by Dan-cat » 14 Feb 2021 Read
From Snookerscene blog in 2008:
MOUNTJOY'S MOMENT IN TIME
It is 20 33 (dan edit) years to the day since Doug Mountjoy won his second UK Championship title in what is one of the most heartwarming tales in snooker's rich, compelling history.
Mountjoy was one of snooker’s greatest names of the late 1970s/early 1980s but like all the other players of this era had a life long before turning pro.
Snooker was run like a gentleman’s club in the 70s. To become a professional you had to be invited by the other members, not all of whom particularly wanted talented amateurs muscling in on their patch.
Mountjoy could not walk out of school and on to the circuit in the way players of this era have done. He worked as a miner in the coal valleys of South Wales and played snooker in the evenings.
Already twice Welsh amateur champion, in 1976 he won the World amateur crown and was accepted into the pro ranks. He made an immediate impact, winning the Masters at his first attempt.
In 1978 he won the UK title. Three years later he reached the world final at the Crucible where Steve Davis beat him 18-12. He spent 11 successive years in the elite top 16.
But by 1988 Mountjoy seemed a spent force. He was beaten 13-1 by Neal Foulds in the second round of the World Championship and fell to 24th in the world rankings.
At the age of 46 it appeared as if the only way was down.
Desperate to stave off decline, Mountjoy sought out Frank Callan, a former fishmonger from Blackpool who had gained a reputation as one of the sport’s leading coaches.
Callan took Mountjoy’s technique apart and rebuilt it. This was high risk but rewards were immediate. Mountjoy beat Stephen Hendry, the defending champion, at the Grand Prix and began to feel better about his game.
Even so, nobody gave him a chance at Preston Guild Hall, the venue for the UK Championship in what nostalgics may term the good old days.
Mountjoy beat Foulds 9-5 and former world champion Joe Johnson 9-5 before edging John Virgo 9-8 having led him 8-3.
He was so relaxed against Terry Griffiths in the semi-finals that he went to sleep in his dressing room in the interval.
The final against Hendry was very much the old versus the new. The young gun was widely expected to beat the veteran.
Yet from 7-7 after the first day Mountjoy won all seven frames of the third session.
It is fashionable now to pretend that nobody could really play 20 years ago but at one stage he compiled three successive centuries.
At 15-7 he had it won. At 15-12 it was getting sticky but Mountjoy duly completed an emotional 16-12 victory and dedicated it to Callan.
Even more remarkably he went on to win the next ranking title, the Mercantile Classic in Blackpool, and would rise to his highest ever ranking, fifth.
The financial rewards from this golden run of success should have set Mountjoy up for life but he was badly ripped off by a manager.
Worse still, he had a lung removed after developing a tumour and his career hastened to an end in 1997.
Mountjoy went out to Dubai to coach and continued in a coaching role on his return to Wales.
He still plays from time to time in the CIU Championship, a tournament for working men’s clubs, very much back to his roots.
It’s sad that Mountjoy endured an uncomfortable time after his renaissance but he was from a generation that was grateful to have made a living from playing snooker and never forgot what life was like before there was a televised professional circuit.
He was a key character in the soap opera that was the UK snooker boom and, 20 years ago, he authored one of the most memorable of all the many stories that have kept so many engrossed in this great game.