Ray Reardon has today turned 80, a grand age for a grand man of snooker.

Reardon was one of snooker’s first TV stars, a formidable figure with jet-black hair and a widow’s peak which led him to be nicknamed ‘Dracula.’

It was apt for one of the game’s toughest match-players, a man with a seemingly endless resolve and very definite killer instinct.

Reardon was born on this day in 1932, between the two world wars, in Tredegar, a coal mining town in Wales.

The son of a miner, at the age of 14 he was down a pit where he was buried for several hours in a rockfall. After this, he knew mining wasn’t for him.

The Reardon family relocated to Stoke where he would eventually become a policeman, pounding the streets as a bobby but already dreaming of snooker glory.

Already Welsh amateur champion, Reardon almost won the 1956 English amateur title. He led Tommy Gordon 7-3 in the final at the end of the first day’s play but, with his first shot of the second, his tip flew off and he lost 11-9.

This was unfortunate but Reardon had always been savvy. When he met John Spencer, who would go on to be a great rival but never a close friend, in the English amateur final in 1964 the organisers asked each to send a photograph for the tournament programme.

Reardon duly sent off a picture of him wearing his snooker gear, looking a million dollars. Spencer, far more naive, sent the first photo he could find, which was him in swimming trunks.

Reardon won 11-8 and a few years later he turned professional, though this was not then the door to riches it later became.

It was hard work: flogging around the fledgling exhibition circuit in holiday camps of the UK, demand increasing due to a programme on the BBC’s new colour TV service. Pot Black would change everything.

Now, players were recognised. The World Championship reverted to knock-out format after several years as a series of challenge matches. Reardon lost 25-24 to Fred Davis in the first round in 1969 but beat Davis, Spencer and, in the final, John Pulman 37-33 a year later.

As world champion his profile rose and he could supplement his tournament earnings, such as they were, with a steady income in exhibitions.

Reardon had the mindset to dominate. He was determined but he was also acutely aware of the importance of psychology in snooker. He knew when he had an opponent on the ropes. Like his alter ego, he knew when to plunge his teeth into their necks - figuratively speaking - and not stop until they were finished.

Reardon won six world titles in the 1970s as the game grew into a professional sport with television interest rapidly increasing.

Perhaps his greatest of these came in 1975 at the Nunawading Basketball Stadium, Australia, where he recovered from 29-24 down to beat home favourite Eddie Charlton 31-30 in the final.

Reardon’s Crucible success of 1978 at the age of 45 was his last in the World Championship, although he reached the final again in 1982, losing only 18-15 to Alex Higgins. His last Crucible appearance came in 1987.

He had been snooker’s first world no.1 in 1976 and that year won the Masters and several other titles, although he had far fewer tournaments in which to play in his heyday compared to those top players who followed in his wake.

Reardon was still playing to a high standard into his 50s. He is the oldest ever ranking event winner, capturing the 1982 Professional Players Tournament at 50.

In 1988, he whitewashed the then imperious Steve Davis 5-0 in the British Open at Derby.

But Reardon’s eyesight was failing. He never took to spectacles and tried contact lenses. At the qualifiers he wore a visor to cut out the glare of the lights.

His career declined and, a proud competitor, he retired from tournament play in 1991.

Like most players who have drifted into snooker politics, Reardon’s board membership did not end well. He got mixed up in the Rex Williams regime at the end of the 1990s, which ultimately culminated in him and Williams being expelled from the WPBSA, although they were later reinstated.

I got to know him a little at around this time and found him to be both charming and eccentric. He was full of old stories, such as how Alex Higgins was drunk for at least three sessions of their 1976 world final, but also seemed interested in the modern game.

In 2004, Reardon was asked by Ronnie O’Sullivan’s father to give his son some advice. The two clicked and Reardon was in O’Sullivan’s corner when he won his second world title.

These days, Reardon is happily retired in Devon. He enjoys good food, wine and golf, a nice lifestyle which may explain why he is so well preserved.

Reardon is a name evocative of snooker’s first flowerings as a television entertainment.

Before Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, Ronnie O’Sullivan and John Higgins, he was top dog, the man to beat, the player everyone else wanted to be.

Like those other early players he helped foster the interest in snooker which led to the professional circuit as we know it.

For this, and his great record of achievement, we should wish him a very happy birthday.


nickpaul said...

Happy Birthday The 1st №1!!!

wild said...

Happy Birthday Ray Reardon a true snooker Legend.

Without these players in the 70s putting in the hours and playing for peanuts in poor conditions the likes of Steve Davis and Stephen Hendry wouldn't have been millionaires playing in fantastic venues.

So when players today thinking about not going to Australia because there's only about £40,000 on offer to the winner just remember in 1975 about 20 players made the trip for a slice of about £18,000 between them.

without the hard graft back then snooker boom wouldn't have happened for today's players.

Anonymous said...

That said my parents' first house only cost 6k in '74, and those houses are going for 140 now, so an 18k prize fund was a good earner back then. The key difference being that the money wasn't spread as thinly as it is today.

wild said...


thats Bollocks Money has always spread thinly its just Reletavly to the Times your in.

hastent your Mother or Granmother told you Kids today get much more than i ever Got.

i dont Know how much Flights cost in 1975 but what i do know a Mobile phone cost about £3,000 in 1980 today you can get one for £20.

My Guess Flights in 1975 Cost a Fair amount more in Relation to the Money they earned than Today.

There was only about £4,000 shared between the Final 2 so id guess the Winner got £2,500 and the Runner up £1,500 what about the other players ?

Ray said...

Incredible to think that a small town in Wales not only produced a snooker legend but also the political icon Nye Bevan. Both ex-miners. Proof indeed that willpower and self belief will get you anywhere, however hard your upbringing.
Happy birthday Ray.

By the way has anyone noticed that Ray, Dave Harold and Jamie Cope (who have all lived in or were born in Stoke)have the same unusual snooker grip? The wrist is cocked inwards to the side as opposed to the more conventional grips. It's always intrigued me because they represent 3 totally different age groups too.
OK so call it worthless fact of the week then!!!!!!!

Ray said...

I forgot to mention Cliff Wilson - another famous son of Tredegar. World Amateur Champion and never a better potter in snooker.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday.

I can't pass the former site of Rays cafe in Stoke on Trent without bringing back happy memories

Kenn Fong said...

Thanks, Dave, for this lovely tribute. I never saw Ray, but your story made him real to me. What I liked best was you didn't just give a recitation of raw facts; you leavened the facts with lots of color.

Thank you, Ray Reardon, for making it possible for me to enjoy snooker today.

Anonymous said...

Great article Dave.
Ray Reardon was everything you describe him as and more.
Neal Foulds once told me that attempting to beat Reardon was a frightening concept, like attempting to administer 6 of the best to your grammar school headmaster.


Happy 80th birthday to a snooker LEGEND. Ray Reardon.