February 28, 2010

The Crucible Qualifiers First Round Proper Match Preview with Head to Heads – Updated with Results

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 7:32 am

They want it so much it hurts. You need balls to get through the qualifiers.

Now that the old boys little knock-about between the paying members of the WPBSA is out of the way we can concentrate on the tournament proper with the good players (with a couple of notable exceptions) chalking their cues and donning their mothballed waistcoats for their own personal tilt at the title. This is where the real action starts and last minute holiday plans are arranged and re-arranged for April for the vast majority. Possibly even for all of the names below that start the long hard slog through to the Crucible from the very beginning. The first round proper, let alone beyond that must seem a long way away for a lot of them.

Below I have listed the matches which make up the first round proper and where the players have met before I have included the match head to heads. As ever I will distinguish between recommended match bets and predictions. Though I have had to break the short price rule in a couple of cases, simply because there is only one bookmaker pricing them up, I’d like to actually get a preview on here and I wrote this in advance.

James Wattana 1  v Lee Page 0

James had a warm up yesterday, a bit closer than I thought it would be but in truth he was never going to lose. As you may have read he is one that I think might have a run in this and there is nothing to suggest that serial loser Lee Page will get anywhere near him here. The Thai beat Page 9-4 in the UK in November and you’d expect a similarly comfortable win for him here. Page is what might be politely termed in golf as ‘a hacker’. Of the 23 matches I have logged for him stretching back to 2006 he has won just three (how is he still on the tour?), his highest tournament break is just 114. The wins came against the mighty David ‘Hulk’ Hogan in this year’s Welsh Open, and over 3 years ago against German Patrick Einsle and the legend that is Dermot McGlinchey. I think it is fair to say that a win over even a past his best Wattana would be a career high. Recommended – Wattana. RESULT WATTANA 10-6.

Matthew Selt v Thepchaiya Un Nooh

I have no strong opinion on this and it is quite an even match but I’d predict a close Selt victory. RESULT SELT 10-8.

Stephen Rowlings v Sam Baird

Sam Baird - Behind on his homework

Rowlings throws in the odd win here and there but young Sam will be mightily encouraged by his recent performance in the China Open. This included a cracking win over Ian McCulloch with centuries thrown in. Assuming that he will improve further, I’d expect Sam to come through this one and be home in time to finish his maths homework. Recommended – Baird. RESULT – Baird 10-6.

Lee Spick 1 v Joe Jogia 0

No strong opinion on this journeyman match up. Jogia should walk round with a timeform squiggle on his waistcoat as he is so inconsistent. But Spick has developed a nasty losing habit since a good run in last year’s world championship where he reached the last 64 before bowing out to the Nugget followed by a decent winning run in the subsequent Shanghai Masters. This one might be very close but I’d marginally favour Jogia. RESULT JOGIA 10-8.

Nappodol Sangil 0 v Michael White 1

There is no reason to suspect that the promising Welsh youngster White will struggle here. A 5-1 win over the same opponent in November should be enough for him to go into this with a bit of confidence. Sanghil is on a long losing streak and White is a kid on the up and has had a warm-up match to prepare him for this. Recommended – White. RESULT SANGHIL 10-9.

Bjorn Haneveer v Jordan Brown

As you’ll have read Belgian Bjorn is another that I think might just surprise a few this week, his odds scream ‘Take a Chance on Me’. I don’t see any way that he will lose this match but he has more difficult ones to follow, when he might finally face his Waterloo. His win over Matthew Stevens recently is probably the win of his career so far, a kind of super trouper moment for him, but that’s the name of the game. I see no reason why he can’t kick on from that and as with each of these games, the winner takes it all. Recommended – Haneveer RESULT HANEVEER – 10-9.

Bjorn should not need an SOS just yet

Patrick Wallace 1 v Mark Boyle 0

The last time these two met was a 9-0 whitewash in November to Wallace. Paddy is a capable player and has mixed with the best in the past. A whitewash is not something you forget and on that alone you have to say Wallace is a good thing here. This will be the match that decides who faces Jimmy White in the next round. Recommended – Wallace RESULT: BOYLE 10-7, he forgot the whitewash and now faces Jimmy.

Li Hang v David Hogan

Hang has been hanging with and beating better company than this. Hogan to me seems a little out of his depth in the professional ranks and I can’t see him turning it around here. Recommended – Hang. RESULT Hogan 10-9.

