Hi Everyone, Well it’s that time of year again when I like to have a look back at the past 12 months and have a little wander down memory lane
(long memories are not required) and have a look at some of the highs and lows of 2015.From the outset I have to say that the highs of 2015 vastly outweigh
the lows and it’ll take a big push in the coming years to top what’s been the best year of my snooker life.
This time last year I was really ill over Christmas but was looking forward to going back to the Ally Pally in London for The Masters. Of course you always
go to these events hoping that you’ll do well, you always prepare as best you can and give 100 per cent at all times but if you haven’t won those types
of events before it’s very difficult to believe it’s really going to happen. I played some good stuff from the start but very nearly lost in the first
round to Mark Selby, scraping through 6-5, having led 5-1. After, I went home for a few days and worked on a few things with Chris, we returned to
London for what we hoped would be a successful weekend. My mum attended the quarter final, which also happened to be her birthday and the first professional
match of mine that she had ever been to. Normally she would be at home watching from behind the sofa screaming at the tv and disagreeing with the commentary
team, but a birthday trip to the capital was too hard to turn down. The original plan was for her to come down on the Friday, watch the game and then
go home on the Saturday. But when I asked her if she wanted to stay or go she said “I think I’ll stay,” and so Team Murphy increased by one. By the
Sunday we were in the final and preparing to play Neil again. We’d played in the final there a few years ago and I’d not really featured in that game
so I was determined to do better this time around. I certainly didn’t expect to play as well as I did and was overjoyed with the result. Winning The
Masters and completing the Triple Crown relieved so much pressure on me, I could actually feel it draining away in the days that followed.
After The Masters win I was keen to keep my good run going and strike whilst the iron was hot. I kept up my practice and went to the German Masters in
Berlin on the crest of a wave. It’s amazing how winning one of the majors can change your entire mind-set going into tournaments and matches. Now,
instead of going to a tournament hoping to play well, I was now going knowing that I was going to play well and expecting to win. I’d read over the
years of sportsmen and women talking about their levels of self-expectation rising after great performances and finally, I understood what they’d meant.
In Berlin, suddenly I was being introduced as a Triple Crown winner instead of a former World and UK Champion. It sounds like I’m splitting hairs but
the difference that winning in London had made to my life was starting to sink in. I played well all week, feeling very happy in a great city that
I love and playing in front of the great snooker fans of Germany and all those things rolled into one helped me into the final against Mark Selby.
It was another cracking match where we both played well but my little run came to an end. But what a few weeks I’d had. As Dave Hendon of Eurosport
said after the final, snooker really was the winner that night.
Once that was over, it was now all about the World Championship. I still had lots of events to play of course, but I saw them all as opportunities to test
out some different things before Sheffield. All in all I played quite well between January and April and arrived at the Crucible expecting to play
very well. Now we all know that in the end I came three frames short of winning my second World title in losing to an inspired Stuart Bingham, but
those 17 days at the mecca of snooker will live long in the memory. We had so many laughs, so many great moments, lots of banter, and met so many people
who just wanted to wish me well along the way that although eventually I lost, it really did feel like we’d all won. It’s hard now looking back to
go through all the frames and breaks that happened that fortnight but in my honest (and probably slightly biased) opinion it was the best World Snooker
Championship ever. I thought the overall standard throughout the tournament was unbelievable. The sportsmanship on show was great to see and the nature
that all the matches were played in showed what a great sport snooker is. It was an honour to be part of it and I’ll never forget it.
Now that doesn’t mean to say that I wasn’t disappointed in the days and weeks that followed – of course I was. In fact, I found leaving the house in the
immediate few days after the final quite difficult. It wasn’t the end of the world or anything but for snooker players, losing that match is about
as hard as it gets. On the day after the final, and having moved to Nottingham, Elaine and I were driving home but knew we had nothing in the house.
So en route home, via a town called Bingham – (yes Bingham can you believe it?!) – the last name I wanted to see, we called into our village shop to
get some essentials. I went into the shop and filled up the basket and all was going well until I got to the till. The lady in front of me looked up
from packing her shopping bags beaming from ear to ear. “Well done” she exclaimed, bringing the shop to a standstill. “We were up all night watching
you win it! Congratulations!!” A few uncomfortable seconds passed before her look of glee turned to horror and she said “ oh…………..actually
I can’t believe what I’ve said, you lost didn’t you?”
I nodded embarrassingly and told her not to worry about it, trying to calm her down. Everyone in the shop, including myself found it quite funny and it
was a stark reminder that no matter what happens in our little snooker bubble, the world will keep spinning and go on. One things for certain though,
I should’ve bought the extra large Toblerone, as the one I bought didn’t last five mins when we finally got home!
So that was the end of the season and with that came the annual World Snooker awards in London, and a family holiday to the States after which I flew straight
to Melbourne for the Australian Open and the 2015 /16 season opener. To be honest looking back, it was probably a step too far and going forward I
think all the snooker players will become a lot more picky about which events they play in and how they structure their own seasons, trying to peak
around the majors. It’s ok to say “play in everything” but in reality that doesn’t work anymore. The calendar is full and we’d have it no other way,
but now the novelty of a full calendar has worn off, I think you’ll see the top 4 or 8 being a lot more selective.
