As we welcome in the new year, there’s still just enough time to reflect on the end of 2018 with the December Snooker Player of the Month.
The final chapter in the 2018 saga saw the completions of the UK Championship and Scottish Open, as well as the preliminary rounds take place for the upcoming German Masters.
Let’s find out then who the panel of experts chose on this occasion as the standout star of the month.
Neal Foulds – Former world number three; Commentator
Vote: Mark Allen
The UK Championship may not be the gruelling event it once was – the final used to be the best of 31 frames – however, losing in the final to Ronnie O’Sullivan must have been hugely deflating for Allen.
He was bidding to hold two Triple Crown events at the same time which, in my opinion would have taken his standing in the game to a new level.
So after his exploits in York, Mark arrived in Glasgow looking slightly flat and probably hadn’t given much thought to becoming Scottish Open champion.
The early rounds of the Home Nations events can be a minefield and Allen’s head-to-head record against his first round opponent Liang Wenbo was nil from five.
Yet, once he got through that match his game gradually returned.
At the point where Allen survived his worst mini-session of the season in the semi-final, trailing Daniel Wells 4-0 before winning 6-5, he looked very likely to lift the Stephen Hendry Trophy and duly obliged.
His win in the final against Shaun Murphy was a fitting finale for the snooker year and a fine advertisement for the game.
Christian Oehmicke – Break-Off.com
Vote: Mark Allen
Picking the December Snooker Player of the Month almost feels like picking the player of the year as you’ll automatically land in a battle between Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Allen.
When it comes to the choice for the year, you might want to add Mark Williams, but for the month just passed it comes down to the aforementioned two players.
Arguably, Ronnie O’Sullivan would be an easy choice given that he defended his UK title, casually beating Stephen Hendry’s Triple Crown record at the same time.
Nonetheless, I am going with Allen this time as, in 2018, the Northern Irishman took a great leap from being one of those infamous talents without major titles to a truly excellent player.
In winning the prestigious Masters and the International Championship, he celebrated two of the biggest victories of his career – which he followed up with a fantastic run in December.
Only a few frames short of winning the UK Championship, where a furious Ronnie stopped him, he added the Scottish Open title to his collection just a short week later.
The 32-year old is not only one of the nicest and most approachable guys on the tour, he has also – perhaps surprisingly – become a role model on and off the table.
The days of his impulsive social media outbursts seem long gone – although he keeps speaking up for himself, fortunately!
Thus, my player of the month (and the year) is Mark “The Pistol” Allen.
Ron Florax – CueTracker.net
Vote: Mark Allen
My December Snooker Player of the month is Northern Ireland’s Mark Allen.
After adding the Scottish Open title to the Masters and International Championship trophies he captured earlier in 2018, Allen is back in the sort of form which took him into the world’s top 16 just three years after turning pro.
He’s a fast, attacking player who’s fun to watch, and also has a lot of time for his fans.
The 32 year-old now possesses the kind of confidence that could see him threaten more often and, who knows, maybe the Crucible crown for Allen is next!
SnookerHQ’s December Snooker Player of the Month
Vote: Mark Allen
The first time that the panel has been in full agreement, it would be difficult for anyone to deny that it was indeed Mark Allen’s month.
Ronnie O’Sullivan might have denied Allen in the UK Championship final which, added to the four other pieces of silverware he acquired in 2018, probably marginally made the “Rocket” the player of the year ahead of Allen and world champion Mark Williams.
Yet, Allen’s response to that disappointment was emphatic and a telling sign that his overall level of play has transformed since claiming a maiden Triple Crown title last January.
The Ulsterman tended to trade hot streaks of brilliance with patches of mediocrity earlier in his career.
But there’s a sense now that he is discovering the kind of consistency that is necessary to really compete at the very highest echelons on a more permanent basis.
By emerging triumphantly in the Scottish Open, Allen secured a ranking event double in the same campaign for the first time.
With ten rankers still to contest, there’s a good chance he could make it a hat-trick or more by this term’s end.
Of course, before all that there’s the small matter of defending the Masters at the Ally Pally in London.