Xiao Guodong v Tony Drago

Probably the match of the first round proper. Drago is flying at the moment and his return to the professional game has been something of a revelation. He has lost just 3 of his 15 matches so far this season including his final frame defeat to Ryan Day in the Welsh Open. But Guodong is a consistent performer lower down the ranks and doesn’t turn in stinking performances. This could be close but you have to just favour Drago given that he is on the crest of a wave at the moment and will be looking to better his ranking for next season even more. On the one year list he is currently just outside the top 32. RESULT: DRAGO 10-9

Snooker Player and Adrian Chiles Lookalike, Chris 'The Strawberry' Norbury

Mei Xizen v Chris Norbury

This is a real bottom of the pile encounter, round our way these two would be politely termed ‘binmen’. I think I can safely say that neither of these two will be troubling Rob Walker’s MC skills in April, which will be a relief given the second name of one of them – he’d have trouble coming up with a rhyme for that one, I mean, what rhymes with Norbury? Strawberry perhaps? (Rob stares into the camera excitedly and bawls ‘They call him the Strawberry – it’s Chris Norbury’ to a delighted crowd, some of whom can be seen clearly saying to the person next to them, Who?). Expect a plethora of 20 and 30 breaks, nervy missed pots and loose safeties, this one may well finally see off the ricketty World Snooker scoreboard with all the whoosing and k-nicking it will produce. My advice, stay away. Impossible to call and not one to bet on. I’ve just tossed a coin, Norbury. RESULT: Xizen 10-4 – why was Norbury 1/3 for this by the way?

Craig Steadman 1 v Anda Zhang 0

A 5-2 win last August for Steadman who seems to be one who is improving slightly and finding his feet at this level. By all accounts he also performed quite well at the recent Pro-Challenge event in Liverpool. Zhang has a rather odd pattern when it comes to winning and losing he seems to win two then lose two and so it goes on. He has lost his last two so anyone that believes in sequences would have him as a certainty for this, but I’m going to go with the improving youngster Steadman to break the pattern. Recommended – Steadman. RESULT: ANDA 10-4, the shrewd sequence backers are on him next round!

Matthew Couch 2 v Brendan O’Donoghue 0

Nothing would suggest anything other than a Couch win here. He mixes in better circles than this and Brendan is a player that again is struggling at this level, with only a win over The Strawberry and after yesterday, veteran Nic Barrow under his belt as a pro. Recommended – Couch. RESULT: O’Donoghue 10-8.

Ben Woollaston 2 v Andrew Norman 0

The head to heads include a 5-0 whitewash in the February China Open Qualifying. Norman’s record is poor, make no mistake. Woollaston should win this very easily. Recommended – Woollaston. RESULT: WOOLLASTON 10-5.

Atthasit Mahhitti v Jimmy Robertson

Another potential drubbing on the cards here. Robertson mixes in superior circles to this and is provisionally a top 5player on the one year list. His Thai opponent and owner of the name with the most double letters in it that I can recall, is not a quality player. Robertson should book his place in the next round with ease and may be a dark horse in this and could well end up playing Jamie Cope at the end of things. Recommended – Robertson. RESULT: ROBERTSON  10-4.

Simon Bedford v Ian Preece

Despite an uncharacteristic decent run in the Welsh Open Preece is languishing in the doldrums at a provisional number 93. Bedford is no world beater either but he doesn’t seem to lose to players around his ranking as often as he beats them, he is just a tier up from Preece in my book and I’d tentatively have him winning this. RESULT: BEDFORD 10-4

One night in Bangkok - but nice of Dave to sign them for the nurses.

Daniel Wells v David Gray

Potentially another high quality encounter between the promising youngster Wells and the wasted talent that is David ‘White Pants’Gray. It’s difficult to know what will happen here, Gray is still capable of beating players way above him in the rankings while Daniel is learning his trade, but does need a couple of wins in this as he isn’t having a great season, despite a recent run in the Pro-Challenge, but this is where it counts. I expect this to be very close and is tough to call but I just think that perhaps Gray’s experience may tell in the end and leave the young Welshman disappointed. RESULT: GRAY 10-7

Having been frantically looking to get a bet on this morning it’s disappointing to find that only SportingBet have the courage to price most of these up. Snooker punters are really up against it at the moment. It’s really up to you what you want to do here but an accumulator at a shade over 9/2 consists of Robertson, Hang, Wallace, Haneever, Watanna and Wollaston. If you add Steadman it pays just over 9/1 and for the brave and foolish if you add young Sam Baird to this it pays around 15/1 (I have). Any combination of these should see you right unless you get too ambitious. For single only punters, the 5/6 on Steadman looks too good to miss as does the 8/15 on Robertson.

That’s it for the first lot. I’ll endeavour to put more previews and inane ramblings up as the next 10 days or so roll on.

February 27, 2010

Can the Clapped Outs Triumph?

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:16 am

...of the Clapped Out Club

Today sees the David v Goliath clashes when the four successful existing members of the clapped out club face the main tour pros currently languishing at the bottom of the rankings.

