Well the talking wasn’t quite over. Indeed, it’s always been thus. In the last couple of days before the World Championship a kind of hysteria builds and all sorts of things get said.

There’s the inevitable ‘there’s no characters in the game any more’ pieces written by journalists who bring not expertise but ignorance in publications which suddenly remember snooker exists once a year.

Players say all sorts of things too, most usually forgotten by the time play actually starts.

However, Mark Williams hit the headlines yesterday for a derogatory tweet about the Crucible. In fairness to Mark, he has always thought this about the legendary venue, but in the cold light of day the tone of his comments appeared unnecessarily harsh. The Crucible is where everyone who picks up a cue wants to play.

This harms Williams’s reputation more than snooker’s, although it also reveals much about the modern media.

It seems anything now written on Twitter is regarded as great truth, as if spoken under oath in a courtroom, rather than what most of it is: throwaway nonsense generally not meant to be taken seriously.

What is meant to be taken seriously is the actual snooker, which finally begins this morning.

I’ve already given an in-depth rundown of the matches and won’t repeat all that, but it is interesting how hardly anyone is tipping John Higgins this year.

This is because Higgins has had a poor season by his own high standards. But he also belongs to a generation whose best days are surely behind them.

Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan are by no means finished yet, quite obviously, but time is running out for them to add to their haul of Crucible titles.

I’ve spoken to a few former players about the phenomenon of decline. They tend to all agree that it comes about through a mixture of reasons: changing eyesight, decreased desire to practise and a greater inability to cope with pressure.

The latter is why so many players slow up. Peter Ebdon is often accused of dragging out matches deliberately but much of it is actually calming the nerves before playing the shot.

Dominic Dale is quite perceptive about this in his column for next month’s Snooker Scene. He says you can get down and, in your natural rhythm, be ready to play the shot but that your brain can be a few seconds behind, not ready, which is where difficulties begin: a clash between your technique and your mind.

We look at top snooker players and are fooled into believing the game must be easy, because they make it look easy.

But it isn’t. We know this whenever we have ourselves picked up a cue.

We also don’t see when we watch snooker the serious doubts and insecurities in a players mind, only the product of them.

“How could he miss that?” is a common cry when watching a match on TV. The actual answer, given the difficulty of the game and the pressure on a player is, “quite easily.” Perhaps the question, given what is at stake, should be, “how could he pot that?”

Playing snooker can bring great riches but it is also a lonely, mentally exhausting profession. The 32 players gathered in Sheffield over the next 17 days are an elite that, for all they may say or do to frustrate, deserve respect.

I’m sure they will entertain us greatly this coming World Championship.


Monique said...

Part of the problem with players tweets taken too seriously is created by the WSA strict attitude about it. I do understand that they want to create a "clean" image of snooker, but on the other hand by fining players overs throwaway comments or what is simply, albeit sometime rough, banter they send the message "this is serious stuff".
I personally think that the players should have the right to act and tweet just like every private person. If they show sides of themselves that people don't like, well, it's their reputation that they harm … maybe. If they put themselves in situations where others might suit them, it's their problem and they should be left to deal with it. But, in my opinion, only if the tweets are directly related to their snooker and could seriously created problems, in particular with the sponsors or the hosting country/organisation, should WSA intervene. In that light, until now, only some of Mark Allen's tweets in Haiku were a real problem in my eyes.

Ok rant over!
Let's the World Championship begin!

Anonymous said...

I actually agree with you Monique, it was a dumb thing MJW said, but it doesn't harm snooker, nor will it turn off any potential sponsors. MJW might be better off getting on the practice table rather than tweeting seeing how his form's been since Shanghai however....

Anonymous said...

Good to see a new blogging website out there giving players the platform to raise their profile, and that of snooker in general. Many of them have something to say, they just need somewhere to say it, and by regularly writing a blog it can only help in reminding the media that snooker is an all-year round sport. Check out www.livingsnooker.com if you haven't already

Anonymous said...

Used to quite like Mark Williams,but to me he just comes across as a plonker now...if he dosent like the Crucible,why play there? Give up your place and let someone else have a go who wants to be there....presumably,he wont be surrending the cash that playing there affords him as well....what a dipstick!

Anonymous said...

The real problem though is that thick people say stupid things. Unfortunately a lot of them play snooker, and we should just consider ourselves fortunate that they are no longer running the game, and pretty much any damage they can do to the sport is limited to Twitter these day—there is a reason why it is call TWITter!

