Interview with Martin Gould

by Roland Cox

Following his disappointing defeat to Neil Robertson in last year’s World Championship, I conducted an interview with Martin Gould over Facebook of all places. You can read the interview here, however I was never satisifed with it so took the first opportunity I had to grab Martin for a proper interview, which came at the Pink Ribbon event in Gloucester.

Me with Martin Gould (all photos by Monique Limbos)

Roland Cox: Last year we did an interview over Facebook and the big talking point was your Crucible match against Neil Robertson where you played brilliantly to take an 11-5 lead only to see the Aussie show his mettle and go on to lift the title. How do you look back on that match now?

Martin Gould: I look on it as a positive more than a negative. I’ve watched the first two sessions since but not the last one, I refuse to watch that. The disc would probably end up in millions of pieces if I did!

I stayed at the Crucible for the duration of the tournament and didn’t come home because I knew if I did I would’ve dwelled over it and probably not have performed at all last season. So instead I decided to hang around and take the positives and that’s what I did and haven’t looked back. Obviously people still remind me about it but it doesn’t bother me anymore.

RC: I saw you at the Crucible a couple of days after the match and you seemed in good spirits and appeared to have taken it as just one of those things as if it hadn’t really affected you.

MG: Yes well you’re going to have matches like that where you build up a big lead and the other player is either going to come back and beat you or come back and make you fight for it. The final session was just one of those days where nothing went for me, and Neil played well. Obviously the referee’s little blunder didn’t help.

RC: What happened there again?

MG: He picked up the white by mistake. I think it was about 11-8 at the time and it was the first real chance I’d had in that session to try and get going, and it took about 4 or 5 minutes for them to get the white back where it was and I knew then that it just wasn’t my afternoon.

RC: So how much of a factor was finding out Steve Davis had just beaten John Higgins?

MG: It didn’t really have a massive bearing on it. It was in my mind once I got to 12 that I’ve got a chance to get in the semis here because obviously I’m going to be a huge favourite to beat Davis. I mean I know he has got millions of years more experience than me but I knew that if I had got going the way I did against Robertson the first 2 sessions that Steve’s not going to be able to handle that, not anymore because he makes too many silly little mistakes. So it had a little bearing but it wasn’t the reason I lost the match.

RC: This year you faced Marco Fu again in round 1 for the second year in a row, and you played what can only be described as truly inspirational snooker before losing out to Judd who was obviously in cracking form himself in round 2 so how do you look back on this year’s event?

Squaring up against Marco Fu at the Crucible for the second successive year

MG: Obviously the only real thing I look back on was at 7-5 against Judd when I missed a straight black into yellow pocket. I was a little bit stretching, and I was in three minds which way to play it: to drop it in, stun it in or screw it in and in the end I played all three shots in one and missed it.

RC: So you wish now you’d stood up.

MG: Yes indecision is one of those things which can happen to a snooker player. Sometimes you can’t get up off the shot and it cost me big time because next thing I knew about 20 minutes later it was 11-5. Obviously people were reminding me of what happened the year before and that I could do it to him, but the way he was playing unless something drastic happened and I went out there and did not miss a ball then it wasn’t going to happen, but fair play to Judd. He played really well and did well to get to the final. The match against Fu was good though.

RC: Yes that was one of the matches of the tournament. Last year you mentioned that you were a slow starter and were working on that aspect of your game. Then in the first major event of the year the World Open which was best of 5 frames you won your first four matches 3-0. So I guess whatever you worked on did the trick!

MG: I was making sure I was eating Weetabix in the morning! No, every match at the start of the season I seemed to get off to a good start. More often than not I win the first frame of a match but then it trails off to me going 3-1 down or something stupid like that before I get my act together. But this season I felt more relaxed. I felt that other players weren’t so much scared of me, but just a little bit more intimidated with how I was playing in the Worlds, and they weren’t sure which version of me would turn up – the one who would try to blow them off the table or the one who makes a few mistakes. At the start of the season I tended to play exactly how I did against Neil Robertson and try to blow everyone away and it worked for the World Open.

RC: You reached the final of PTC 6 and you lost out in the deciding frame against Dominic Dale. Can you tell us what happened in the last frame?

MG: Well I was 54 in front with 43 on and the table decided it wanted to play fun and games with me. He didn’t quite snooker me on the first occasion and left me a thin clip from baulk with the red by the pink spot and the white went on its merry way, took a ham and cheese roll and hit the black, left a free ball which he missed but he snookered me again and I played to swerve between brown and blue off the cushion to hit the same red and the white came off the other way to where I was aiming it. I felt I was destined not to win at that point. I left another free ball but Dominic had a mental lapse – he tried to roll up behind the green but it was only the fact the white rolled off and just flicked the green otherwise I’d have been back in control again.

RC: Because that would’ve been a foul obviously.

MG: Yes and he would’ve been in big trouble with where the balls were. I think overall that was worse for me than losing to Robertson.

RC: So that was the match which left you most devastated?

MG: Definitely. I made a 69 break in the deciding frame of a final and still lost! Also the red I missed on 69 into the green pocket looked in all the way but somehow it stayed out and from that point for the next 15 minutes or so the balls decided they didn’t want to be my friends!