If we take a look at the four joining the action today we see that provisionally, Wattana, White and Brown all would expect to be much higher next year. In fact on the one-year ranking list Michael White is not far off being a top 50 player and Wattana is likely to be there or thereabouts too if he keeps up his recent form. I’d be very surprised if either of them struggled today against mediocre opposition.

Paul Wykes is probably the more dangerous of the two opponents but it still should be nothing more than a decent practice session for Wattana and White could well give Singh a real hiding. It could actually play to their advantage having this game under their belts before stiffer challenges begin. If there is anything like a price on this double it’s probably like buying money.

Del Smith is a trier bless him, but shouldn’t trouble Jordan Brown, although there is a slight possibility of this being a little bit closer than the two matches above.

This leaves the one match that could potentially result in one of the clapped out brigade marching on to the tournament proper which begins tomorrow. Our man Nic ‘It’s Good to Talk’ Barrow only lost one frame yesterday and as mentioned in the piece below he is taking this event quite seriously.

Now Milton Keynes based Nic is a bit of a philosopher. In fact once he gets started it’s very hard to shut him up. If he’s not talking about monks or yogis he’ll always find something else to say. This was what he said when asked about his performance yesterday, most would have said ‘I played ok’ but not our Nic, oh no, given the chance, he will always throw in a bit of philosophy:

“That was a six and a half out of ten. I’m enjoying being back in the game, it’s been 11 years. I’m enjoying playing my natural game before I was very mechanical and much slower. There’s much more fluidity to my game”.

“Coaching has made me realise there is no perfection, I play the game because I enjoy it now I don’t play it just to get the result. Physically the act of playing snooker is what drew me to the game in the first place and that’s what I’ve re-discovered”.

The Nic Barrow Fan Club making their way to Sheffield earlier this morning

He’s a bit like snooker’s very own Plato is Nic. He can be seen regularly spouting away happily to the concrete cows in his hometown. They never tire of his words of wisdom.

But can he fly the flag for the clapped outs? After all he only hit a high break of 67 yesterday against poor opposition. Well I’d argue that he has a chance. Brendan O’Donoghue is the weakest of these four and Nic is the strongest of the winners yesterday. This could be a close match and I’d be tempted to have a purely speculative punt on our man Nic to book his place in with the big boys if any of the bookies price it up. He’ll need to play better than yesterday but I’m sure he’s been meditating all night to prepare so mentally he’ll be in the right place.

Skybet confirmed on here yesterday that they won’t be pricing these but will have the other matches up from tomorrow, when hopefully the other bookmakers will also get involved. The best chance of a price today remains Sportingbet.

10am and 4pm  (Best of 19)

James Wattana v Paul Wykes

Michael White v David Singh

Jordan Brown v Del Smith

Brendan O’Donoghue v Nic Barrow

As soon as any of the firms start pricing up the matches tomorrow and Monday I will post up a comprehensive preview which covers every match and includes several recommended bets.

February 26, 2010

The Clapped Out Club Part Deux

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:18 pm

Doddy has arranged for Michaela to meet the Diddymen on a trip to the Jam Butty Mines of Knotty Ash.

After all the excitement of the early matches, this afternoon sees a new crop of the wounded and infirm take to the baize to see who can join the four successful chaps from this morning for tonight’s gripping finale.

Apparently after seeing the impressive girth and form of 5-0 winner Les Dodd this morning, match referee Michaela Tabb decided to up sticks, leave her husband and head off to sunny Southport with the Merseyside Funnyman, she is particularly looking forward to meeting his equally witty brother, Ken, at the forthcoming engagement party. I hope they’ll both be very happy.

Poor old Ali Bassiri continued his miserable run of defeats becoming the first casualty of the event, I’m sure John Higgins will be mightily relieved that one of the ‘faces’ was sent packing so early. But there’s always next year for another tilt at the title for Ali B whose day must surely come. Anyway, it’s a bit unfair that he had to play someone who can hit 80 breaks, they know he’s a slow starter, what chance did he have? We also had to wave a tearful premature goodbye to the Silver Fox who can now concentrate his efforts on getting the beds made for when Norman Cook and the rest of the band visit to breed later in the year.

So what are we to make of this motley crew this afternoon? It seems that information on this lot is even harder to come by than this morning. Del Smith is an annual visitor to this event and usually holds his own. Last year, Ormerod hammered Flight, Smith hammered Ormerod and Seaton beat Cavney.

