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.


Anonymous said...

Its a pity Allen lost the play off with Fu. Would have been a perfect line up then. Fu just makes you want to switch off. He is the epitome of what has given snooker its boring image

Monique said...

To be fair Ronnie lost his nr 1 spot mainly because of an up-and-down 2008/09 season rather than because of the last one.
One ranking title, 2 finals (PL, Masters), 2 semis (UK, Welsh)in a season that featured only 6 ranking events. If one excepts the China bad slip, losing only to 2 players in ranking events + Masters for the whole season (Higgins/Selby). That's a disappointing season ... uh?
Says something about the expectations the guy has to cope with!

Whatever... this line-up is very, very strong and it will be interesting to see what happens.

Anonymous said...

Dave your completley wrong - you picked Selby, O’Sullivan, Murphy and Ding.

I know its going to be Selby, O’Sullivan, Williams and Fu. :)

I think Williams will produce under these circumstances because he usually responds well to crowds/ pressure.

And I'm going for Fu over Ding, as Ding has yet to prove himself when the going gets tough when crowds get behind his opponent too much. (Hopefully he proves me wrong sometime soon)

So there you go :)
Mr A.

Dave H said...

For the world no.1 to reach one ranking final has to count as disappointing if you look at it objectively

Anonymous said...

Yeah. But if you look at it as some soppy fan you can always make excuses.

Ronnie himself said he was disappointed by his form last season which was generally poor by his own high standards.

I still think he's got to be favourite for the PL though because the format suits him and there's less pressure than in the big events. Looking forward to it.

Anonymous said...

To 1:16pm - I don't agree with you - I like watching Fu play,I think he gets on with it when on a break. Although not my fav to watch,still like watching him play.

I have mixed feelings about watching Allen. On one hand I like his style of play - fearless potting / attacking etc, what I dont like is how he carries himself, reeks of too much arrogance and self rightousness.(IMO)

Anonymous said...

By having the shot clock it will never be boring anyway.

Anonymous said...

2.06, my point exactly. Thats what you call being a character. If Fu wasn't Asian you wouldn't be able to tell him from Perry or Mark Davis. Ive seen him roll up to a colour when his opponent needed 9 snookers rather than take on a one in 50 pot. Boring.

Anonymous said...

actually Mark Williams has played under the shot-clock format - he's reached the final in Spring 2005, when shot-clock was already in use.

jamie brannon said...

I think Ronnie's season was decent but not excellent, things don't have to be disappointing or great. However, I would be disappointed if he didn't nail at least one of the 'big 3 events'. I fancy Mark Williams to go well in this event.

Anonymous said...

Well done. You win the prize for most contradictions in a single sentence.

Anonymous said...

Let's hope ROS can be bothered to turn upo for this unlike the Paul Hunter Classics

shaun said...

Ronnie selby robertson williams my 4 for semis and good luck to my team mr earls when we start our season at haydock tomorrow night

kildare cueman said...

You would think O'Sullivan, Selby and Williams would probably finish at the top end.

Not so sure about Robbo. Shot clocks don't agree with him.

I think whoever wins the head to head with Murphy and Ding will make up the other semi finalist.

Anonymous said...

Another nothing event to go along with the 12 PTC events which mean absolutely nothing when push comes to shove.
Snooker will soon become World Championship and nothing else due to this shameless devaluation of the game.

Anonymous said...

How laughably pompous. It's a fun event that the players enjoy. If you don't like it, don't watch it.

Anonymous said...

its an event for a few .same old story. the ptc will not exist when the funds dry up.(1 more year at best). Bigger expenses for players playing for pro-am money .

Dave H said...

That's exactly the attitude that needs to be eradicated.

Want to get in the Premier League? Win a ranking event.

Want to win lots of money in the PTCs - and there is a lot of money available? Win matches.

This is the best time to be a snooker player since the game went open.

Anonymous said...

Pro-am money? £10k the winner?

If players do well they will reap the rewards. If they don't, do something else, the game doesn't exist to subsidise mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

'For a select few as usual.' Just like the PTCs which are open to...er everyone.

If you aren't making a living from playing snooker it's because you aren't good enough. End of.

Anonymous said...

Good to see everyone getting together to make the new era a greeat success

I wander sometimes if snooker deserves to go forward when you look at the attitudes of some

Anonymous said...

as i said the ptc will not be around in 2 years time .The well will run dry .as regards 11 57 comments on mediocrity u obviously have no idea about this game.Top32 players have been on an average wage in this game for years and still are. If u were in the top 32 in the world in your chosen field i think u would expect to be rewarded. 11 57 .what do u class as mediocre? I think your comments are not only mediocre but clueless.

Anonymous said...

Get in the top 16 then

And if you hadn't spent years voting for mediocre board members lining their own pockets the game would be in a much better state

Dave H said...

The players aren't mediocre, some of the rewards have been. But to dismiss attempts to change this seem rather negative and the rewards are there if players do well - Barry Pinches has already earned this season what he earned the whole of last season.

Anonymous said...

that comment has proved my point exactly. u do have to be in the top 16 u idiot.

Anonymous said...

The average wage of a snooker player is considerably higher than a pool player or bowls player.

In fact it is higher than a huge amount of sports.

There will always be better paid sports. The market will dictate a sport's worth.

There are plenty of sports where the world no.1 has to work to subsidise his income but continues to practise and compete because he loves the game. Just be glad that snooker isn't one of them.

Unknown said...

Mark Williams, the China Open champion, has never played under the shot clock format.??In 2005, he is the runner-up,

Anonymous said...

If you're not good enough to play snooker, go do something else. There have been far too many mediocre players making up the numbers in the Rodney Walker years. Now it's all going to change, the PTC's are the best thing to happen to snooker.


kildare cueman said...

Contrary to 110's whining, I'd like to see even more fluidity in the rankings.

A one year rolling ranking list updated after each tournament with NO points for losing your first round would really shake things up, a bit like tennis where you can be number 2 in the world and 5 months later be number 22.

In the past if you had one good season and got your feet under the top 16 "table", you only had to turn up and win the odd match and you were there for 10 years.

Pros should be aspiring to greatness and titles, not a job.

Imagine this years new pros all playing in the top 16. How competitive would that be?

It should be easier to break into the elite and harder to stay there instead of the other way around.