years.

Where would we have been without it?

Her diligence and dedication has allowed many, many thousands of snooker fans around the world to keep up to date with the shifting sands of results, frame scores, breaks etc and she has put in more hours than is either natural or desirable to provide this service.

In my opinion, global-snooker.com is the best snooker website out there. I’m sure its owners will ensure it continues in that vein.

Meanwhile, I wish Janie well in her new role.



Like Old Man River, Steve Davis just keeps rolling along.

The six times former world champion turns 53 later this month. Today he began his 33rd season as a professional by whitewashing Rod Lawler 5-0 to reach the final stages of the Shanghai Masters.

A 44 clearance gave him the first frame and he dished from green to black to steal the third.

Davis then finished off with breaks of 75 and 63 to secure a Shanghai meeting with Jamie Cope.

He will surely start as one of the favourites for the new World Seniors Championship in November, which will be shown in highlights form on Sky Sports.

It marks a further expansion of Sky's snooker portfolio after they signed a deal to screen the new One Frame Shootout next January.


John Higgins will learn his fate, following allegations in the News of the World that he was prepared to lose frames for money, in a two day hearing on September 7 and 8.

The tribunal at Sports Resolutions will be presided over by Ian Mill QC.

I understand that Higgins's punishment - if applicable - will be decided at the hearing.

It is not ideal that this falls in the middle of the Shanghai Masters but a date had to be found that was acceptable to all parties.



It was not surprising, given the emotional day he spent at Alex Higgins’s funeral on Monday, that Jimmy White was beaten in the Shanghai Masters qualifiers last night, but this should not detract from the performance of Liam Highfield, a talented young player with the skills to rise rapidly up the ranks.

Highfield was born in December 1990, a few days before White defeated Stephen Hendry 18-9 to win the World Matchplay, a prestigious invitation tournament shown on ITV.

White was at his peak during this period. He won the World Masters the following month and was a few months from a second successive Crucible final as part of a run of five in a row.

He is wrongly derided by some as a choker. Chokers don’t win as many titles as White.

Chokers don’t win the Masters in front of nearly 3,000 spectators. They don’t beat John Parrott over four sessions to win the UK Championship. They don’t win 10 ranking titles.

White’s failure to win the world title came down to a number of competing factors. The most prominent of these was the quality of his opposition: Steve Davis at his best, Hendry at his best and an inspired Parrott in 1991, not to mention Higgins's miracle break in the 1982 semi-finals.

Another was White’s own preparation. He never has been a fan of an early night but he must surely look back and chastise himself he didn’t shut out the crowd around him and dedicate himself properly to the task, especially in 1992 when he led Hendry 10-6 overnight.

It’s true the pressure got to him in 1994 - although not until the deciding frame - when he missed the black off its spot a few balls from victory.

There are many, though, who have never got close – and not just in snooker – to the heights Jimmy has achieved over the years.

I first met him when I started on the circuit. He was having a rough time of it and was hoping to begin the season with a win at the Grand Prix in Preston.

This was the pre-TV stage and, somehow, I had been roped into recording interviews with players for the BBC for them to play into their opening day coverage on the Saturday.

I was nervous. I didn’t know the players and I feared White would be difficult if he lost. Added into the mix was a father whose son was disabled, a big snooker fan and who wanted a picture with the Whirlwind.

As I was doing the interview I was informed it was probably best I dealt with this as well.

I wasn’t so naive that I couldn’t see I’d been landed with jobs others didn’t want to do but there was no getting out of it so I spent an anxious couple of hours watching the scoreboard ticking over and it became increasingly apparent that White was going to lose. And so he did.

I loitered backstage with my microphone. Jimmy came off and I introduced myself. I could see he was very disappointed and eager to get the interview over and done with.

I asked two questions but midway through his second answer the producer informed us the tape wasn’t running and we would have to start again. My hand probably shook as I put the microphone back under his mouth and we started again.

The interview over, Jimmy made a dash for the door. I asked him to wait. He wanted to know why.

I could see this ending in a row of some sorts, which was not the scenario in which I wanted to meet a player who had played a such huge role in me getting involved in the sport in the first place.

I told him there was a man with a young disabled son who would like a picture.

No problem, Jimmy said, bring him in. And he came in and Jimmy chatted to him, posed for a picture, signed his programme and said he hoped he would enjoy the tournament.

I don’t know where that family is now or if they still follow snooker but I’d be prepared to bet they’ve never forgotten that night.

Neither have I. That’s Jimmy White. That’s why the public love him and that’s why they will support him until he no longer has the breath to hold a cue.



