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Life on the tour ....

Postby Monique ... rcuit.html
Yes, it’s the return of the weekly feature – apart from all the weeks I don’t do it – taking you behind the scenes of life on the snooker circuit.

I was reading about Jason Manford, who has quit as presenter of the One Show after a tabloid expose in which he admitted to ‘saucy chats’ with women on the internet while staying in hotels on his stand-up tour.

His excuse is that he was bored and lonely moving from one hotel to another, which sounds weaselish but anyone who has spent any time on the road will understand what he means.

When Ronnie O’Sullivan described the World Championship as a ‘bore’ at the launch of Power Snooker he wasn’t referring to the actual tournament but the endless hanging around that it entails.

The life of a professional snooker player may sound glamorous – and it can be – but most of the time it’s a merry-go-round of motorways, airports and hotels. It’s late nights, bad meals, one drink too many in the bar and fitful sleep.

As players get older and have families they become less keen on spending long periods away from home.

But at least when they get knocked out they can go home, unlike the other members of snooker’s travelling circus: officials, table fitters, the TV crew and the media included.

The press, or at least needy freelancers looking to save a few quid, have stayed in various establishments that made Wormwood Scrubs look like the Ritz.

I once returned one night from a tournament to find my room had been given to someone else. My suitcase was in the lobby. “We thought you’d left” was the somewhat puzzling explanation.

More than once I’ve had drunks banging on the door, demanding to be let into what they erroneously believe to be their room.

Speaking of alcohol, many years ago the WPBSA appointed a chief executive who availed himself of the free bar in Dubai as if the drink were going out of fashion.

A couple of hours later a board member and his wife were walking down a corridor when they came across him face down, incapacitated through drink.

“Who’s that?” the wife asked.

“That’s our new chief executive” came the immortal response.

The British bed and breakfast is one of those institutions held in high esteem, usually by people who never have to stay in them.

In my experience they are eccentric places. I once stayed in one that would not accept cheques or credit cards (in all likelihood some sort of tax dodge) and was physically driven to an ATM by the landlord so that I could pay in cash.

At least in a B&B you are, in theory anyway, guaranteed a bed. The breakfast often leads much to be desired.

Fergal O’Brien was staying in a B&B in, I think, Plymouth and when his cooked breakfast was put in front of him there were no eggs on the plate.

When he asked for one he was cheerily told, “oh, sorry, we need all the eggs to bake a cake.”

I stayed in a B&B in Bournemouth one time where the manager told me breakfast would be served from 8-8.20am: not a minute before and certainly not a minute later.

As it transpired he used this 20 minutes to conduct what was basically a stand-up routine in the dining room. Hunger felt like the better option after a few days of this.

B&Bs are cheap and can sometimes be friendlier than big chain hotels but too much time in them would surely drive you insane.

One of my colleagues hit on an idea to save even more money in Aberdeen a few years ago: he stayed in a tent.

Alas, one night he returned to the site to find his tent washed away due to flooding and exceptionally strong winds.

One year in Sheffield I stayed in a flat with two other journalists. It proved to be a predictably bizarre experience. One hack believed his room was haunted while one day the other forgot to turn the grill off in the kitchen after making early morning toast.

When we returned from the Crucible some 13 hours later we opened the door and were hit by a blast of heat that nearly knocked us over backwards.

Suddenly life in B&Bs didn’t seem so bad.

A colleague once stayed in one in the era before email and needed to dictate a story to a copytaker late one night. He asked the establishment’s owner if there was a phone he could use – it would be an 0800 number and so therefore free but the owner pointed out of the window and said there was a callbox across a field. This was in the depths of winter.

For those who spent many months at the Norbreck in Blackpool during the 1990s, it wasn’t so much boredom that set in but madness.

Day after day after day of snooker tends to do that to you. All they could do was try and amuse themselves with various wind-ups.

One official returned to his room to find it completely empty, stripped of everything. He later had one of his eyebrows shaved off in an unrelated incident.

The king of the practical joke was John Carroll of 110sport. He once changed all the numbers of various floors of a hotel so that when people got out of the lift they had no idea where they were.

John Higgins naively strayed into this area when he filled Ian Doyle’s bed with sugar in Dubai, which is a little like walking up to a lion and punching it in the face.

Another time, two of my journalistic pals were sharing a room to save money. One joker decided to tell hotel staff that they weren’t just sharing but were, in fact, a couple.

One of the hacks had to leave one night to cover football and so his bed was unslept in. The next morning the other journalist set off for the snooker but turned back, headed to the room and ruffled up the sheets in the unused bed in case the cleaning staff got the wrong impression.

