As well as Jak Jones, during the UK Championship in Telford earlier this month Suzy also caught up with his manager and founder of the highly rated South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester, Paul Mount.
Suzy Jardine: Paul thanks for agreeing to talk to us. Just explain how you came to be involved in snooker to start with.
Paul Mount: I’ve been involved and played for quite a long time as an amateur and I have been involved with Michael Wasley for about four years looking after his amateur career and getting him through to the final of the European Under 19s a couple of years ago. and then about two years ago I got involved with Robert Milkins and once I’d done that I decided I wanted to be more involved in the professional side of the game and decided to build the academy and it has taken off from there.
SJ: I have been down to the academy myself and it is very very impressive how long did it take for it to be completed?
PM: I came up with the idea last April 2009 and it was virtually completed in June this year 2010 when we had our first tournament which was the Pink Ribbon. But it was completely finished in October.
SJ: Of all the players you have seen and watched, who do you rank as your favourite player of all time?
PM: Always loved Ray Reardon.
PM: I just think he is a class player, liked his attitude, just really good, a really nice chap.
SJ: Obviously managing players now as well, how much is it being a parental figure and being an official. How do you combine the two?
PM: I have a very relaxed attitude really to the management of the players, we all seem to get on as much as friends as anything else. We can talk on all levels quite easily. Obviously with the younger players – maybe a bit of a father figure or a grandfather figure.
SJ: You now have Jak Jones within your framework and I think he is having a very solid start to the season isn’t he?
PM: It has been great for Jak. He is 17 years of age and to be able to come on the tour and especially with these PTCs giving him the chance to play the top players. OK he’s had some bad draws, if you can call them bad draws, in as much as the likelyhood of him winning was small because he has played top 32 players, top 16 players. Normally when you come on the tour you don’t get that opportunity so for development in his career, looking forward and what he has learned, it is massive.
SJ: Playing in the PTCs it means you are playing regularly as well, sharpening up your game in the process?
PM: Yes they are all sharpening up their game and there have been some good results for a lot of our players. One of The Academy’s leading amateurs Michael Wasley beat several pro’s including Ryan Day, that was a massive win for him, and obviously some good wins by our younger players and some of our more established players have had some good wins and good runs at tournaments. And of course Dominic Dale winning one and Barry Hawkins hitting a 147 in another.
SJ: When you have two of your players playing each other how difficult it is for you?
PM: It is not difficult for me. I tend not to speak to either of them before a match. I wouldn’t like either of them to think there was any favouritism. I keep out of the way.
SJ: You of course have Sarah helping you. And down at the Academy you have nicely designed set up and the practice facilities as well?
PM: It is great having Sarah on board as it is lovely to work with your family. Sarah is brilliant at it as well. She is very diligent, puts a lot of effort in, a lot of work, much more time than people think and she has been very much involved with what I am doing at the Academy. And yes I am very happy with the way the Academy is built – I think it is one of the best facilities around – and I’m looking forward to seeing more and more players there.
SJ: Very, very proud moment for you this June when you had the Pink Ribbon tournament, what was it like having all those players asking you “Can I come and play in it?”, it must have made you proud?
PM: It’s massive, you were there yourself I was blubbering away. You can’t help it, we only finished the construction and getting building officers approval 8.30 that morning, the doors opened at 9. We worked all night to get some of the health and safety things signed off, so it was a big relief anyway and then of course during the interview on the radio just before the event I was asked about the motivation behind it and the fact that the arena is named after my sister. I got very emotional anyway, and when I had to give my opening speech, just a bit too much really. I went all soppy.
SJ: Once you have got the start of a tournament, the adrenalin takes over and it carries you through doesn’t it?
PM: Yeah that tournament was fantastic, 39 pros played in it. In effect just a pro am. It is going to be an annual event, but we had 39 professionals playing in it, all appreciated the facilties, they got good practice before the start of the season. They will have same opportunity next season and as far as the operation of the event over that weekend it was early mornings to late nights every day. But I didn’t feel tired until it finished – and then I just collapsed!
SJ: And it was a case of a few days off to relax wasn’t it?
SJ: You didn’t!
PM: No I haven’t had a day off since.
SJ: But it is the environment that you like to be busy in isn’t it, because it is a hobby and it has become a job as well hasn’t it?
PM: It’s become a job, it’s also my hobby. It’s a dream, and at times a nightmare.
SJ: In what way a nightmare?
PM: That’s a difficult one, sometimes I wonder what I have done. I really do, when you see the bills coming in, electricity bills for £1,850 for a month, the rates, the Council trying to rip you off. The rates £68,000 a year, you think, why have I done this? I should be sunning myself in Barbados!
SJ: One thing I noticed at the Pink Ribbon, the players having pink backing on their waistcoats, a very poignant story there isn’t there?
PM: There is. I decided when I started doing On Q Promotions player management company, to try and get as many of my players as possible to wear the pink backs to their waistcoats. It is optional, they don’t have to do it. A lot of them have taken it up. It is obviously in memory of my sister who died of breast cancer. And the academy is set up as a company limited by guarantees. All the money, any profit that place makes goes straight to breast cancer charities and the Lords Taverners.
SJ: Of all the matches that you have seen, i.e your players being involved or perhaps any other player,which match stands out for you this season so far?
PM: Probably Jimmy Robertson against Neil Robertson in Prague.
SJ: Why is that?
PM: Well apart from beating the world champion, Jimmy Robertson played fantastic on that day. He looked like he was never going to miss a ball.
SJ: Is that with the EPTCs, they are able to practice and once they get to play the top players they are sharpened up aren’t they?
PM: They are, anyone from these players from the lowest ranked player on the tour right the way through to number one, well we know that they can play fantastic snooker on their day.
SJ: Just tell me a little bit about the next event the QSP?
PM: The QSP which is short for Qualifying School Preparation Series a series of four events, which we are holding at the Academy, each one will be three days. Players can enter the full series of events and it is preparation for entering the world snooker cue school. There is prize money for each weekend and also the top four will get their entry into cue school paid for them and a scholarship for one month leading up to cue school, so they can spend all their time at the Academy preparing themselves on Star tables, which are exactly the same as what they are going to use when they try and qualify.
SJ: And of course using the Star tables they are already acclimatised to the tables that they play on on the tour?
PM: They are and I don’t think people realise how different these Star tables are to a table you have in your club. Even if you have a good table that is cut almost to world snooker templates they play very very different, the cushions respond differently, the pockets respond differently, the cloth responds differently. People who turn up at cue school, trying to compete to win a place on tour, that have not played regularly on these Star tables and are putting themselves at a massive disadvantage.
SJ: Paul thanks very much for your time and the very best of luck to you and all at the Academy. I hope everything continues to go well for you.
PM: Thank you Suzy.