Bryan Claasz has got in touch to inform me he has written a song about Mark Selby.

You can listen to it on his Myspace page here.

I don't think Bob Dylan will be losing any sleep but a couple of listens ensures the song stays in your head, even if you don't want it to.

Snooker has a long, inglorious relationship with popular music, taking in the seminal Snooker Loopy, the Romford Rap, Alex Higgins's One-Four-Seven - with its melancholic B-side Life's in the Pocket - and Peter Ebdon's non-chart bothering efforts to name but a few.

And this isn't the first time a player has had a song written about him.

I recall being at a tournament in Kilkenny a few years ago when a man claiming to be Ireland's leading Elvis impersonator dropped in, as you do, and presented Ronnie O'Sullivan with a CD.

'Elvis' had rewritten 'Rocket Man' in tribute and to the best of my knowledge has not yet been sued by Bernie Taupin.

Sample lyric: 'And I'm gonna be hi-i-i-igh on the black by then'

Ronnie loved it, so much so that there was talk of playing it at the Crucible, although he was presumably so bored being at the game's premier event by that point that he forgot all about it.

I've heard Selby do karaoke. He's not bad. Ironically, he does a pretty mean version of 'Rocket Man' (with the original lyrics).

Maybe Barry Hearn should set up a kind of snooker X-Factor.

Then again, maybe not.



Snooker players including Jimmy White, Stephen Hendry and Ken Doherty have attended Alex Higgins's funeral in Belfast today.

The twice world champion died at the age of 61 last month.

Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby, Joe Swail, Tony Knowles, David Taylor, John Virgo and Willie Thorne were also in attendance at St Anne's Catherdral. Hundreds of people were gathered outside to see off the Hurricane.

Higgins's daughter, Lauren, read out an emotional poem she had written in tribute to her father.

His former wife, Lynn, and son, Jordan, were among the family and friends in the packed catherdral.

The Dean of Belfast, Houston McKelvey, told mourners Higgins, "at a very young age encountered two of the greatest temptations possible - fame and fortune. He found it difficult to cope with both. He was not the first to find this difficult and he certainly will not be the last."

Hendry said afterwards, "If it wasn't for Alex, I probably wouldn't have had a career in snooker."

In Sheffield, players and officials observed a minute's silence before the start of the Shanghai Masters qualifiers (pictured).


If it’s August it must be Sheffield. Or, more specifically, the Roewe Shanghai Masters qualifiers, which start today.

It’s farewell Prestatyn, which will not upset many players. The set up for playing at Pontin’s was excellent and everyone was made to feel welcome but it was hardly handy to get to (unless you’re Ricky Walden). Tony Drago once said of it - in an interview - "It's the sort of place where you could kill someone and they'd never find the body."

Sheffield is, of course, a city that will forever be associated with snooker. The Academy holds eight tables and two have been set aside for practising, so each round will now be played over three sessions.

Although there have already been two Players Tour Championship events, each carrying ranking points, this is where it really begins for the circuit’s new players.

It’s the first day at school, university and work rolled into one.

It’s no longer a 96-man circuit, rather a 95-man and one woman circuit. Reanne Evans (pictured), the undisputed women’s no.1, starts off against Alfie Burden, the reigning IBSF world amateur champion.

Allison Fisher, the best women’s player of them all, beat a few top male professionals in the Matchroom League but never really made any progress in ranking events, although when she played the game was open and so there were many more rounds to negotiate.

Igor Figueiredo becomes the first Brazilian ever to play in a full scale ranking event when he cues off against the experienced Paul Davison.

Liu Song will be looking to make the most of his call up, which came about through John Higgins’s suspension, when he tackles Ben Woollaston.

I’m looking forward to seeing which referee gets to officiate the superbly named Thanawat Tirapaipongboon, one of three Thais starting out in round one.

Of the young players worth watching, look out for Liam Highfield – more about him in August’s Snooker Scene – Anthony McGill, who reached the quarter-finals of PTC2, and Jack Lisowski, who is sensible enough not to be eyeing a meeting with Ronnie O’Sullivan in Shanghai just yet.

I’m not sure what’s happening with live scoring but, as ever, Global Snooker will provide updates.

It may seem pointless given that there are no spectators allowed in to watch aside from a few pals of the pros but I think the players should pause for a minute before play starts to remember Alex Higgins, whose funeral it is this morning.

The new stars will probably never have seen him play bar the odd clip on Youtube. The older players will know all about the extraordinary excitement the Hurricane generated and will know too that, regardless of his many faults, the circuit came into being largely because of him.