It’s that time of year again. This is it, the finale to the season, the one it’s all about, The Betfred World Championship.
I can’t believe how fast the last 12 months have gone. It’s been a whirlwind of tournaments, travelling, hotels, airports and snooker matches, ups and downs, wins and losses, all leading back to the Crucible Theatre for our showcase event. Pretty much as soon as the Masters finishes every player has at least one eye on the Worlds, and now that it’s here I can’t wait to play.
Thursday was the official draw for the last 32 and there are some great matches in prospect. Ronnie against my good mate Craig Steadman will be a good one to watch as all Ronnie’s games usually are. But the first match of the whole event on Saturday could be a cracker. Mark Selby against Kurt Maflin could literally go either way. I know Mark will be heavy favourite and rightly so and if anyone could break the infamous crucible curse, it would be Mark. but Kurt is a fantastic player. I should know, he beat me 4-5 in the China open just under two weeks ago. We all played together as juniors and Kurt was as good as any of us. If he can get over the whole Crucible debut thing then sparks could fly. A great match to start what i think will be the best World Championship ever.
As for my own first round match, I’ve drawn Robin Hull. I have a lot of respect for Robin and admiration too as I think he has had some tough times away from snooker with his health in recent years and to have come through that and to now be playing probably the best snooker of his life will make him a real handful. All I can do as usual is prepare properly and give every shot 100 per cent. Once you’re out there playing, you’re no longer in control of whether you win or lose. The only thing you are in control of is choosing which shot to play and then making the best effort every time. All you can hope for is that you reach 10 frames before the other man.
After the draw took place at the Hallamshire Golf Club in Sheffield, we then took part in the Paul Hunter Golf Day. It’s always great to get together with the guys and remember Paul, swap stories and memories and then get out there and play some golf. Some of it good and some not so. My team finished fourth overall even with having to put up with some of my more wayward aka rusty shots as I haven’t actually played golf for nearly ten months. Too much snooker, it’s really interfering with my golf practice you know!!
Straight after the Golf Day, Barry Hearn, Steve Davis and myself took part in Snooker Heaven on BBC Radio Sheffield. For anyone that didn’t hear it, the show was a full hour of snooker chat and questions from a live audience in one of the lecture theatres at Sheffield University. There were some great questions from listeners and some of the audience themselves and it really feels like there is a bigger buzz for this year's championship than in previous years. Some of the answers weren’t too bad either with Barry saying that he always listens to public and player opinions on things and then does what he wants anyway. Honestly you couldn’t write it! We talked a bit about the 1985 World Final as this year marks the 30th anniversary of Dennis’ famous post-midnight win. Steve asked me what my memories of the night were, of course I was only two in 1985 and so it’s difficult to say but I think I dropped my rusk into my milk when he missed that black.
Anyway that’s enough from me. I’m spending the next few days locked away practising and fine tuning my game for Wednesday afternoon. I think I’m right in saying that my match is the last first-round game to get underway. I don’t think that’s ever happened to me before so I guess we’ll see what happens. It’s always nice to play early at Sheffield, win your match and then watch the others sweat it out. But by the time I play, most of the last 16 will be decided and maybe might have even started their games. Of course, none of this really matters. It’s more of a mindset thing really. You’ve still got to win ten frames before the other guy so as long as you remember that and just get on with it, you should be ok.
This really is the most special time of the year for all people connected with snooker and as a player but a fan first, I can’t wait for it. Watch out this year for more centuries than ever, great attacking and defensive shots and maybe a maximum or two. Yeah that’s right guys, I think there could be two 147s this year. Don’t be surprised if it happens and remember you heard it here first.
No matter who you’re supporting along the way, I hope you have a great time watching this year's championship and if you’re in town to watch the snooker and see me then please come and say hi.
All the best