By Vladimir Jankovic
Can you please tell me about your early days in snooker? How did it all start?
“I first started playing snooker when I received a small table as a Christmas present when I was eight years old. The reason I started playing was because my father also played and he introduced me to the game. He played to a relatively good standard.”
“I didn’t start playing on a full sized table on a regular basis until I was 15. The local institute had two tables but there was an age limit so I suppose, by standards nowadays, I started quite late.”
Who was your idol when you started to play?
“Back then, I would say my favourite player was Alex Higgins, and living close to Sheffield and the Crucible Theatre he was the player who I wanted to go and watch.”
You reached the final of the World Championship in 1995. Tell me more about that experience and how that great performance influenced you.
“The experience of reaching the World Championship final in 1995 was, looking back, a fantastic one – but I would say I was in a bubble. My son had just been born and he was only three weeks old. Living in Chesterfield I was just traveling from home to the Crucible for my matches and I received amazing local support.”
“I started the final well and I was leading after the first session but had a bad second session and you couldn’t afford to do that when playing against Hendry. You had to take every chance and I didn’t do that, he was unstoppable during the 1990s. Reaching the final, though, stood me in good stead and gave me a lot of confidence. It really raised my profile in the game because of the exposure.”
One of your highlights of your career was the British Open title in 1996 when you beat John Higgins. Can you tell me more about that deciding frame when you came back from a snookers required stage at 69-0 down to win that match 9-8?
“In the British Open final all the way through the match I was the better player but I just couldn’t shake John Higgins off and then at the end it looked like I was going to lose. Having said that, one of my strengths is I never give up and when he missed the red it still gave me a slight glimmer of hope. It was amazing and to win my first ranking event the way I did it showed my character.”
This season so far you have reached the second round at the Riga Masters and Paul Hunter Classic. What are your expectations for this season in general?
“This season has not been a good start as I lost in all three qualifiers last month and, like you said, have only won a couple of matches so far. There are so many good players now and the standard is so high. I have to be realistic as I’m not getting any younger. I’m 51 now and if you don’t play well you get beaten, although I still feel when I’m playing well I can compete with anyone.”
If you didn’t become a snooker player, what would you do? Any other sport maybe?
“Due to the fact that I didn’t start playing regularly on a full sized table until I was 15 when I left school, I never dreamed of turning professional. I went to college and did a business studies course and also had a job with the local council in the Treasurer’s Department, so I think I probably would have carried on doing accounting if I’d not made the decision to try to turn professional and quit my job.”
How about your hobbies? How do you relax, and what you do in your free time?
“Away from snooker I like to relax by playing golf but not as much as I would like due to the busy schedule nowadays. Years back, the game was mostly British based and we would have three months off during the summer so I played three times a week. Now the game is global and it’s a full 12 month season.”
If you could change one thing in snooker what would that be?
“I am not sure I would change anything. I’ve had a good career and wouldn’t swap it for anything. Probably the only thing is I wished there would have been more tournaments when I was at the top of the rankings to compete in.”