With Saturday just around the corner I thought it would be a nice idea to catch up with some of the Grand Finalists ahead of what should be a great day in Gloucester. It’s very rare these days in the amateur game that you get 16 players this good in the same tournament so it’s good to hear from each of them as they assess their chances.
They are listed in the order that they qualified. If you want to read more about how they did that click the venue links next to their name. If you want to have a bet on any of them click the price link under their names.
Every match on Saturday will be live-scored ball-by-ball and this is the page you need to bookmark to keep up to date with everything as it happens.
The Draw and Prize Money are listed at the bottom of this post.
MEET THE GRAND FINALISTS
Ben Harrison – Qualified from: SWSA, Gloucester.
Ben has been playing in the SB Classic since the first year but this is his first Grand Finals Day, he was very impressive in Gloucester back in September. I asked him how things have been for him since then.
“I feel really good SB, I reached a final in Leeds a couple of weeks ago and I am practicing more than I ever have done and feeling the benefits from it. I have recently had a baby son and this has given me a lot of purpose to my snooker as I feel I have my life sorted, I’m made up to finally be in the Grand Finals and I feel I am as well prepared as I ever have been for a big tournament like this. I’ve been practicing a lot with Adam Wicheard and I can’t wait for Saturday, it should be a great event as it always is and I hope I can do well. I am confident”
Kishan Hirani – Qualified from: SWSA, Gloucester.
Welshman Kishan is another first time finalist having made it through back in September at the first time of asking, how does he feel about his chances on Saturday?
“I play a lot at the South West Snooker Academy and it seems to bring out the best in my game. I am playing regularly and I think my overall game is pretty solid going into Saturday. I’ve been playing some of the SWSA professionals and top Welsh amateur Duane Jones so my match play has improved and is always getting better. It seems ages ago that I qualified and I have been concentrating on this event now for some time, which may give me an advantage. Gloucester is the best venue for snooker that we have in the UK for amateur events like this and I’d describe myself as quietly confident, all I’ll say is, don’t count me out”
Adam Wicheard – Qualified from: SWSA, Gloucester.
Former main tour professional Adam starts Saturday as a reluctant favourite with the bookies, he made the finals last year too but was beaten in the Quarter Finals, does he think this year he will fare better?
“These bookies rate me don’t they? I’m not sure what I’ve done to be favourite in this as I don’t think I should be, I was second favourite last year too and I lost in my first match. I’m playing today against Ben Harrison for the first time since last Wednesday and a couple of weeks before that so I don’t think I am as prepared as some of the other players will be. I am not very consistent either, I’m one way or the other, I’ve been here now for nearly two hours and I can’t even hit a 30, but another day I might be better. So I have no idea how I’m playing until I start, if I click I’ll have a decent day, if I don’t I’ll get beat. SB drew me in the early matches too despite me asking him to give me a lie in so I’m not pleased about that either. Anyway, we’ll see what happens, but favourite? In this field? You having a laugh?”
Jamie Clarke – Qualified from: SWSA, Gloucester.
Another Welshman involved on Saturday is Jamie Clarke, a losing Quarter Finalist last season and former protégé of none other than Ronnie O’Sullivan. How does he assess his chances in Gloucester?
“It’s funny really, last year when I went to the Finals I had been ill in bed all week the week before, this year I was ill last week but I’m better now and back playing so I hope it will go better for me. SB tells me that it’s a week later this year so that means I was sick on the same week as last year, hopefully the omens are good for me this time around. I’m starting to play very well and have mostly been playing on my own, I am very confident in my game and I want to go to Gloucester and grab the title. In a way I think the week off ill has done me good and I am feeling very positive now, I play my best at the SWSA, I don’t know why that is but I just do and I am glad the Grand Finals are there and not in Leeds where I had a day to forget last year, 5 and a half hours on the road from the crack of dawn, get beat first match by Gray, then watch Oli Lines nick my highest break by a point with a 142 so lost £300 there too, then I ordered food and it didn’t arrive so I decided to go home, traffic jams meant that took 2 hours longer, so I don’t think Saturday can be any worse than that. I’m ready and I am confident”
Anthony Jeffers – Qualified from: Scotties, Liverpool.
Scouser Anthony Jeffers is a first time entrant of the SB Classic and came through a long day at Scotties back in October beating the experienced John Welsh in his final match, can the Liverpudlian upset the odds?
