So it wasn’t to be three in a row at the weekend in the Lisbon Open for me. I was really looking forward to playing out there, too, our first World Snooker promoted professional event in Portugal and I wanted to do well. Playing Craig Steadman I knew I’d have it tough as he’s a very good player and well respected on tour. He’s also a very good mate of mine and that always adds a touch of difficulty to any match.
As it happened I was actually quite pleased with most parts of my game, I just couldn’t play safe. For some reason, every time I tried to defend I played a bad shot and would leave an easy chance for Craig and at professional level you just can’t do that. So I lost 1-4. Not what I wanted but to be expected when you play like that.
It was a big weekend for snooker. Not only was it the first event we’ve had there but also the first time that World Snooker trialled something I’ve been banging on about to reduce 'kicks'. I know I’ve gone on about it for ages, believe me I do, but I’m so passionate about removing it from snooker that I just can’t leave it. If you watch any snooker pre the early 1990s you won't see a single 'kick', and that’s what I want to get us back to. Over a year ago I promised to fix it and I meant it.
Now, it is important to say that there are two problems here. The 'kick' and a 'bad contact'. Firstly, they’re not the same and as far as I’ve been able to work out the 'bad contact' has always been in snooker. Caused by anything that is between the two balls at contact like dust, table debris, chalk, and/or a bad strike by the player. The 'kick', where balls jump, and alter course sometimes missing their intended target, is a newish problem in snooker caused by multiple changes that have occurred in the game since the early 1990s. This is a chemical reaction and is fixable.
The trial used was a ball-cleaning product that is made by the ball-makers themselves and, as it says on their packaging, recommended to be used after every game to maintain the balls playability. They better than anyone understand how all the elements involved in a game of snooker affect their product and have produced this ball cleaner to combat them. It doesn’t stop 'kicks' 100 per cent but it does dramatically reduce them if used properly and often enough.
In Portugal, the balls were cleaned with this product before every game and I’m pretty sure that in general there were less kicks than in any other event, which shows we’re on the right track. What needs to happen now is the process needs to be refined so that we get an even polish on every ball so that they play as consistently as possible.
This won’t happen overnight and will require more “in play” testing. Hopefully the majority of players will agree that this is important enough to try and we’ll end up with a good system in place and snooker can return to what it used to be - a skilful game won and lost on a players ability and performance on any given day.
As for me, it's back on the table, I’ve got the German Masters last-128 and, hopefully, last-64 matches to play this week on Wednesday in Wigan - and Friday if I get through. Then it's Christmas time which means the old cue will be going away until after the Christmas fun but I’ll be back on the match table at the Championship Snooker League in Crondon, Essex, from January 5 preparing for the Masters, which starts on January 11.
Let me take this opportunity to thank you all for your support this year. It’s been a good year for me winning four events and making three 147s too. Hopefully 2015 will be as good or better. Also, I’d like to thank my team all of whom do a lot for me, some of it seen, some not but all equally important Brandon Parker, Chris Henry, Tony Rushmer and Rich Page...I wouldn’t be doing any of this without your help, Thank you.
From everyone I work with, on and off the table, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year to you all.
All the best,