Now and again I get sent and given the odd freebie by people in the snooker world and one such item landed on the doormat of Snookerbacker Towers last Saturday, namely the newly published ‘Legends Uncovered – The Story of the Snooker Legends Tour’ by the man behind this nostalgic snooker roadshow, it’s creator Jason Francis.
I should get this out of the way first, I know Jason and communicate with him regularly and I’ve met him a few times both at his event and at my own, we’ve even spoken about working together in the future so I might be forgiven for making this review a flowery, sugary, arse-licking and totally fabricated load of old cobblers. But the good thing is that Jason knows that’s just not in my character so I’ll tell you what I thought of the book and leave it up to you if you want to buy it. No flowers, no sugar and definitely no licking of backsides.
The Legends events have grown in both number and status over the past three or four years and there can’t be many snooker fans who haven’t heard of them and with that, this usually means they’ll have an opinion on them. My own is that it isn’t aimed at people like me who enjoy watching hardened highly competitive long format match snooker and don’t care too much for quickfire shootout style, entertainment led tomfoolery. But there are those, lots of them in fact, that love going to the Legends events to watch and meet players both from the golden era of snooker like Cliff, Dennis, Jimmy, JP, Nugget and the like, to more recent players of legendary status like Hendry, Ken and Ronnie. Not forgetting the lovely and always gracious Michaela.
When I received the book I was a bit worried that it might simply be a commentary on the various events that have taken place on the Legends Tour, talking us through the frames as they happened and frankly making it hard for me to pick up, never mind put down. But I needn’t have feared, for what the book delivers is a very personal account of Jason’s dealings with players and those involved at the very top of the game and some typically forthright views about them. There are also some great snippits and recollections of encounters with some very familiar names that have until now, remained locked in Jason’s memory. Not least his dealings with a certain Mr Alex Higgins, which makes hilarious reading and provides further evidence, if it were needed, that Alex remained an absolute nightmare to deal with and a total barnpot right to the end.
He also has a lot to say about Barry Hearn and it is clear that he admires his skills as a promoter hugely, though he isn’t quite so generous with compliments towards some of those around him. In fact it does come across that Jason, like the rest of the snooker world, is a little bit scared of the Great Dictator, not least because when they first met in Bazza’s office, he’d just finished giving Pat Mooney the hairdryer treatment in full earshot of the next pupil in line for the cane, Mr Francis.
He discusses his relationships with all the players on the Legends tour. Jimmy is a constant throughout the book and is clearly someone that Jason is very close to. The book reveals some private sides to Ronnie, Hendry and Jimmy that are not immediately obvious to the wider general public, the common trait being that each of them seem to go out of their way at times to help Jason; he even refers to Ronnie at one point in the book as being ‘stupidly generous’.
There is insight into his business dealings and the chapter about Ronnie’s announcement that he was coming back after a year off offers insight from behind the scenes of the Rocket bandwagon. Another chapter I found very entertaining and interesting was all the hoo-haa that surrounded Jimmy White’s testimonial event at the Dorchester in London, which involves amongst other things, confirmation, if this were really needed, that Mick Hucknall from Simply Red is a complete bellend, as well as brown envelopes stuffed with cash for those who had offered services for free. You get the distinct feeling that this event took it’s toll on both Jason and Jimmy and opened their eyes to the motives of some so-called ‘friends’.
Later in the book Jason also reveals projects that have for one reason or another, never quite got off the ground as well as one that sunk before leaving harbour. These include a tour to rival World Snooker and a documentary with a certain player who refused to take a lie-detector test at the end of it for reasons best known to himself. What’s clear is that one thing Jason isn’t short on is ideas.
Altogether, I found it a good read and I actually finished it in two sittings. My one criticism of it, ironically for me, is that there is a bit too much unnecessary swearing in it. Indeed the very first quote from Mr Hearn himself is enough to make any easily shocked readers think twice about reading on. Given that when I went to the Legends there were quite a few older generation ladies in the audience, I’m not sure it’s pitched quite at their level, it’s more Mills and Fucking Boon than Catherine Cookson. But it’s written very much from a personal point of view and Jason does at times, appear to have his patience stretched to breaking point by the actions of others, not least some of his Legends themselves. Fuck ’em.
There is plenty to keep the snooker fan entertained but I’d say it’s not really a snooker book, definitely not compared to Steve Davis’s recent autobiography which at times reads like the complete, unedited works of Snooker Scene. It’s more a personal journey on Jason’s part and an account of the people he has met along the way. He only admits to being starstruck when meeting Steven Gerrard, but my guess is he’s probably been quite starstruck a number of times given the status of some of the players he now calls friends.
There have been those who have decided, for whatever reason, to give Jason a very tough time of late, to the point where his business has suffered, this has been done mostly behind the cowardly disguise of the internet which has allowed those who choose to behave like a schoolyard bully to do exactly that. He deals with this side of things at the end of the book and if it tells us anything, it tells us that hurling insults across the internet can have some very serious consequences, both for the victim and in time, for the perpetrators. The whole thing makes me question whether the internet is actually something that has made life better or worse to be honest.
One thing is for certain, love him or loathe him, you can’t fail to have an opinion on Jason and his Legends product and as many marketing text books will tell you, it’s better having a bad opinion of something than no opinion at all.
You can get a copy of the book at one of the Legends shows or you can order one for £15 plus p&p (£4) from firstname.lastname@example.org