He enjoyed a long and memorable stint on the Main Tour.
Alan McManus has announced the end of his professional career after losing in the second round of World Championship qualifying on Friday in Sheffield.
The Scot needed a victory to maintain his aspirations of remaining inside the world’s top 64, but a 6-3 defeat to Bai Langning will see him relegated from the Main Tour.
Rather than fight for his place back among the elite bracket at Q School, McManus has called time on his career at the age of 50 – a decision he claims he made before Christmas regardless of how the remainder of this season had panned out.
“I’m 50 and I always thought 50 is a good old number, it’s a young guy’s game now and you’ve got to face up that,” McManus said in his post-match press conference.
“I made the decision to stop playing at the end of this season, I made the decision before Christmas actually – for a number of reasons.”
“Through COVID and this year has been pretty tough. I’m working (as a pundit) as well at tournaments as people would know and it takes its toll.
“I’ve not been able to continue and if this continues there’s no point in me playing – I’m pretty happy.”
Alan McManus first turned professional in 1990 after winning the Scottish Amateur Championship, and his 31-year professional career has produced many memorable moments.
1994 Masters Victory
In just his fourth season as a professional player, McManus was already an established top 16 player after several strong performances in various events on the calendar.
Entering the 1994 Masters, McManus was still searching for his maiden piece of silverware at this level but few expected him to emerge on top at the Wembley Conference Centre that year.
McManus ousted Nigel Bond 5-2 in the first round before an equally imposing 5-1 drubbing of Ken Doherty in the quarter-finals.
The Glaswegian reached the final thanks to a closer 6-4 victory against Neal Foulds, a player who he commonly shares his TV punditry role with nowadays on ITV or Eurosport.
Stephen Hendry was the mountainous task to overcome in the final, with his countryman on a 23-game unbeaten run in the prestigious invitational tournament.
A gutsy McManus fought back from 7-5 down to deny Hendry in a decider, claiming what would endure as the biggest title of his entire career.
For me personally, this match will always carry fond memories as being not only my earliest snooker memory, but also my earliest memory in sport altogether.
Two Ranking Titles
During the first decade or so of his career, Alan McManus was somewhat famed for his ability to mix it with the big boys but somehow never able to emerge as a winner.
McManus was an almost permanent fixture of the top ten in the world rankings for a decade – reaching a high of number six – during a time when the likes of Hendry, Doherty, Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Mark Williams, John Parrott, Steve Davis, Jimmy White, Peter Ebdon, Matthew Stevens, Stephen Lee, and Paul Hunter were sharing the majority of the titles between them.
In a ten-year span between 1992 and 2002, McManus was defeated in 14 ranking and non-ranking event finals in total, in addition to numerous other narrow misses in the semi-finals of tournaments, earning him the reputation as a nearly-man.
But success, albeit not as fruitful as he perhaps would have liked, did come in ranking events a couple of times in the mid-1990s.
Not long after his Masters glory, McManus triumphed in the 1994 Dubai Classic – beating Hendry again in the last four before a 9-6 victory against Ebdon in the final.
Two years later, a second title arrived at the Thailand Open, this time overcoming Ebdon in the semi-finals before a dramatic 9-8 success against Doherty in the final.
There were several narrow misses closer to home, including back-to-back runners-up finishes in the Welsh Open and three final reverses in the non-ranking Scottish Masters between 1993 and 1997.
World Championship Semi-Finals
After making his debut in 1991, it took McManus an incredible 11 years to lose a first-round match at the Crucible Theatre.
On his first appearance and again in every edition between 1994 and 2000, the dapper Scot won his first encounter before duly exiting at the second hurdle on each occasion.
However, in 1992 and 1993, McManus went all the way to the semi-finals stage to experience the joy and despair of the single-table situation.
He never really threatened an appearance in the final, suffering successive heavy defeats to Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry respectively.
By 2005 and his next run to the quarter-finals, McManus was coming towards the end of his long tenure inside the world’s top 16, and when he matched that run nine years later it almost felt like a swansong.
Perhaps that’s what made his 2016 performance so riveting and memorable, coming through three rounds of qualifying to even reach the Crucible before embarking on an astounding run to the last four once again.
McManus produced some of the best snooker of his entire career to see off the challenges of Stephen Maguire, Ali Carter, and John Higgins, but fellow qualifier Ding Junhui ultimately proved a step too far.
The Dream Team
While arguably not as cut-throat or as naturally gifted as his contemporaries of the era, McManus’ all-round ability and a generally commendable approach to how the game should be played earned him the utmost of respect from his peers.
Nicknamed Angles for his uncanny knack of being able to get out of snookers – or put opponents in them – McManus was the perfect player to complete a fearsome trio that would become known as the Dream Team.
In 1996, McManus was enlisted alongside Stephen Hendry and John Higgins to represent Scotland in the briefly rejuvenated World Cup.
Scotland stormed to the knockout stages by losing only a handful of frames across their four round-robin ties, before beating Northern Ireland and hosts Thailand to reach the final.
It proved to be a close affair against Ireland to determine the champions, but the trio prevailed as 10-7 winners to confirm their status as the unbeatable unit.
Five years later and there was a repeat victory in the Nations Cup, where they again pipped an Ireland team that included Doherty and Fergal O’Brien to glory.
The career of Alan McManus will be remembered for his reliable endurance as much as for the silverware he managed to attain, but there were definite highlights along the way, and his playing presence on the circuit will be missed next season and beyond.
Featured photo credit: WST