Old Slow Coach Barry West and Bill Oliver are newcomers to this and it’s difficult to fathom their reasons for entering, unlike Nic Barrow who appears to be taking this quite seriously. A former coach to none other than Ronnie himself, the 39 year old former pro clearly feels he has a point to prove here. He is quoted at World Snooker as saying:

Heaven knows he was miserable then. Nic Barrow spent much of his youth listening to The Smiths

“The only reason I used to play was to be World Champion and World No 1, I lost a lot, including having a family and close relationships, by keeping my nose too close to the ground and trying too hard to achieve those goals. I was pulled like a windsock by those goals and I was always comparing myself to other players on the ranking list. I didn’t breathe the joy of life, in fact I was quite miserable”.
Blimey, he’s quite deep for a snooker player.
“This time, I made a pact with myself that I won’t be obsessively devoted to the future vision. I love the experience of playing snooker so I just want to enjoy that and play in the moment, in the way that monks enjoy meditation or yogis enjoy their yogi moves.  I have been practising and I feel so good at the table. I realised that I’ve been telling other people how to play snooker for the last ten years, so maybe I should try a taste of my own medicine!  I’m just going there for a game of snooker. I don’t want to be dominated by targets”.
Nic is clearly smarter than the average bear.
“Of course the objective is to win, but that is not the reason for playing. If the only thing I get out of entering is to lose the two stone I have shed to get back into my waistcoat, then it will be worth it – so overall I have already achieved my objective.”
While he protests that he failed because he put too much pressure on himself. He is clearly still taking this a bit more seriously than some of the others, has he really learnt his lesson? And he could have just bought a new waistcoat and stayed fat – he needs to speak to Doddy, he’s fat and happy.

The 2.30pm starts are:

Barry ‘Morpheine’ West v Christopher Flight

Del ‘boy’ Smith v Phil Seaton

Bill Oliver v Nic ‘The Wheel’ Barrow

Stephen Ormerod v Paul Cavney  


In terms of a bet you’d have to take a look at the price they offer on Barrow and Smith. Flight is another serial loser but without knowing anything about Barry West’s form it’s a risky one. Given the unsuccessful punt this morning I won’t be having another bet on these as it’s largely guesswork and there are plenty of more solid opportunities from Sunday onwards. The preview for all the first 16 matches proper will be up when this part of the tournament is at an end. 

I’m otherwise engaged tonight so won’t be able to preview the tense finals, but tomorrow the lucky four will be pitched against James Wattana, Jordan Brown, Michael White and Brendan O’Donoghue. Will any of them overturn a main tour pro?

February 25, 2010

Odds Up for the Clapped Out Club

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 2:57 pm

Ok, I suppose the headline is a bit mean but I had to think of something to grab your attention. It’s once again time for the ‘members only’ section of the WPBSA to have their little competition to see who can possibly go on to wreck a young pro’s career in Round 1.

Meo - Twitch it baby one more time?

Wouldn’t it be a much more interesting event if it included honorary members? By virtue of winning the World Championship you are given lifetime membership and allowed to have a go? I’d be much more interested in this part if Ray Reardon, Terry Griffiths, Cliff Thorburn and the gang were playing too. In fact, let’s open it up to just general characters, Willie? Dennis? Kirk Stevens? Finger-twitching Tony Meo? Quinten Hann? OK, maybe not the last one, but this could then be an event in itself with the four successful winners having another crack at the big one. Come on Barry, that’s an idea for free.

Anyway, Sportingbet have priced up the morning matches tomorrow:

Les ‘Fatboy Slim’ Dodd v Philip Minchin

Paul Wykes v David ‘The Silver Fox’ Taylor

David Singh v Colin Mitchell

Ali Bassiri v Neil Selman

The Housemartins have a lot of fun at Dave's gaff

To say we have precious little to go on is rather an understatement, we haven’t had this little to go on since a burglar robbed the toilet. Previous results involving this lot give little clues, though Bassiri seems to lose every year, though usually to the absent and much missed golden boy/man Tony Knowles. Mitchell has beaten Singh before. Doddy appears just to go along for a laugh with his old pals and the most I’ve managed to gleen about the comeback king the Silver Fox is that he doesn’t practice very much and that he runs a guest house with his wife Janice which according to the write up looks a bit like a knocking-shop for housemartins:

Ash Farm is a listed National Trust Building along with the barns alongside the main house. House Martins are a protected species and have been visiting Ash Farm to breed during the summer months for at least the 20 years’ that David and Janice have been the proud occupiers and managers of this perfectly charming bed and breakfast.

But, call me foolish, call me brave I am going to recommend a bet just for the sake of it.

I’ll take a double on Mitchell and Selman which pays just on 8/11.

The matches should be covered in real-time on the ultra-reliable World Snooker scoreboard, so long as the hit rate doesn’t reach double figures. The latest news is that disappointingly, the main qualifying events will not be covered through live streaming. Which is a real shame as 110 Sport did cover a few events earlier in the year. Obviously, negotiations to make this permanent have broken down. A big disappointment in an event this big that would generate a lot of interest at I presume a pretty paltry cost to the broadcaster.

