November 1, 2011

Chris Turner – Snooker’s Original Statto

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 12:35 pm

The sad death has been announced of snooker fan, journalist, historian and arguably our own original Statto, Chris Turner. I didn’t know Chris personally but have often found myself logging on to his website ‘The Snooker Archive’ to look up things that I am unable to find anywhere else.

Let’s face it, anyone with a snooker programme collection of this magnitude had to be a top drawer bloke and will be sadly missed by the snooker community. 

SB Book Review: Ken Doherty – Life in the Frame

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 9:52 am

There are some things in life that are currently and are likely to remain largely uncertain (known unknowns). There are some that you can rely on through thick and thin (known knowns). There are some things that we will probably never be able to answer no matter how hard we try (unknown knowns) and there are some things that we don’t even know how to begin explaining (unknown unknowns). But one of the things that you would have high on your list of ‘known known’s’ is the fact that Ken Doherty is a nice bloke.

When I heard that Ken had written his autobiography with the help of Dave Hendon I looked on Twitter to see how people reacted, one person said ‘what’s that about then? the story of a snooker player that is liked by everyone?’, another said simply ‘I don’t see the point, he’s hardly Ronnie’ while others, the majority to be fair, said they were looking forward to reading about Ken’s long career in the sport.

So can a book about one of snooker’s undoubted good guys be interesting enough to be a page turner? I had my doubts too, but having been pleasantly surprised by Graeme Dott and Stuart Pettman’s recent stabs at literature I was prepared to give it a go.

The first piece of good news is that this is extremely well written. Short punchy chapters which intersperse stories about Ken’s career with diary logs about the daily grind of a struggling middle professional whose best days are behind him keep you interested. The chapters are clearly constructed and each deal with a different aspect of the man himself. The right level is struck between anecdotes, life away from the baize and life on it. My only slight criticism comes at the start of the book where in the first quarter a couple of stories are repeated from the first two chapters, making me think that the first couple of chapters might have been decided on after the rest of it was written. But don’t let this put you off as this does not happen again throughout the rest of it.

I was actually quite surprised, indeed at times taken aback at some of Ken’s observations. He is extremely vehement in his criticism of certain players for not attending the funeral of Alex Higgins, his idol and a man that Ken is fiercely defensive of. While he accepts that Alex had his flaws and says ‘To me, some of the bad stuff was funny’ he stops short of jumping on that tired old bandwagon of having a go at him and instead remembers the man he knew who he claims he never had an argument with throughout his life. Now that is some achievement.

There is a particularly funny chapter relating to the Malta plane incident when Ken and John Higgins were thrown off before take off for being drunk. Ken claims he wasn’t, but it is the insight into Higgins in this chapter that carries it. It’s quite amusing and I suppose Ken all over that he ranks this as a real low point in his career when all it really was is an example of the press having a field day at the expense of two highly paid sportsmen, ‘fair game’ as Ken later puts it (or doesn’t – 10 points for spotting the typo in the book). If ever there was a story to be filed under ‘tomorrow’s fish and chip wrapper’ this was it. But the tale itself is still amusing.

Another low point in Ken’s career is highlighted in a whole chapter devoted to ‘that black’ he missed for a 147 at Wembley. He reveals what he did at the bequest of a national newspaper the following day, though he can’t for the life of him think why he agreed to it. One aspect of Ken’s personality which I find surprising is that reference to this shot still gets to him, unlike Steve Davis who has come to view his loss against Dennis in 1985 as something of an ‘old friend’ and part of his career, it seems Ken does not view this memorable moment in the same romantic light and would presumably not lose any sleep if it disappeared from the archives tomorrow as he’s clearly sick of being reminded of it.

His take on the whole John Higgins scandal is obviously written from the viewpoint of a loyal friend but there are other highlights in the book when it comes to Ken’s opinions of people. He tells us about a run-in with Mark Williams which I had never heard before surrounding something that you’d hope would not happen today. He devotes a whole chapter to his opinions on fellow professionals including his relationships with Ronnie, Paul Hunter and others and he is the subject of a similar chapter from family, friends and people he has met down the line, who each give us their take on the Dubliner.

He talks about his life in the commentary box, how it was difficult at first for him to criticise players and we find out who he believes is over-critical at times (no prizes for guessing the answer, you should get it right 3 or 4 times out of 5). He also exclusively reveals that some members of the BBC team tend to repeat anecdotes over and over again, who would have thought that?

He refers scathingly to the World Snooker regime prior to Barry Hearn, calling Sir Rodney Effing Walker’s cronies ‘the previous lot’ who were ‘living in dreamland’ and ‘a fantasy world’, though it is clear that Ken is still a traditionalist when it comes to the baize and like most fans is in the ‘hands off the big events’ brigade.

As you’d expect from an Irishman there are anecdotes and tall tales aplenty. He tells us about his days in Ilford and a time he was nearly murdered by a psychotic landlord with a fondness for gas ovens. He tells us about what made him go back to Ireland to hook up with someone that puts sausages in a puddle of water before eating them. He tells us about his relationship with his long-time manager Ian Doyle and with Doyle’s number 1, Stephen Hendry and how Doyle’s obvious favouritism toward Hendo made him and others feel.

His joy at winning the World Championship is obviously still incredibly special to him and it sounds like he partied for a year or two after doing it. He is a family man, that is obvious from his close relationship with his mum and brothers and sister after the death of his father when he was just 13, which he talks about as if it were yesterday. This loyalty continues with his new family, his wife Sarah and his very cute looking son Christian who Ken refers to as ‘the centre of my world’. I have to say at this point, fair play to Ken as his Mrs is a right cracker by the looks of it. No wonder he’s always smiling. Punching above your weight a bit there Kendo.

Regular readers will know what I’m like when it comes to football so I skipped all the bits about his passion for Manchester United as it will only be full of surnames that they always put a ‘y’ at the end of (Giggsy, Incey, Scholesy, Gunnar-Solksjaery) but apart from that I found the book an extremely good read. Ken is honest about his ability on the table, he is candid about how he feels not being at the top anymore and he comes across just as he is, an honest, nice and thoroughly decent bloke.

You know what? Sometimes the nice guys have interesting things to say too.

Did I mention that he once said good shot to me TWICE at Pontins by the way? Surprised that didn’t get a mention. Oh well.

To order your copy visit Amazon by clicking here.

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