“I’ve not been playing that much to be honest, I’m at Scotties now and I am putting in the hours for this comp as I have a focus which is something I think I need. I tend to blow hot and cold on the table but I am playing well today so that’s a good sign. I’ve not competed at this level for a while but I know most of the players there and have beaten most of them at one time or another. At 50/1 I have to have a little interest on myself as I like a bet, I checked with SB of course and he said it was OK. On my day I am capable of beating anyone and I know that I can. I hope to have a run in this and can’t wait for Saturday”
Mitchell Mann – Qualified from: Scotties, Liverpool.
Midlander Mitchell is a former Junior Pot Black champion and comes to this on the back of a highly impressive performance in Liverpool, he’s many people’s idea of the champion, but how does he assess his own chances?
“I am playing every day at the moment as much as I can and my results in competitions have been good, I have won 3 English Ranking Series events on the trot and beaten a lot of good players to do that so I am ready for Saturday and I’m going to give it my best shot as this is a great tournament to be involved in. SB tells me a lot of people are bigging up my chances but I think Adam is a worthy favourite, he has achieved more in his career than the rest of us, but I have to say I am going there to win. For me it’s not about taking part, it’s about winning and to be a champion you need a winning mentality and I think I have that. I have been in Liverpool today at Scotties working with my coach Neil Johnson and I am working on a couple of things he spotted, that might not be ideal just before a big tournament but I’m confident I’ll be primed for Saturday. I played Callum Lloyd, who I play in the first round on Saturday, when I qualified and I played really well against him and hit a century. I’m really looking forward to the Grand Finals and think whatever happens that Snookerbacker deserves so much credit for putting this tournament on, it’s second to none in the amateur game and I would be proud to be the next champion”
Ant Parsons – Qualified from: Cueball, Derby.
Teesider Ant is another returning Grand Finalist having made the Quarter Finals last year. He holds the current highest break in the event of 122 which he made on his way to victory in Derby, will he be the man to beat in Gloucester?
“I am playing really well at the moment and the confidence I have taken from being involved in professional tour competitions has given me a real boost. My televised UK match against Ding just after I qualified in Derby and where I feel I performed really well just improved my confidence overnight. I am putting a lot of hours in and I feel it is paying off. I feel I can go all the way on Saturday and I would love to end the day as the winner as I have been entering this event for the last three years and SB knows how I feel about it, I can’t understand anyone that doesn’t enter it who wants to make their way in the game or just enjoy a snooker event for what it is. But this is the best I have felt going into an amateur event ever, I am coming along with my wife Sarah and picking up Sanderson in the middle of nowhere on the way, after that I am there to enjoy a quiet drink with Mr and Mrs SB before going to work on Saturday. I feel I can go all the way this time”
Sanderson Lam – Qualified from: Northern, Leeds.
Yorkshireman Sandi is another SB Classic former finalist who lost out narrowly in the semi-finals last year in Leeds. He’s a busy lad and is playing this just before jetting off to play in the World Open in China, will he be flying across the globe as the SB Classic Champion?
“I’m playing alright, I’ve been in big tournaments and that has helped my game massively. I qualified for China and I can’t wait to go and play and it would be lovely to win this as a real confidence boost. Having been at Finals Day last year all I can say is that I love it. The whole atmosphere makes you want to play better, you are treated like a professional player and last year this tournament got me a sponsor, which has helped me concentrate on snooker full-time without the worries in the background, I know I am very fortunate to be in that position and I now get to travel all over the world to play snooker. I’ll be taking this match by match and ball by ball, I’ll take nothing for granted and I just hope that I bring my best game with me. It’s a great tournament and I would be honoured to be the next champion and fly the flag for Mr and Mrs SB. I’ll be trying my hardest to win”
James Leadbetter – Qualified from: Northern, Leeds.
James is a full-time pilot by day and night and a former tour professional. I caught up with him (I wish) on his current skiing holiday in Austria to talk about his chances.
“I’ll be honest SB I don’t know how I’m playing because I’m sat drinking beer on a mountain in the snow, but before I came here I was hitting it schweet as. I rate my chances highly if I play anything like I know I can, but we all know that’s the hard bit, bringing it out when it counts. I’m playing with no pressure which is an advantage, and I know how good I can be when it comes to tough match snooker, so I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I’ll hopefully be flying high come Saturday night (sorry) either with the trophy or bang on it in a bar somewhere”
Zack Richardson – Qualified from: SWSA, Gloucester.