Allineas said...

@Monique: I would even go further and say that these "private" tweets even make snooker more interesting. Players like Mark Williams, Mark Allen, Stephen Lee or Mike Dunn (Formerly. I am really sad he had to end his twitter jokes) show how snooker players are very different characters, which they cannot show at the table. Certainly the reactions to Allen's tweets about Haiku were right, but I feel players are given too little freedom on twitter.

Whatever... 12 frames of World Championship have already passed, let's have a few good weeks!

Snooker said...

Please Check out Hendry's Latest 147. Hendry hits hi 11th 147.


Hi David. Higgins showed great match-play quality, to come from 4-3 down, to lead Liang 5-4, going into tonight's final session.

David Gilbert made a great display, to lead Martin Gould, 6-3, over-night, going into the final session.

Doherty played his part today, in his game with Robertson, a 104 break, a near maximum, from him. A great but hard compiled 38 break, six reds and colours were fetured. Back-to-back, Robertson centuy breaks, for a 6-2 lead for Robertson. A break, by Robertson, in frame nine, to carry a 7-2 over-night lead, going into tomorrow's final session.

Bingham. v. Hendry. Well, Well, Well. A vintage Hendry performance. Another one, in my view. This consisted of big break, after big break.

A 147 break, by Hendry, The king Of The Crucible, included. Bingham, not much of a look -in. Hendry is 8-1 up, over-night, going into tomorrow evening's final session. Stephen Hendry, the snooker player, you never lose it.

A great day's play sofar. Day one, not over yet.

I can't wait for more.

Anonymous said...

Highlights of Day 1 so far
- Stephen Hendry's 147
- Rob Walker reminding everyone to turn their phones off, only for a rogue computer to start playing "burping" sounds over the PA during play

- first 4 frames Higgins v Wembo
- being charged £3 for a bag of maltesers at the Crucible drinks counter

Dzierzgul said...

Couldn't imagine a better start to the World Championship. As a non-British person I've always envied those, who were able to watch Hendry in the 90s. Now I no longer have to. Seeing that look in his eyes as he achieved snooker nirvana today... Beats all my best snooker memories from past years.

And for God's sake: what's taking you so long to give the man a frigging knighthood?

Dzierzgul said...

Also: Hendry's now the first qualifier to make a 147 in the Crucible.

Anonymous said...

many thanks to the BBC for stopping coverage of the Higgins match at 8.20 this evening, thanks for ruining the evening BBC. Why did they do that to us Freeview viewers, it's a disgrace?


Hi David. A great enning session. Cao Yupeng did great, to lead Mark Allen, 5-4, going into the final session of that match.

Higgins .V. Liang - Resuming 5-4 up, Higgins would lead, 6-4, only to see Liang take the next four frames. He lead 8-6. What could the defending champion do?

Great Higgins reply. A 133 break. 8-7.

Liang missed a yellow he would usually get. Instead of 9-7to Liang, it was 8-8. Higginswon the next. 9-8 he lead. One up, two two play.

Liang levelled. 9-all.

In a tense decider, Both had chances. Higgins in the end, the stronger, he wins 10-9. A great first day's play. Defending champion, Higgins, a 10-9 winner. Crucible king , Hendry's 11th competative 147, in pro tourmnament play.

PrestatynFan said...

After MWs remarks about the Crucible lets look at the place from the spectators point of view. I must say its the most spectacular snooker ranking venue i have been to with very comfy seats apart from possibly Berlin, but that is spoilt by its all-wooden seats with absolutely no leg room under the seats as they are blocked in. In Wales(!) the leg room at Newport is a joke and completely spoils the spectator experience. York has excellent comfy seats upstairs, but then you are not allowed to sit there unless disabled or until the final rounds. Telford - nuff said. The PTC finals at Galway were an example of how to bring in some really good removable seats that were comfortable for a few hours and not just 5 minutes. Gloucester is not big enough for main tournaments but the seats in the main arena are as good as the Crucible. Long live the Crucible. I remain PrestatynFan - and look forward to see MW there sometime.

Anonymous said...

Williams is right, Crucible is a dive. The only reason I'm against binning the place is that it would probably result in moving the WC to either London or China. Preston Guild Hall was the best venue I ever attended, although Wembley Conference Centre looked the best on TV.