“I seem to be one of the few people where my target is not survival. I’m not too bothered about survival because thinking about it makes it into something that it isn’t.”
There’s a common throwaway remark from outsiders who claim that present-day snooker lacks characters, but Peter Devlin didn’t seem to get the memo.
The young English player, from Leyton in East London, is one of the most interesting and engaging personalities you could wish to have a discussion with.
On Monday, he launches his second season on the Main Tour in the Championship League at the Morningside Arena in Leicester, but things leading up to the new campaign haven’t exactly gone smoothly.
“The preparations for the new season didn’t go very well – I had a car crash on Tuesday,” the 24 year-old’s blunt opening to what developed into a wide-ranging conversation on Zoom.
“It was quite bad actually. I’m trying not to make a big deal out of it, but it was quite bad. It happened while I was on the way to Jimmy White’s to practice, and an 80 year-old geezer buzzed straight into the main road while I was going 35 miles per hour.”
“It was a big collision, but I got very lucky to be alright. It’s just whiplash and the normal back and neck injuries so the preparations have not been ideal, but at the same time you can never guarantee a result even with perfect preparation.
“I’m not panicking, I’m trying to do a few hours of practice a day towards the end of the week so I can play without too much pain, because the more I play the worse it gets.”
A philosophical thinker in many ways, Devlin is a staunch believer on what he calls a “timeline of events”, in that everything happens in an order or for a reason that will have implications on how the future pans out.
In 2016, the player known as Devastating Devlin took victory in the English Under-21 Championship, which led to valuable experiences on the international amateur snooker stage when he participated in both the World and European Under-21 Championships.
Last year at Q School, he subsequently graduated from the first event to become a professional for the first time in his career, but like most rookies endured a difficult debut campaign.
A strong start when he upset Mark Williams to reach the last 16 of the European Masters was followed by several early exits, but Devlin still managed to take a lot away from his initial experiences, and he isn’t shy in highlighting the current problems lower-ranked snooker players face.
“I’ve seen the rankings and learned a lot about how it works this year in the rankings – consistency is not rewarded,” says the world number 114.
“The only reward is for deep runs in tournaments, and not all tournaments that you have deep runs in give you any reward. My goal is just to be lucky.”
“I know I’m good enough to have deep runs, but it just has to be the right tournament. Stuart Carrington got to the semi-final of Gibraltar, beating five top players on the way, and he won £6,000 for that.
“Then another player drew Anthony Hamilton in the UK Championship – Anthony had COVID – so the other guy got a walkover and got £6,500. What does that say?
“Looking at that and taking it into consideration, it’s just a case of try and have a deep run, take every match as it comes, and if you are fortunate enough that your good run comes in a tournament which has got some money to it, then great.
“I can’t think about the top 64 because it’s all about the World Championship really. You can have a terrible season and do well in the Worlds and that’ll save you, or you can have a great season and win two matches in every tournament you play, but if you don’t win one match in the Worlds you could be off the tour.
“I understand the format, it’s all about prize money which make it very simple, but it also makes it very top heavy and it puts a lot of pressure on the majors.”
In the Championship League, Devlin opens his account for the new snooker term in Group 13 alongside Oliver Lines, Luke Pinches, and Joshua Thomond – the latter a late replacement following the withdrawal of China’s Zhou Yuelong, the world number 17.
“Yuelong is a very good player and he’s done me twice last season, so when I saw the draw I was thinking here we go again.”
“But Josh Thomand is one of my best mates actually and we both got our hair dyed blonde for the football. We’ll both be looking like Phil Foden, so that’ll be a good laugh.
“On paper, it’s an open group and anyone could win it. It’s a bit like our junior days because we’re all pretty young, we grew up on the same circuit together and playing the same tournaments, so it’s very much going to be like the Premier Junior Tour days.
“It’s always a bit of fun with the Championship League. I think it’s different for everybody – some people see it as a warm-up tournament to get your arm going, some people see it as an opportunity to get a good start in the season, and others like Ronnie will see it as a bit of a laugh.