Picking up the runner-up medal in the PTC Grand Final

RC: You reached the final of the PTC Grand Finals where along the way you beat Judd Trump and Mark Selby before losing to Shaun Murphy in the final. How much confidence did that give you?

MG: It gave me a huge amount of confidence. I’ve played Mark quite a few times and I’ve always lost by the odd frame. I was 2-2 and made a 69 in that as well and lost the frame, but I used a bit of resolve and won a good frame to get to 3-3 and potted a good red in the decider along the rail to finish him off.

But after that I was knackered and only had a 45 minute break before the final whereas Shaun had finished his semi at 1:30pm and had about 6 hours so it kind of done me up a little bit but it’s the way it goes.

RC: You must feel now that ranking titles are within your grasp?

MG: It’d be nice to win one. But the main thing for me with my snooker is that I enjoy it. The more I enjoy playing and I’m playing to a standard that I know I can play to all the time, then anything is possible. But if I don’t win anything I don’t win anything. As long as I’m happy, life’s good, my snooker’s good then anything else is a bonus.

RC: Have you noticed a growing fanbase through your style of snooker?

MG: Definitely! A lot of people seem to have jumped on the bandwagon and I’ve got a fair amount of fans everywhere. I’ve just heard today that I’ve got a massive fanbase in China which I’m pleased about. I’ve got a lot of fans in Germany as well.

RC: Of course the Chinese would have been following Marco Fu who you’ve beaten twice in a row now at the Crucible.

MG: Yeah I’m surprised they liked me after that, I thought they’d be after me!

RC: You’re a prime example of playing to win rather than playing not to lose. Do you ever think to yourself “I shouldn’t have taken that shot on”?

MG: No, never!

RC: So have you ever regretted not taking on a shot?

MG: There have been occasions where I’ve played a safety shot really well knowing I could’ve taken something on and been punished, maybe they’ve knocked in a long red and got back in the frame or won the frame and little things like that do wind me up a little bit. But I’m getting old and wise now so it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. If I win I win and if I lose I lose, simple as that really.

RC: In the interview last year you said your aim was to get inside the top 32 and you’ve done that comfortably. You’re also 43rd on the points to defend list for the first part of this season which gives you a big advantage on others around you who will be losing more points before the next revision so you must be thinking top 16 by the time of the Masters?

My snooker had gone to one side anyway because I was looking after my mum 24/7 and I just fell out of love with the game.

MG: Well the one thing which I’ve got left to do which I’ve not done yet is to play at the Masters. It’s not strictly my home venue anymore because it’s moving to the Ally Pally from Wembley but it’s still kind of my home tournament so that’s the one thing above everything else I really want to do.

RC: How much do you prefer playing in front of a big crowd compared to a qualifying event?

MG: I love the crowd!

RC: Can you understand Stephen Hendry’s reluctance to play in the qualifiers and consider retirement if he’s forced to play in those conditions?

MG: Well yes I’m probably very similar to Stephen in that I LOVE the big crowds. I get such a big buzz. The crowd we had for the final of the PTC was amazing. I mean a few people who were with me said the crowd was even better in Dublin than it was at the World Final in the final session and that was massive.

No disrespect to the qualifying events but it is hard to get motivated to play against one man and his dog. So I can understand Stephen’s point of view that it would be very hard for him because it’s not something he’s going to be used to. He’s still going to be able to play to a high standard, but it might take him a couple of tournaments to get used to playing in those cubicles.

RC: Can you give us a bit of background on how you came to be a snooker player?

MG: Well my dad got me into snooker but he only played from time to time and he’s absolutely useless – if he makes a 20 break he’s happy!

But when Pot Black was on my dad used to watch that all the time and I was in my cot and I’d sort of rise from the dead and start watching. My dad always booked time off work when the Worlds was on and me and him would sit glued in front of it, and he bought me a little table in the front room, and then when I was a bit older my sister bought me a table for what we called my playroom which was just a 6x3ft but I was on it all the time.

Then my dad took me to the club and thought I had a natural eye for it and we did a little bit of work on the cue action and went from there. After that I didn’t had a lesson until about 3 years ago when I went to see Del (Hill) who fine tweaked me into the potting machine that I am!

RC: You topped the Challenge Tour in 2002/03 to gain a place on the Main Tour and dropped off after one season. Did you quit the game for a bit?

MG: I did. I had to look after my mum, she was seriously ill with cancer. She then passed away and it meant that everything was on my shoulders like the house and paying bills and things like that. My snooker had gone to one side anyway because I was looking after my mum 24/7 and I just fell out of love with the game. I didn’t enjoy going down the club to practice, I didn’t want to play tournaments so I just said to myself that if I didn’t want to give myself 100% chance of winning anything, I’d rather not play.

So I didn’t play for about 18 months. Then a mate of mine entered me into the English Amateurs. I mean I had no intention of ever playing again so I said to him I’d play in it but I won’t practice. So I had a new tip put on, didn’t practice and turned up and won it. And then I won the play-offs and never looked back.

I suppose in hindsight right now I’m pleased I did give it one last try.

