Sunday saw the annual Christmas themed Snookerbacker Classic qualifying heat and this year it was Gloucester that was (un)fortunate enough to have the festivities bestowed upon them in the form of Christmas jumpers, mince pies, tinsel, decorations and all round gayness as well as presents for every player from SB’s Festive Sack.
We’d arrived at the SWSA the previous evening and as Mrs SB watched Strictly whilst glugging fizz I was greeted at the venue by none other than that famous snooker stalker Craig Scotford aka The Wizard of Glos; a twat and Managing Director of the most careless tour company in the planet’s history. We had our usual knock around on the Star Tables, him having once again booked it much later than I’d told him to and eventually avenging his 5-2 drubbing that I gave him last time with a 5-4 deciding black victory after I smashed the pack for him for two frames to let him make a game of it. I’m still miles better than him but hardly play these days, next time I’ll murder him as I’m going to practice.
Anyway, myself and Mrs SB arrived on Sunday in Christmassy mood having put on our festive jumpers. Mrs SB sporting a number we had found just days before on the vintage rail of a local charity shop. She had decided that it had been hand stitched lovingly by an old lady who had taken years to do it in the hope that one day someone full of the joys of Christmas (e.g Mrs SB) would wear it, by the time I asked if she was sure it wasn’t done in an hour in a sweatshop in the Far East for slave wages she had already convinced herself that she was the manifestation of this old dear’s dying Christmas wish, I wasn’t about to ruin her day, it was far too early for that and I needed her smile to once again light up the room.
Once the players had taken in what awaited them at the Tournament Desk/Grotto it was time to get started. Hannah Jones and family were again in attendance despite previous warnings and we’d brought along a present for her little sister Ellie; a teddy bear which she (well OK, I) named SB, short of course for Snooker Bear and in no way meant as a self-indulgent reference to this website. She seemed to like the name anyway and took an instant liking to the stuffed piece of fabric.
The first round by now was underway and the highlight or perhaps lowlight of the first set of matches came as September finalist Matthew Day broke down on 97 on a maximum, he came in and was clearly gutted describing it as a great chance, his mood didn’t improve when I sympathized with the words ‘Oh well, it’s only a grand’ as he said he hadn’t realised that this was the prize on offer for this feat…..why do only fools and horses work?
Callum Lloyd who started the day in second place on the Order of Merit list only managed to win 3 frames to add to his tally and was beaten by Paul Parkin, one of two brothers playing in this event, his brother John putting paid to another big contender on the Order of Merit list Joe Steele 4-0 in the first round. There were other notable victories for Anthony Harris over Zak Surety and Syd Wilson who won a decider against Chris Keogan.
By now the day was in full swing and Reanne Evans’ daughter Lauren (aka Lollipop) also had her teddy from the Festive Sack. She decided to call it Bo/Beau/Boo/….whatever kid. I teased her it’s real name was ‘Bobs’ in a frankly desperate attempt to get her to rearrange the letters and change a few when she got tired and change it to Snookerbacker.com but she wasn’t having any of it. Lauren was to keep us entertained all day as Reanne progressed to the latter stages, at one point turning into the Tournament Director and in fairness, putting this particular novice to shame with her level of detailed analysis.
It was a really busy day at the Academy and the atmosphere at the venue was as relaxed as I can remember it ever being, everyone seemed in good spirits and a game of ‘Guess what the present is’ was a particular highlight as Zack Richardson and his girlfriend, Phil ‘I don’t like raisins’ O’Kane, Billy Brown and Ricky Norris struggled collectively to come up with the name of an iconic piece of confectionery, in the end prompted by a frustrated tournament director to finally arrive at the conclusion (it’s got a walnut on it, it’s whipped and it’s covered in brown stuff…….it’s not, I repeat NOT a Chocolate Cone Thing).
Despite a fairly long match in Round 1 involving Gary Miller and Jordan Church which didn’t finish until late afternoon and during the course of which I heard a disturbing fact about Bing Crosby which 30 or so years ago might have ruined my Christmas, we were more or less on schedule by 6pm, well, at least the top half was. At this point however I must thank Jordan for leaving a pint and a pie ordered for me behind the bar, he’s a cracking lad and next time he enters he’ll draw Craig Scotford first round, it’s nailed on, seriously get on it, I take bribes for easy draws.
Reanne and Syd had battled out a great match with Reanne coming through 4-3 having surrendered a 3-0 lead. Syd had done enough to go well clear on the Order of Merit with 39 frames and a lead of 8 over Callum Lloyd and 14 over Joe Steele. Syd has entered all three remaining events so even if he fails to qualify as a winner he is surely a strong favourite to take his place at Grand Finals Day with the top two on the list progressing. Syd let slip that he really wants one of the qualifying prizes and I confirmed that both qualifiers on the list will receive one, he seemed happy enough with that. He remains on Mrs SB’s favourite list.
Reanne in the meantime battled hard but came a cropper against Gary Miller who qualified for the final to play John Parkin, who I will confess was someone I didn’t know at the start of the day but a look into his record shows that he’s very handy indeed and he’d dropped just two frames on the way to the qualifying final, which he’d waited for with his brother Paul along with Billy Brown, ‘Raisins’ O’Kane and Ricky Norris in the players lounge with great patience and also having a good laugh along the way.
Meanwhile, the final of the top half of the draw was coming to a conclusion. Zack Richardson and Adam Bobat fought out a close match. Referee Clive Brown had commented on how well Adam had been playing all day but a delighted Zack pipped him in the final and was the first player to progress to Grand Finals Day with a 4-2 win. Adam is clearly improving and is poised at 4th on the Order of Merit List with a chance to climb, it will be interesting to see how the list pans out with only three events remaining.
Zack, a first time SB Classic entrant was really pleased with his day’s work and is thoroughly looking forward to March 1st, he is another that will enter a wide-open field with very high hopes of going deep.
John Parkin’s patience paid off as he completed a whitewash of Gary Miller in the final of the bottom half. His brother Paul was very bullish about John’s chances on Grand Finals Day and on his showing yesterday he can go into March 1st full of confidence. He scored consistently heavy all day and just adds to the mix of a truly quality line-up with arguably the best amateurs in the country going hard at it for £6000 worth of prizes.
Myself and Mrs SB came back to Scousepool this morning and we talked and talked about what a nice day it was yesterday, maybe it was the Christmas spirit which flowed through the venue via her jumper or maybe it was just the really nice mix of people that were around yesterday? Either way, it was what the SB Classic is all about, first and foremost a top drawer snooker event and secondly a chance for people to come and watch and have a nice day.
Thirdly, a chance to ‘brand’ ‘teddy bears’ to youngsters. Oh yes.
Final mention must go to Rob Freeman, a regular reader and contributor to this tripe, who came along to take part in Ref School with Rolls Royce and ended up providing me with a blueprint for a Tournament Director Table Planner which I reckon a lot of TD’s will find very very useful/essential. He’s going to forward on the package to me when he’s met my totally unreasonable and prima-donna-ish demands to his satisfaction. Watch this space, the guy is a genius.
There are only 3 more events this season, the details of them are here and at time of writing there are only 3 places left in Leeds and just 7 left in Liverpool.
If you are feeling generous after reading this or feel like badgering someone to get you a Christmas present you really want, you could also click here.