I touched on it earlier, but as many of you will know now, we moved from Manchester in 2015 too. It took us a while to settle in Nottinghamshire as it
was new to us both and aside from a few snooker players, we didn’t know anyone. For a few months with nowhere specific to practice I floated around,
practising at events, and in between going to play some local players including professional Michael Holt. I must now thank Michael for hosting me
at his practice base and although I spent most of the time picking balls out for him, having somewhere to play really helped. Thanks Michael. We were
renting a house as we weren’t sure where in Notts we’d end up and for a while I rented an office near our house and had my table installed there so
I could practice. It was quite funny viewing the place with the local estate agent as I’m sure they thought I was mad talking about having a snooker
table and TV style lights installed in this nicely converted office. They were trying to tell me about the great internet connection offered to business
users and how the natural light flooded the room brilliantly in the mornings. When I said I wanted to have a blind company come and measure up for
black out blinds I think they very nearly called for the men in white coats, but as many of you saw when I started my YouTube channel, the room worked
perfectly and was a great place to practice and get back to normal working hours. In October we finally bought a house and I now have the table at
home. Having the table there has changed my snooker life forever. 24 hours a day, seven days a week there’s a table there for me to go and work on
my game, and there’s plenty to work on I can tell you. My game started to come back nicely too around autumn with all the hours of practice starting
to kick back in and although there were a few hiccups along the way, like The Champion of Champions, I arrived in York for the UK Championship feeling
really good. Everything was going well until I ran into Marco Fu in top form. Sometimes you know, it doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked, how well
prepared you are, sometimes you just get beaten on the day, and that match against Marco was one of those. I just want to pause here for a second and
mention Marco in a bit more detail. Marco is one of our sports truly nice guys and if Joe Perry ever ditches the nickname of The Gentleman, then Marco
should be given it for life. Also, aside from being a top bloke, he’s also one of the hardest working sportspeople I’ve ever seen. I hope that he doesn’t
mind me saying that recent years maybe haven’t been his best in terms of silverware but at no stage has he allowed that to dent his determination or
dedication to his craft and when many would’ve walked away from the practice table, Marco has done the opposite, piling in the hours and hours of hard
work that actually make all the difference. Along the way there have been glimmers of that hard work coming through and after he beat me in York I
said to those close to me that he’d win soon. He didn’t win in York, but he did win the week after in Gibraltar. Any young players out there reading
this, remember this, the most important time of your whole careers are those hours on your own with your coach / parent practicing. Everyone gives
their best when playing in a match. But not everyone gives their all on the practice table, and it’s there where it counts. It’s very easy to pick
out the hardest workers in any given sport. They’re usually the ones stood at the end with the trophy posing for photos with big smiles on their faces,
and they fully deserve it. Whilst most other players are talking about practising, talking about turning over a new leaf, talking about the changes
they’re going to make, the winners are just getting on with it quietly. They don’t need to be told to go and practice. They have to be told to stop
and leave it alone. That dedication to achieving their goals at the expense of all else, is something I believe you can’t teach. Everything else, and
I mean everything can be taught. But that hunger, that desire to keep going, keep practising, is what separates the winners from everyone else.
And that’s us pretty much up to date. It was great to finish off 2015 by qualifying for the German Masters and in fact the two matches I played in Wigan
before Christmas were two of my best all season. It was especially pleasing to finish off my final match of the year with a century break and make
another £100 for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital Charity. I can’t wait to get back to Berlin again and try and go one better than last year.
Hopefully it won’t be as cold there this time around as it was last year but I’ll take my winter thermals just in case. Obviously before that, it’s
The Masters back at Alexandra Palace in London, and to say I’m looking forward to it would be an understatement, so we’ll just leave it unsaid.
As many of you will have read, I'm also now a very proud patron of the R.E.A.L Foundation Trust and proudly wear their logo in all my matches. It's a great
honour to be part of the work they're doing and I hope that I can be involved for many years to come.
I’d like to finish 2015 by saying a big thank you to everyone involved on my team. Each and every person brings something special to the mix and helps
me concentrate on trying to put some balls in pockets every now and again.
Tony Rushmer: Thanks for all your hard work behind the scenes, late night calls and golf banter. As well as sound advice and friendship.
Chris Henry: Thanks for all the hours listening to me moan, argue and debate the finer points of snooker and then agreeing to do it your way anyway.
Brandon Parker: Thanks for being my best mate, advisor, sounding board and everything else rolled into one.
Richard Page: Thanks for all your work on this website and patience walking me through all the technical stuff.
John Parris: Thanks for all your support and letting me use the best cue on the planet.
As with any team, and that’s what we are, there are too many people involved to list by name, but you all know who you are and once again thank you.
This coming year, I’ll continue to be there on Twitter, Facebook, and also my YouTube channel, and I’ll be doing my best to answer as many of your
questions as possible.
May I take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you out there on Planet Snooker a very Happy New Year. I hope that 2016 knocks the socks
off 2015 for you and your families and I look forward to meeting many of you on our shared journey of this great game of ours.