RC: (laughs) I should hope so too!

MG: I put my efforts into to giving it one last go and if it didn’t come off then so be it.

RC: Having done well in last season’s PTC events what is your opinion of them and the structure of them?

MG: It’s definitely a good thing. When you think about it you only had the 6 tournaments the season before and you were playing once every couple of months and the rest of the time you were sat around thinking “What do I do?”

You don’t want to keep going to the club day in day out practicing for 6 weeks because you’d end up playing yourself stupid and then you turn up to a tournament and can’t pot anything.

With the PTCs at least you know you’re getting match practice week after week. If you turn up and get beat at least you know you’ve only got a week until the next one rather than 2 months so I much prefer it.

In action at the Pink Ribbon event

RC: Are you looking forward to the next one then?

MG: Definitely. I had a good run in all of them last year. I never lost my first match in any of them.

RC: Are you going to enter them all?

MG: More than likely yes. You can’t really pick and choose any more, you’ve got to try and play in everything because just that couple of hundred points could be the difference between you finishing 16th or 17th.

RC: Do you think the rules should be changed so you can pick your best results?

MG: I suppose. They say you can play in 3 of one and 3 of the other but then there’s 6 events you could miss and there’s valuable ranking points so maybe they could fine tweak it a little bit but until they find a suitable solution most of us will have to play in all of them.

And it also means there’s a lot of travelling to do. Last year I was sick over Christmas and then I was just getting over that cold and I got another one and then another one at the Crucible so it’s certainly taken its toll on my body. I’m not used to all the travelling but if I’m going to be where I want to be then I’ve got to do it and look after myself the best I can.

RC: What do you think of the Pink Ribbon event?

MG: I like it, it’s good fun. I’m not saying everyone takes it lightly or anything but it’s a good little opening burst before the season starts.

RC: You’re seeing it from a top player’s point of view of course and from the grassroots players point of view there are a lot of kids who are getting the chance to maybe play a professional so they love it. Do you have an opinion on the 4 entries?

MG: Yes the only thing I didn’t like about it this year is that it allowed 4 chances. I think it should be just the one because it starts getting confusing for the organisers and a lot of us don’t know when we’re next playing or who we’re playing, it’s a bit confusing.

RC: How about us poor bloggers?

MG: (laughs) there should be no exceptions!

RC: In the last interview you said that your three best victories were against Stephen Hendry in the Welsh, Matthew Stevens in the world qualifers and Marco Fu at the Crucible. Have those choices been revised a year on?

Martin on his way to beating Mark Selby in the PTC Grand Finals

MG: I suppose beating Selby in Dublin to reach my first major ranking event final on TV is probably top 3 now. Other than that it hasn’t changed.

RC: So the first Fu match was better than the second?

MG: It’s a hard one to call really because it was a similar match, it was just the other way around. He was 6-3 up and I went 8-6 up whereas last year I was 5-4 down and went 8-6 down. It might be a little bit better this year because from 8-8 I played 2 really good frames to finish him off. I enjoyed going 9-8 up because I potted some stupid balls, the sort the commentators probably slated me for!

RC: Dave Hendon on Eurosport said of one of them you’d be proud of that shot if you’d played it on a Playstation!

MG: I’m always going to be one that goes for ridiculous shots. If they come off they come off and if they don’t they don’t and I look stupid. At least I give it a go.

I have to say the red I potted against Fu even though the frame had finished, I had an exhibition in Cornwall a couple of weeks ago and that shot came up. It wasn’t set up, it just came about and I got it twice in one night so I was pretty pleased with that!

RC: Which events over the coming season are you looking forward to playing in most?

MG: I’m looking forward to all of them!

The Playstation shot v Marco Fu at the Crucible - I’m always going to be one that goes for ridiculous shots (click to enlarge)

RC: Are the any venues you’re particularly looking forward to playing at?

MG: Obviously I’d like to try out the Ally Pally. The main venue to play in is always the Crucible, and I’ve heard York is meant to be nice so I’m looking forward to seeing that as well. I’m also looking forward to the foreign PTCs and it will be nice to go to Poland because apparently one is going to be held there.

RC: What about Australia?

MG: I’m not a keen flier so I’m not too bothered about going to the Australian Open because that will involve a long flight.

RC: 24 hours I think!

MG: Yeah sod that!

RC: (laughs) Have you thought about having your own website?

MG: Well my sister actually owns my name. She bought me for a tenner! That was a couple of years ago before I started doing what I’m doing so I’ve probably gone up to £10.99 now.

No, my sister’s planning on doing something. I’ve got a couple of people I’m friends with on Facebook and they’ve offered to set up a website for me as well, but I’d rather let my sister do it because she’s closer to home.

RC: Well thanks for your time and as a final thought you’ve got a lot of followers on the forum and they’re dubbing you the best right-handed single ball potter, because generally that accolade goes to left-handers like Williams, Trump and Robertson. How do you feel about that?

MG: That’s very nice. I’m surprised they’ve got me down as that when you’ve got the likes of Shaun Murphy and Ronnie, so I take that as a very high compliment and it’s much appreciated!

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