February 24, 2010

The 'To Qualify' Crucible Market – At last a chance to punt! FURTHER UPDATE 27/2/10

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 1:57 pm

All eyes are on this prize

The wait is finally over and a frantic week and a half of action kicks off what promises to be a busy couple of months in the snooker markets.

I hope the recent episode involving Stephen Lee doesn’t put the bookies off giving us some good markets for the qualifiers that start on Friday, the China Open and the big one in Sheffield. Hats off to thorpy at SkyBet for once again compiling the ‘to qualify for the Crucible market’ to give us poor snooker punters a chance to do our dough.

I’m going to risk jeopardising the percentages further down the post with three that I think have a definite chance of making the Crucible at attractive odds. As you know, despite the temptation to rack up the success rate prior to Sheffield I won’t be recommending anything at largely unbackable prices, that’s not the point of this blog so I’ll leave those tips to the subscription only chaps.

The first place to have a real look is the final column of the seeds 17-32, to see who are the most at risk of being beaten by a lower or much lower ranked player in their slot of the draw. To me the lowest risk players in this section and therefore by definition the ones that will probably qualify are: Liang Wenbo, Judd Trump, Barry Hawkins, Jamie Cope and Graeme Dott. I would say, apart from these five you could argue that every other 17-32 ranked player is in the balance, some more than others.

Will the Thaiphoon hit Sheffield?

I’m going to go for three big priced punts, though these are predictions only and not recommended bets, they come later. The first is James Wattana at 33/1, the Thaiphoon’s confidence will be high after his recent qualification for the China Open and assuming in Saturday’s warm-up match he dispenses with the non-tour professional he will likely face Lee Page, Peter Lines and Marcus Campbell, each of whom I’d argue he can beat on current form. He would then face Matthew Stevens, now Matt is obviously still a very good player but pressure is a terrible thing and he is playing for his place in the top 16 after a surprise exit to Bjorn Haneever in the China qualifiers. If Wattana gets to this stage after four matches at the venue, Stevens will face a stern test of his nerve.

The second name is one I have already mentioned, Belgium’s own Bjorn Haneever 16/1 (Sportingbet), who will first face one of Saturday nights qualifiers (most likely Jordan Brown), to then face if successful: Dave Gilbert, Martin Gould and Nigel Bond. It is one of the rarer ones this in that his way to the last 64 may be more of a test than his match to get to the Crucible, but Gilbert and Gould are not exactly in cracking form and again Haneever goes into this with some confidence. I’d have Bond, along with Joe Swail and Gerrard Greene as the 17-32 seeded players at highest risk.

The third is another early starter and a player that narrowly missed the plane to China, in young Sam Baird (28/1). He has what look to be two winnable first matches against Stephen Rowlings and Joe Delaney before a potential tie with Mr Entertainer, Telford’s own Adrian Gunnell, who is a tough opponent but one that a young impatient potter like Sam might just blow to smithereens. This would set up a date with six times world champion Steve Davis. Obviously Steve would start favourite for this but at 28/1 and with the draw, Sam may be worth an interest. If he does win these two final matches he’ll probably need to be put to bed all the way up to Sheffield to sleep them off.

So they are my three speculative punts on the Skybet market.

But, I have to put the percentage to the test for a few on this market and for the more serious punters I’ll recommend three players that I think will qualify at decent odds.

Recommended Bets:

Rory - Looking to set up a Crucible revenge match with Mark King after last year's first round classic. Though the TV audience are looking for revenge on the two of them

The first is Rory McLeod at 11/10 (Sportingbet), tough as teeth in qualifiers and to me would always start favourite against Gerrard Greene, I can’t see him not winning his first match whoever the opponent is.

The second is Ken Doherty at 13/10, he may play Jimmy (though this is by no means a certain match up as Patrick Wallace is capable of beating the Whirlwind earlier on), but I’d expect him to come through that and go on and beat the mediocre Joe Swail.

The third is my old pal Jamie Burnett at 21/10 (Sportingbet), another you’d expect to come through his first match unscathed to meet the inconsistent and unreliable Michael Holt.

I toyed with the idea of also putting up Alan Angles McManus at 10/3 given his draw, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. So these are the three I’d recommend for the heavier punters.

When the match prices are becoming widely available I’ll be posting up some recommended bets for those.