“Everyone has different views on it and everyone treats it differently, I think that’s quite interesting.”
After the Championship League, the British Open looks set to provide Devlin with an opportunity to potentially play in front of a crowd for the first time as a professional, something that he missed out on during the coronavirus-impacted 2020/21 snooker season.
“I’m really looking forward to playing in front of the crowds,” admits Devlin, who competed in front of a boistrous audience as an amateur in the 2019 Shoot Out.
“You want the full experience. You get a minimum of two years and I’m hoping to stay on as long as I possibly can, and if not I’m hoping to bounce back on.”
“But for the minimum two years that I have, I want to get the full experience. I’ve had some great experiences on and off the table but playing in front of crowds is one of the main ones, that’s what you want to do as an entertainer.
“I’ve really missed it. In the first two tournaments of my first season I didn’t really mind too much because it helped me settle and get used to the environment.
“Then it started to get very flat, and when lockdown hit that put a kick in the teeth into my season. There were no pro-ams on the side, which was giving me good match practice in the first half of the season.
“In the second half of the season, the tournaments were then very, very staggered. I know there’s no Chinese events and there was a massive shortage of tournaments, but having them so far apart was difficult for me.
“After Christmas, there was the Pro Series and a month later it was the Shoot Out, and then you go back to your practice room, which nobody else was allowed into because it was lockdown, and you’re on your own with no motivation.
“A month later it’s the Welsh Open and you jump on the table thinking you haven’t played before. It was difficult for me because you need competitive matches and motivation, with people around you.
“It was easier for the top players because there were obviously a lot of tournaments during that period, but those events weren’t for us lower-ranked players.”
Mental health, in not only snooker but sport in general, has become a hot topic over the last number of years, and it’s a subject that has become familiar for Devlin to openly discuss.
Indeed, he is currently in the process of marrying his role as an ambassador for the Silence of Suicide organisation with his other notable passion in life – music.
Devlin’s entertaining raps have already been a big hit on his YouTube channel attracting thousands of views, including his most recent release that satirically took aim at social media trolls who send death threats to beaten players that, in their eyes, have cost them money on the betting exchange.
While Devlin’s music videos and lyrics usually carry a comedic tone, he says his newest project in conjunction with Silence of Suicide will tackle another serious issue with a “responsibility to do it properly.”
“Making people laugh means you don’t have to think too much about it, but when you’re doing something for a genuine cause it’s different.”
“I partnered with SOS shortly before I turned pro and eventually became an ambassador. I thought, apart from just retweeting things and doing all the obvious, is there anything I can actually do to help?
“So I decided to write a song about suicide and make it very blunt, very clear, and not hide behind any corners. It’s a hard-hitting song with very graphic lyrics and a very serious tone to it.
“I’ve written it from a few different perspectives. I’ve got a verse of rapping from the perspective of someone who is about to take their own life, how they feel, and how they think others see them.
“There’s another verse about all the people who have come through it, and how there’s things you can do to help, and a final verse from the person who has lost a loved one and is very angry, which is a side that you don’t really see that I wanted to highlight.
“Fortunately, it’s not happened to me personally but I’m sure a lot of people will be able to relate to it. I think it’s got potential to be a real song and feature in the charts.
“I’m in the process of trying to find someone to reproduce it, then I’m looking for someone to do the singing parts. I’m looking forward to putting it out, I’m proud of it. The most important thing is that the charity approves because they are the ones I’m representing.”
Devlin, who went to a drama school when he was younger and is always eager to get involved in different walks of life – desiring, for instance, to join the list of fellow pros that have been granted the opportunity to commentate in the Championship League – hopes to release the song later this year but has no plans to swap his snooker career for one in music just yet.
“Snooker is always going to be number one, especially since I’ve turned pro there has hardly been any new songs coming out because my focus is on the snooker.”
“You never know when something is going to kickstart something else bigger, so all I can do is be mentally prepared at all times, and when that chance comes I’m there to take it.”
Featured photo credit: Monique Limbos