Zack came through to the Grand Finals on his first attempt in Gloucester, a first time SB Classic entrant, how does he assess his chances ahead of the big day?
“I’m playing pretty well in practice and have been playing home and away with Jimmy Robertson for a while and holding my own, though he does win more on his table as he has home advantage! I haven’t been playing many comps since I qualified so I’ve been focusing on this really and I definitely fancy the job. I think I played Ben 4 or 5 years ago when we were juniors but it’s going to be all on the day and we’ll just see what happens. It’s the first time I have entered the SB Classic and I’m really pleased to have made the Grand Finals on my first try, I’m looking forward to Saturday and will be giving it my best shot”
John Parkin – Qualified from: SWSA, Gloucester.
John has been the subject of a huge gamble in the last few days, he was one match from turning professional not long ago and is something of a dark horse in this some think. He faces the favourite Wicheard in his opener. Can he land the gamble?
“This is like being famous SB! I’ve no idea where all this money for me is coming from but if I am honest when I first saw the prices for this my eyes nearly popped out of my head, I couldn’t believe it. But despite this I don’t know anyone who has backed me! On the table I have been putting a lot of hours in for this and I can’t wait for Saturday as I think this is a brilliant event, the betting angle just adds that extra bit of spice to it which makes it even more exciting, I can’t wait to play. I am very confident that I can do well and I am now conscious that I’ll not be very popular with some gamblers if I don’t! Wish me luck!”
Ryan Causton – Qualified from: Northern, Leeds.
Essex boy Ryan ‘The Eagle’ swooped in Leeds in the best final qualifying match of the tournament this season to make his first Grand Finals Day. Can he carry that form through to Gloucester?
“I’m playing a bit up and down at the moment, I’ve played not too bad in a couple of comps but I was disappointed not to do well in Poland. I’ve been practicing with fellow finalists Syd Wilson and John Parkin and we’re all coming up together. I have a tough first round draw against John Whitty who I think is one of the favourites to win the whole tournament, but if I can win that match I think I have every chance of winning the tournament. I’m pleased to be in Grand Finals Day for the first time and I’m really looking forward to Saturday, it’s always a great set-up at these tournaments”
John Whitty – Qualified from: Scotties, Liverpool.
Former tour professional and tough match player John Whitty is rated by Rod Lawler and a few other shrewd observers as the best player out there who isn’t on the main tour. Can the man who beat me in the Bootle Open semi-finals in the early 90’s (not that I’m bitter) stamp his authority on the Classic?
“I’ve started putting a few hours in again this week to prepare for Saturday, just a couple here and there but nothing too demanding! The main thing for me in this tournament is the venue, I think the best facilities bring out the best in players and that’s what you get in Gloucester. SB puts on the best tournament there is out there for amateurs and for that you need the best venue for the final and that’s what we have. It’s a level playing field and not a tournament played on potters tables so you have to be on your game to win as the best conditions suit the best players. I think I have a good chance, I’m up for the job and I know what it takes to win so let’s see what happens. I’m staying in a field in Brian’s campervan about a mile away so I hope it’s not flooded. My Uncle, who travels everywhere with me is coming to support me so I’d love to end the day as champion, we’ll have a great night if that happens”
P.S. Don’t remember that match SB, you been on the ale again?
Syd Wilson – Qualified from: Last Chance Saloon, SWSA, Gloucester.
Syd left it until the Last Chance Saloon to qualify this season having lost in 2 previous qualifying finals; a finalist in 2012 when he lost to eventual champion Martin O’Donnell, he’s back and he’s got his eye on the trophy.
“I’m happy with my game and very happy to be going into the Grand Finals as a winner. I’ve been playing with Ryan Causton and feel confident my game is where it needs to be for Saturday. It’s a strong field and I feel I have earned the right to be there. Sunday was a long day but winning makes up for that, it’s a real buzz. This is a great tournament and to be champion would be incredible, not least because my mum, like me, absolutely loves the trophy, it will look great on the mantelpiece. I’m going to leave it there and hopefully let my cue do the talking”
Callum Lloyd – Qualified from: Order of Merit List (1st Place)
Welshman Callum qualified by virtue of his consistency on the Order of Merit list which he won by a distance. The young potter is an outsider in the field, but how does he rate his chances?
