What’s your earliest memory of the World Championships?
I was playing when snooker first came on to our TV screens, and I remember watching Pot Black a lot. Probably my first World Championship memory is the first year it was held at the Crucible, in 1977, when John Spencer beat Cliff Thorburn in the final.
Tell us something about the Crucible that we’d be surprised to learn?
What is strange is that nothing really changed there much backstage for 20 years, until it was revamped a couple of years ago. There used to be a face that someone had drawn on one of the toilet doors in the gents, and it must have been there for 15 years! There isn’t much room behind the scenes, it really is pokey. It’s probably not suitable for the World Championship, but it’s the greatest venue in the game.
If you were Barry Hearn for a day, what changes would you make to the World Championships?
Good question! I love the fact that it’s the only event that doesn’t need change. If anything, it’s that the semi-finals go on too long, they don’t need to be over three days because it almost brings the tournament to a grinding halt. So I’d like to seem shortened in some way.
Can you sum up the Crucible in three words?
It’s the greatest and worst place. I know that’s not three words, but it’s the best way I can sum it up.
Would this year’s tournament have been devalued if Ronnie O’Sullivan had not entered?
Not really, he’s not been around all season, and the UK and Masters survived fine without him. I’m glad he’s playing and I’m pleased to see him, but you can only beat the players who are there.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen at the World Championships?
The strangest thing I ever did was in a first-round match when I was 3-1 down, and I was so angry that I punched a wall in my dressing room and ended up putting my fist through a window! There was glass on the street! I didn’t know how to explain it so I just said I’d accidentally leant against it too heavily. I was never one to bang the table when I was playing, but I was so angry on this occasion, and I was only 3-1 down! It was so annoying because I had to win to stay in the top 16.
Who’s the greatest player to have never won the world title?
You have got to say Jimmy White, haven’t you. I don’t know how never won it. You see him now and he still says he can win it, but I doubt that somehow. There are others, like Matthew Stephens and Eddie Charlton, but Jimmy is by far and away the outstanding candidate.
What’s your best memory of the Crucible?
My best achievement was reaching the semi-finals, but probably my best memory was my first-ever time there in 1984 when I beat Alex Higgins 10-9. Nobody had ever really heard of me, and I remember shaking hands with Alex and then going to the studio where I was interviewed by David Ike – and we all know what happened to him. Looking back, it was all very strange!
Would you rather be a multiple ranking tournament winner or a one-time world champion?
Undoubtedly world champion. It would be such a proud achievement and one that would always be with you. It opens doors and keeps you in the game, which is only right. Terry Griffiths is a good example of that.
Can you see Stephen Hendry’s record of seven titles ever being beaten?
No, but you can never say never. Who knows who will come along in the future, there might be someone out there we haven’t seen yet who goes on to become the greatest ever. Hendry, if he was in his prime now, would not win more than John Higgins has done, because the standard is so much higher and, back then, because there were so few tournaments.
What would be your all-time dream final of previous champions?
If Ronnie O’Sullivan and Stephen Hendry were both on their top form, then that would be something to see, wouldn’t it.
And who would win?
It’s impossible to tell, but it would go to the last frame.
Keep an eye out for more World Championship Q&As with our other Living Snooker bloggers during the Crucible fortnight.
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