When Andrew Pagett made his television debut at the Six Reds World Championship in December 2009 the master of ceremonies forgot his name as he was making the introductions and had to dig his notes out of his pocket to find it.

So when Pagett becomes the 178th player to walk into the famous Crucible arena on Saturday morning he hopes he can, after many years of trying, make a name for himself, preferably one which will stick in the snooker public’s mind.

Pagett, a 28 year-old father of two from Blackwood, South Wales, is a complete unknown to all but diehard snooker followers.

He has never before appeared in the final stages of a ranking event but will become the 16th Welshman to play at the Crucible when he tackles Jamie Cope this week.

What a moment, then, in a career that has thus far been played out largely below the radar.

“It’s finally hit home that I’m going to be playing at the Crucible,” Pagett told me. “I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I can’t wait to get out there and give it my best.

“I’ve won a lot of tournaments as an amateur but underachieved as a professional. I’ve always known it’s been there in the locker but it’s all about clicking at the right time. The players are so good that you have to be on top of your game all the time. It’s taken me longer than I’d hoped.”

Pagett is a good friend of Mark Williams and was with him at the Crucible for his world title triumphs in 2000 and 2003. Theirs is a relationship built on wind-ups and banter, at least on the surface.

In fact, Williams is more like a big brother, relentlessly teasing him but also offering a few sage words of advice, all from the vantage point of someone who has been there and done it at the highest possible level.

“Mark said I was the worst player ever to qualify for the Crucible,” said Pagett, who will play his friend in the last 16 if they come through their respective first round matches.

“I know deep down inside that he’s proud of me. We’ve been practising hard together, and with Matthew Stevens, to get ready for Sheffield.

“If it wasn’t for Mark I never would have reached the standard I’m at now. Just watching the way he deals with everything is phenomenal. He’s the most laidback person you could ever meet.

“I can understand why people fear playing him because he looks like he doesn’t really care either way. He plays as if he’s practising. It makes him tough to play against.

“When I’m at the qualifiers I talk to him every day. He gives me bits of advice, such as what to do if I’m feeling the pressure. I’ve learned it all from him.

“I wanted to draw him in the first round and I’d love to play him in the second. He’d be under so much pressure because he certainly wouldn’t want to lose to me at the Crucible.

To get this far has been a long road. He achieved success in the Welsh amateur ranks, was a World Amateur Championship quarter-finalist and runner-up in the 2003 European Amateur Championship.

He joined the pro circuit in 2008 but won only four matches all season and was relegated.

Pagett returned this season after topping the Welsh rankings. He cites signing with Paul Mount’s OnQ stable at the start of the campaign as a significant step forward, particularly in helping him feel like a professional.

Even so, with only one century all season and no experience of playing in the final stages of a ranking tournament he is an unlikely qualifier.

No wonder, then, that Pagett has received plenty of support locally, with all and sundry wishing him well.

The pub his father frequents is opening specially at 10am to watch the first session of his match with Cope.

“Before I qualified I didn’t realise how big a deal it would be to get to the Crucible,” Pagett said.

“For the last month I’ve had loads of papers calling me for interviews and people asking for autographs.

“I had no idea it was like this. It has really hit home just how much interest there is in the World Championship.

“This is why you play the sport, to achieve success and get recognition. It comes after endless hours of practising and a lot of money spent. You keep hoping something will happen and now it has for me.”

It happened because of Pagett’s excellent run through the world qualifiers in Sheffield last month. He first beat Zhang Anda, a surprise qualifier last season, 10-6 and then Belgian Bjorn Haneveer 10-4.

But it was his 10-9 defeat of Nigel Bond in the last 64 which provided the evidence that he could handle himself under pressure. In the decider, Pagett needed two snookers on the brown, got them and won on the black. The following round saw him complete a 10-6 defeat of Andrew Higginson to qualify.

“It’s all about believing in yourself,” he said. “Beating Nigel like that proved to me that I can compete against experienced players and that I’m not just a number on the tour. I’m there by right.”

Pagett is rated a 300/1 shot for the title by the sponsors, Betfred. Such a victory would be fanciful but he doesn’t care and neither should he. The main thing is that after all the years in obscurity he is now going to be part of the unique drama that is the World Championship.

He has even selected a nickname – the Welsh Wizard – and accompanying walk-on music, ‘The Wizard’ by Black Sabbath.

For so long in Williams’s shadow, Pagett is about to have his own moment in the sun.

“I’ll just try and enjoy it and take all the positives from the experience,” he said.

“Even if I lose 10-0 I can always say I played at the Crucible.”


Anonymous said...

he wont lose ten nil, but he will lose.

that said, i wish him all the luck in the world, hope he plays well, enjoys himself.....and gets back again an even better player than he is now.

Unknown said...

Another great article Dave!
Do you know how he did make a living before turning professional?

Dave H said...

I believe his uncle has a wholesale business he helped out with

jamie brannon said...

Black Sabbath!! Didn't you suggest the Manics!!

It is a fantastic story when you consider it's his first ranking event, not just his bow in the World Championship.

I have noticed your tips for the semi-finals. Are we to get an outright tip before the 16th?

I agree with Williams, but fancy the other three to be Higgins, Dott and Ding, who you seem to share the opinion with many that the Crucible is not for him.

His record backs that up but he is maturing all the time and this is only the fifth time he has visited the venue, so believe this will be his time and place to shine and become the first Asian world champion.

TazMania said...

Interesting fact i though i might share, before this season only 9 players had made 200 centuries. Currently it has grown to 13. Also there is a big chance it will grow to 16 before the end of the season. It shows how more events means more players are in form. Will not be surprised if this years WC century record breaks. (Hope So Anyway). If any one wants good stats on snooker i would recomend this site


Anonymous said...

I am looking forward to the match Andrew...believe I have got a front row seat for this one...