Jimmy White will face Ryan Day in the last 32 of the UK Championship as the venue stages get under way on Saturday in York.
The Whirlwind emerged from four qualifying rounds at the Ponds Forge International Sports Centre in Sheffield earlier this week to reach the Barbican.
Aged 60, he’ll become the oldest player to feature at this stage of a ranking event in almost three decades, and his appearance comes exactly 30 years after his famous UK Championship triumph of 1992.
White will be a huge underdog against Day, who has already sealed glory of his own this term with success in the British Open.
Beating the likes of Stephen Maguire and Dominic Dale in the qualifiers will have provided him with a much-needed boost in confidence.
However, producing in the qualifying cubicles and out in the main arena, live of TV and in front of his adoring fans, are entirely different propositions.
There was a time when this came as second nature to one of the most naturally gifted snooker players in the history of the game.
White made his UK Championship debut all the way back in 1981, participating 41 times in total in what is widely regarded as the second most prestigious ranking event on the schedule.
In the early years, the Londoner was an almost ever-present at the business end of proceedings.
His maiden appearance saw him reach the semi-finals, and in the following ten years he only failed to reach the last eight on two occasions.
Steve Davis was a constant annoyance throughout the 1980s, with the Nugget ending White’s run five times during the decade.
That included a gripping 1987 final in which Davis pipped White 16-14 at the Guild Hall in Preston.
Four years later, White was again denied in the title decider with another tight reverse, this time against John Parrott.
However, twelve months on in 1992 there was finally victory, with White gaining revenge on Parrott courtesy of a 16-9 win over the Liverpudlian.
The success came right in the middle of his painful streak of near misses at the Crucible Theatre, where he ultimately failed to add the World Snooker Championship crown to his CV.
But back in 1992, the UK Championship boasted a long format and prestige not too different to that of the World Championship itself, undoubtedly making this victory White’s most important of a glittering career.
White struggled in the UK Championship for many seasons after that, but there was a brief revival in 2003.
After years of inconsistency on the Main Tour, he reached the last four only to be narrowly denied a place in the final by eventual winner Matthew Stevens – another veteran who has qualified for the main draw in 2022.
- CLICK HERE: Jimmy White and Matthew Stevens qualify for York
The confidence gained from that run did provide the catalyst for a remarkable 2003/04 campaign that culminated in a tenth ranking title at the 2004 Players Championship – and his first since that UK glory from 1992.
Between 2003 and now, White has rarely made an impression in the tournament, but he’ll once again have an opportunity to roll back the years on Saturday evening.
“I can do some damage, I’m not concerned about who I play. If I play my A-game, I can win the competition, no doubt about it,” White told Eurosport.
“I wouldn’t play the game if I couldn’t win. I know I can win. When you get to my age, realistically, you’re not that consistent.”
“But I’m pretty positive, because my game is in good shape. Your game has got to be sharp or else you look silly.”
Against Day, the legion of beloved fans who have followed Jimmy White at the UK Championship for four decades will be praying he, at the very least, doesn’t look silly.
Those loyal supporters have been through the mill before – too many times – and will know what to expect, but is adding another chapter to this fairy tale run impossible?
Stranger things have happened.
Jimmy White plays Ryan Day in the last 32 of the UK Championship on Saturday at 7pm GMT.
Featured photo credit: WST