UPDATE: True to their word, Skybet have now decided for some reason to offer 12/1 on all my three recommended single bets going through to Crucible glory. Respect! But glory is about all they’ll get. I remember last time I went to Sheffield for the worlds I really struggled to get a decent bite to eat, we ended up in a curry house, the one saving grace was a chance to have a quick word with Alan McManus in said curry house for all of three seconds. Despite how the Arctic Monkeys paint it, to me Sheffield needs to up it’s game on the eating out stakes (or steaks, whatever you fancy).

Anyway, back to betting, I feel my reputation may depend on this. Remember, oh faithful followers that I advise singles – the only way us poor snooker punters can hope to beat the bookies. However – gooo-waarne, the Snookerbacker Enhanced Treble, from now on known at SET. Or more likely Game.

FURTHER UPDATE: It seems that many are thinking likewise about Watanna who has now been trimmed to 20/1 across the board. I ended up going in on Tony Drago too at 16/1 at Sportingbet who are taking no further chances on the Maltese Falcon trimming him in to 9/1. Missed the better prices on Rory McLeod though and was a bit hasty on that one. Paddy Power have now entered the market and priced him at 6/5.

February 23, 2010

The World According to Bazza

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:13 pm

Can the Glory Days return to the Baize?

The World Snooker Chairman Barry Hearn has been giving his thoughts on the future of the game in the paper today. As always our man Bazza always gives good copy and if only for the quotes he gives is always an entertaining read.

In the interview he gives a bit away about what his plans are and interestingly at the end sets a deadline which falls before this years Crucible shootout for the players to come on board. Saying that if they don’t agree with what he puts in place he’s happy to leave them to it. A risky strategy but one has to ask, what other choices does snooker have but to jump on board the good ship Bazza?

Some gems from the 62 year old start off the piece:

“Darts is working-class golf”

“At my age I don’t stand for office, I get invited”.

“I don’t have people fighting against me, I find they give up very easily.”

Classic stuff from the man who once described a World Title Fight as ‘Big Time Charlie Potatoes’. 

Barry clearly still feels a close affinity and affection toward the game that made him his first fortune and continues “I don’t think snooker’s dead. I described it the other day as a bit like Sleeping Beauty and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’m the handsome prince. But, it’s in my genes. I remember the fun we had with it. I look back and we were laughing all the time. It was the good times. And I can’t see why they can’t come back.”

But is he just suffering from that old affliction of nostalgia?

“People say there are no characters left,” he says. “That’s not true, they’re there, but we don’t know enough about them. Mind, I admit I’m a bit out of the loop myself. I went into the players’ room at a tournament recently and I says to first person I meet: ‘Who’s son are you then?’ And it only turns out he’s number 11 in the world.” (He obviously didn’t recognise young Mark Allen since he removed the ketchup from his head).

So what are the big plans? How can he revive the sport that so many feel has had it’s day? Is it as simple as introducing gimmicks such as the walk on music at the Masters?

“Listen, I know we got some criticism for that but when Mark King dances a little jig to his walk-on music and says that was fun, that’s what you want to hear. The best example here is Twenty20 cricket. The purists were so wrong about that, it’s been a massive success”.

He then gives some hint of his ideas:

“The trouble with snooker is that all tournaments look the same, there’s no variation. You’ve got to be brave enough to experiment. Maybe I’m not brave enough to change the World Championship, I’ll leave that well alone. But further down the pecking order, maybe we’ll have a one-frame shoot out, in out, bish bash bosh. Maybe it will attract a new market. Maybe it will be a disaster. I have had plenty of disasters in my time. The secret of my success is keeping quiet about them. The point is, what I’m promising is we’ll have a go.”   

Even tyrants have a soft side.

“We don’t live in the world of committee at Matchroom. The players wanted me to stand for election against Rodney Walker, I said I don’t stand. My name’s not David Cameron. Democracy is all very well, but I’m not in the democracy business. I learned the greatest business rule of all from snooker. I walked away from it thinking I can’t be bothered with all the in-fighting. From that moment on, I learned if I do anything, I control it. It’s total control or nothing”.

I remember I used to have a boss like that, hated him.

But snooker’s answer to Mussolini goes on in typically reserved fashion “I know there is no one else in the world can do what I can do. That sounds terribly big-headed. But this is my strength. And before you say it, I don’t like the term dictator. I prefer the term benevolent despot.”

Which by my reckoning means he regards himself as something of a kind and generous oppressor or tyrant. Ermm, ok Baz. 

But true to his word is something he always is and our man has given the players who make up the membership of the WPBSA an ultimatum.

“March 31 is my personal deadline,” he says. “By then I won’t have all the answers, but I’ll have a game plan to present to the players. New ideas, new tournaments, a continuation of my control. They have to make decision on that. If they say yes I will deliver. If they say no, I’m exiting stage left and wishing them God speed”.

While Barry might not be everyone’s cup of tea, you do feel that the players have very little choice but to trust him, at least for the time being.