“I’m delighted to be in the Grand Finals as this is the best tournament around and while I am still in there I am still in with a chance. I know I am one of the outsiders but I have played in these events to get the experience to kick on in big events. I know I have the game and I now have to go there and perform. I’ve also finally got a waistcoat sorted out! I can’t wait for Saturday and it feels great to be part of this tournament, hopefully I can upset a few more fancied players”
Andy Marriott – Qualified from: Order of Merit List (2nd Place)
Andy sat biting his fingernails on Sunday night from afar as he qualified for the Grand Finals at the death thanks to Syd Wilson’s triumph in Gloucester. Have his nerves recovered from this traumatic evening?
(Andy, like me, is a huge Morrissey fan and therefore likes to waffle on a bit, bear with him, he’s a lovely bloke and he hasn’t had his qualifying prize yet so heaven knows he’s bound to be a bit miserable now)
On his 16th place at Grand Finals Day, Andy laments……
“My form at the moment is a bit too inconsistent for my liking. My A-game is there in patches and I know that if I can produce this on the day then I can compete with anyone in the Grand Finals and that is all you can ask. I have been cueing extremely well in patches recently, scoring very heavily and earning some very good results against good players. Then at other times it is like someone has put a Boyzone CD next to the table. Last week’s final heat was a prime example. I earned a very good 3-1 victory against Sam Betts who has what appears a fantastic natural ability and positivity about his game and then in my next match against another very good player, Brett Miller, struggled to string two balls together and was well beaten”
“Realistically and slightly depressingly, I’m an outsider, not only in life but in this tournament and I have reached the finals by way of getting to quarters and semi finals of some of the qualifying heats. I entered the final Liverpool heat at the last minute due to my performance in Leeds where Ryan Causton did a total demolition job on me in the semis. Then John Whitty gave me a lesson in matchplay in the semis in Liverpool and then all of a sudden I found myself, to my everlasting despair, near the top of the order of merit going into the final heat last week. I was lost. Unusually and luckily for me Syd Wilson won this heat and somehow I qualified – I was well and truly glued to Snookerbacker’s live twitter feed all evening as the final progressed. Another pointless wasted evening”
“I have been told to be ‘Delighted’ to be in the finals although in truth, the truth I will always convey, it was harsh on Mike Rogers who, having played him before, is a cracking player and unsurprisingly to me at least pushed Syd the distance”
“My first round opponent is Ant Parsons who beat me 4-2 in the Derby heat, knocking in a 122 in the process. I watched his match with Dominic Dale from the Welsh Open on YouTube this week before the draw was made and am shocked he didn’t qualify out of Q-School last year as he looks so composed and comfortable in front of the cameras and a live audience. I can’t wait to play him and I know I need to be at my best to compete, which is how it should be”
THE DRAW – ALL MATCHES BEST OF 7 FRAMES
Jamie Clarke v James Leadbetter (10am. Referee: Nick Harry)
John Parkin v Adam Wicheard (10am. Referee: Clive Brown)
Andy Marriott v Ant Parsons (10am. Referee: Rob Spencer)
Ryan Causton v John Whitty (10am. Referee: Martyn Royce)
Anthony Jeffers v Sanderson Lam (NB 12 noon. Referee: Nick Harry)
Mitchell Mann v Callum Lloyd (NB 12 noon. Referee: Clive Brown)
Zack Richardson v Ben Harrison (NB 12 noon. Referee: Rob Spencer)
Sydney Wilson v Kishan Hirani (NB 12 noon. Referee: Martyn Royce)
Start Not Before 1.30pm
Start Not before 3.30pm
Starts Not Before 5.30pm
2014 Champion: Q-School Entry plus £500 (or £1000 cash alternative), SB Classic Trophy and a Crucible Date with Stephen Hendry.
Runner Up: Q-School Entry plus £200 (or £750 cash alternative)
Losing Semi-Finalists: Q-School entry (or £500 cash alternative)
Losing Quarter-Finalists: £200
Losing Last 16: £100
Highest Break: £300
Maximum Break: £1000 (with £300 the highest break prize included)