But just remember, the Romford Rap was his idea.

February 22, 2010

Willie the Silly Billie

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:01 pm

I have been known in the past to take the mickey slightly out of some of the stars of this great sport.

But nothing, absolutely nothing that I can say can make this look any worse than it already does.

I now fully understand why JV is currently unwell. He obviously has a very detailed, watertight sicknote in case the BBC ask him to do anything like this. 

I urge you not to click on the link below. I really do. I’ve already seen how many of you clicked on Ebdon’s song yesterday and feel that you have suffered enough, but I’ll leave the decision to you.

Either way, whatever you decide I apologise for what you may be about to witness.

Whilst it may have been for a good cause, ask yourselves, is any cause that worthy?

February 19, 2010

Betfred World Snooker Championship Pre-Qualifying Schedule – The Return of the Silver Fox

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 10:42 am

The Silver Fox with Alex and a right little cracker

It is just a week today until snooker’s biggest event gets under way.

But before we get to the qualifying hopefuls we must deal with the Non-Tour Professionals, a kind of ‘refuse to go away’ club made up of ex-top 64 or 32 and in one case this year top 8 players, as well as some names that people involved in snooker will know but are not quite sure how or why they know them.

Last year former world number 2 Tony Knowles came through this stage and even went on to win his next match. I wonder if any of the 16 names listed below can repeat this feat? Or maybe even go further?

The name that leaps out of the page is the 67 year old Silver Fox David Taylor, yes it is really him. Taylor reached the heady heights of world number 7 in his heyday. He also holds the accolade of being the first player ever to pot all the balls on the BBC’s Big Break. Though our Dave is probably now more of a Grey Squirrel than the dashing fox of old he clearly still loves the game and kicks off his unlikely tilt at the title against the little known Paul Wykes. Goo – on Foxy Boy.

Doddy - Tickled Pink

Other names that some may recognise are Del Smith, a coach of many of the big names and according to the information I have on him a maximum break maker at the tender age of 16. Barry West, a former UK quarter finalist from the late 80’s and I seem to remember, very very slow almost to the point of being asleep, Bill Oliver who once flirted with a top 32 place and the one and only former slimmer of the year, Southport’s own Les Dodd. Les did enjoy a short period of success in the late 80’s and became something of a cult figure. He still enjoys the game and runs the Les Dodd Snooker Centre in his native Southport.

Betfair have put trading markets up for the early matches but there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of interest in these early ones just yet. Not too surprising but I’d expect Sportingbet to put up a market in the near future too. They did last year and myself and a very shrewd punter who shall remain nameless but will probably post a comment below made a small killing on our man Knowlesey.

You would not expect to see any of the sixteen who kick off on Friday make it any further than the end of Saturday given the opponents that await them. It should prove a nice little warm up for James Wattana who will get the chance to acclimatise to the format and tables in advance of what you’d think would be sterner tests ahead from Sunday onwards. Wattana is in good form following his qualification for the China Open and if you were going to have anything like a speculative punt on one name from the ones below who may have a serious chance of making it to the Crucible, he’d have to be the one.

Judd- Missed out on Sheffield last year

The qualifiers continue every day right up until Tuesday 9th March, when the likes of Jamie Cope, Liang Wenbo, Steve Davis, Judd Trump and Ricky Walden will be looking to secure their Crucible places.

Before them Jimmy White and former champ Ken Doherty are scheduled to meet assuming the Whirlwind can win his first match on 3rd March.

I’ll be hoping that Sky Bet put up a ‘To Qualify for Sheffield’ market in advance as they did last year, but I’d expect some decent punting opportunities from the Sunday onwards and will be posting up head to heads and recommended bets as the action commences. 

There is a possibility that some of these matches may be streamed live on the net. I’m looking into this and will post an update when and if this becomes clear.

Friday 26 February (Non Tour Professionals)

10am (All matches best of 9 frames)

Les Dodd v Philip Minchin

Paul Wykes v David Taylor

David Singh v Colin Mitchell

Ali Bassiri v Neil Selman


Barry West v Christopher Flight

Del Smith v Phil Seaton

Bill Oliver v Nic Barrow

Stephen Ormerod v Paul Davney

7.30pm (Four qualifiers go through to join Main Tour Professionals)

Winners v Winners

Saturday 27 February (Main Tour Professionals Round One)

(All matches Best of 19 frames over two sessions 9/10)

10am & 4pm 

James Wattana v Qualifier 1

Michael White v Qualifier 2 

Jordan Brown v Qualifier 3 

Brendan O’Donoghue v Qualifier 4

February 18, 2010

Snooker goes all X Factor

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:20 am

Ronnie - Looking for the next, ermm, Ronnie.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has decided to follow the example of the great man Simon Cowell and get involved in Snooker’s very own version of the popular televisual phenomenon that is the X Factor.  

The Rocket is teaming up with snooker club giants Rileys in an attempt to find ‘the next big thing’ by scouring the country through a series of ‘Future Stars’ events.  

The first round of ‘auditions’ will involve six-reds knock-out style events for under-16s starting 27th March. These will be competed for under the watchful eyes of those renowned snooker experts Ant and Dec, who will have tearsticks and power ballads at the ready for the saddest and most euphoric outcomes. 

Each of the winners, will then go head-to-head at regional venues until eight of the youngsters remain.

Cheryl - 'Don't let me put you off pet'

The eight finalists will then head for ‘boot camp’ in Sheffield (sounds tough) during the World Championship where they will be coached by some of the game’s top players, including Cheryl Cole, Danni Minogue and that other little fella that manages those lovely boys Westlife.

Damien Hurst and that bloke who sings that rubbish song Ronnie likes will also be watching their progress, Hurst will be adopting his usual pose; motionless from behind a pair of oversized spectacles, as our Daymo will do anything to get on telly. 

They will then be put through their paces in a series of skills tests, designed by Ronnie himself, to test potting, safety, tactical awareness and even temperament (what? temperament coached by Ronnie? Someone get John Higgins on the phone quick).

In a late twist, pretty boy Quinten Hann will also be involved in the coaching side of things teaching the lucky eight the art of narrowly missing frame ball under the watchful eye of Jamie Burnett, who will be there in a purely advisory capacity.

Ronnie will then select the eventual winner who will get a bit of dosh and access to coaching expertise from the Rocket himself. Ronnie, the snooker ambassador for Rileys said: “Firstly, this youngster will have to love the game. Then, he or she will need pots of talent (see what he did there?) And probably most important of all, the desire to go all the way. The winner will work on cue skills and strategies with me, and I will do everything I can to help.”

Cowell - A Banker

Barry Hearn is also very excited about this: “This is exactly what snooker requires. A top player like Ronnie O’Sullivan getting involved at the grassroots of the game”
An excited Bazza continued: “What a fantastic opportunity for the youngster who comes out on top and gets Ronnie as his mentor and trainer. The WPBSA is right behind this. I will be watching the players’ progress all the way.”

Clearly the green baize powers that be see this popularist Cowell-esque move as something of a banker. We’ll await developments with baited breath.

February 17, 2010

Pro-Challenge Buckets and Latest on Ronnie Snr.

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 8:58 am

A World Snooker Official inspects the template for the Pro-Challenge pockets

What did I tell you about the pockets at George Scott’s Club? Huge! Just take a look at the list of breaks made on Day One of the Pro-Challenge below and you’ll get some idea:

138 Judd Trump, 137 Ken Doherty, 135 Liang Wenbo, 134 Rod Lawler, 131 Graeme Dott, 130 Craig Steadman, 129 Liang Wenbo, 128 Tom Ford, 128 Stuart Bingham, 125 Nigel Bond, 124 Mark Joyce, 122 Jamie Cope, 121 Liang Wenbo, 106 Simon Bedford, 106 Barry Hawkins, 102 Stevie Wonder.

Ok that last one is a lie, but you get the idea. They are up to the last 16 now and further information can be found updated througout the day by visiting the excellent Global Snooker website . But with the bookies giving this one the cold shoulder it is of little but, in the words of the great Clive Everton ‘academic interest’ to snooker gamblers.  

It is also being reported in a few newspapers today that it is still touch and go whether Ronnie O’Sullivan will get to play in front of his dad for the first time at The Crucible in April. Ronnie Snr is due for release from prison in April after serving 18 years for murder and he has never seen his son play on snooker’s biggest stage.

Will having his dad watching improve Ronnie's chances in Sheffield?

Ronnie Jnr is quoted as saying “Please God he can come. He has been a model prisoner. It’s down to the Home Office and prison authorities. I hope they feel he’s ready to come home and then I’m hoping the justice system will do the right thing.”

O’Sullivan Snr has been locked up for the last 18 years for the murder of Bruce Bryan, a driver for Charlie Kray – the brother of London gangsters Ronnie and Reggie. Though one paper wrongly states that this relates to the infamous twins father.

I have to say that I met Ronnie Snr once at a tournament on the Isle of Wight, he was a very engaging character and a really fun person to be around, he sat around the pool with Ronnie and a few others and I remember him driving all around the island to buy fresh fruit for everyone as it was a baking hot day. It can’t have been too long after that when the incident happened, one that Ronnie is the first to admit shook his entire world. It was obvious even back then that they were very close.

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