I realise all of this sounds childishly pathetic but with so many hours, days and weeks spent on the circuit you have to amuse yourself somehow.

Of course, hotels can be deadly too. Snooker Scene editor Clive Everton fell in his bathroom at the Crucible three years ago and broke his hip, thus missing the last day of the championship and indeed his first ever day at Sheffield since the tournament moved there in 1977.

A fellow journalist was once in the shower at the Norbreck when someone broke into his room and stole his wallet. The hack heard the door close, realised what had happened and gave chase down the corridor, rugby tackling the thief naked.

This scene must have looked a trifle odd to anyone passing by but, on the snooker circuit, it was just another day.

Re: Life on the tour ....

Postby Roland

Him and Phil Yates should write a book together.

Re: Life on the tour ....

Postby JohnFromLondonTown

Here's one of my many tales of the joy's of being on the road......

I remember when I was playing & I entered the Strachan Challenge Series around 1993 ish, which was taking place up in Sheffield. The comps used to go on for 2 weeks then & I always booked the first week in the hope that I maybe staying the second week. Anyway, when I received the list of hotels & B+B's from the WPBSA, I picked one out, phoned them up, & asked them how close they were to the venue? The reply was that the venue was just around the corner. "Great" I thought, reasonably priced, room booked for a week, the second week if the needs be, just around the corner from the venue, perfect I thought. And I'm playing well to boot.

I arrived, found out that the venue was a £30 cab fare away from the venue, which was the other side of Sheffield, & when I queried this with the owner the reply I received was "I thought you meant the other Snooker club around the corner". Charming I thought. Fortunately, Mark Williams was staying in the same B+B at the time, had experienced something similar to myself with regard to the logistics, & his Uncle Vic, God Bless Him, offered to drop me their & back as Mark had the same match times as me, a 10am start. Though he did finish his match's quicker than I did, I have to be honest.

After my second round victory, I arrived back to the B+B & couldn't open my room door. When I was subsequently let in, by the owners daughter, a referee stood in front of me looking as bemused as I was when I asked "what was he doing in my room?" No prizes for guessing that his reply was that this was his room. After some time, & a very long & interesting conversation, another player at the time staying in the same B+B, being Wilson Doran, offered to let me 'Top & Tail' with him for the night as I well & truly Snookered for somewhere to stay.

I turned up for my 3rd round match, which was against Karl Burrows, suitcase in one hand, cue in the other, & got beat 5-2. Despite knocking in two seventy odd breaks I might add. Playing as well as I was, lets just say when I walked back to my chair seeing my suitcase tidily placed beside the chair, it wasn't exactly overly inspiring.

There are some things on the road that you just cannot compensate for.

Re: Life on the tour ....

Postby SnookerFan

I reckon that collectively we should make a Snooker Island book about fans stories of travelling to watch snooker and meeting the players. John could chip in with the players perspective, Monique could write behind the scene camerawork stories. That'd be a good book.

We could include Wild's review of each tournament, bringing his own brand of impartial, level-headed analysis. <ok>

Re: Life on the tour ....

Postby JohnFromLondonTown

I just posted this on Dave Hendon's blog. Some sort of nice reminiscing this. Maybe it's because its Friday, I'm not sure, but I'll share on here too....*Shrugs Shoulders*

I was fortunate enough to get 4 tickets sent to me (Thanks Anne) for our player of the year award back in either 1992 or 1993 ish (apologies). I can't remember which year, so forgive me. The company was superb tho.

Anyway, the great Stephen Hendry won our Player of the Year award that year & afterwards, amongst the mingling, I looked beside me & there the Great One was, no more than 6 feet away from me, player of the year trophy in hand. He looked at me, I looked at him, I knew him, he didn’t know me. I said, "Excuse me Stephen, can I have a look at your trophy please?" The Great One looked me up & down, & handed it over. I had a good look at he trophy, smiling at the situation I was in, & at the trophy, looked up at the Great Man & asked "Stephen, can you do me a favour please?" The Great one looked back at me (& as anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting the Man), replied "Sure, no problem, what is it?" I replied, "Look after that please, because I'm gonna' win this next year". A smile broadened his face, I chuckled, so did he, we shook hands, he wandered off to carry on reaching his own echelons in our game, that I could only dream about, & I carried on smiling & enjoying myself.

What a wonderful world Snooker is.

Re: Life on the tour ....

Postby Witz78

Monique wrote:
The life of a professional snooker player may sound glamorous – and it can be – but most of the time it’s a merry-go-round of motorways, airports and hotels. It’s late nights, bad meals, one drink too many in the bar and fitful sleep.

late nights?
bad meals?
one drink too many in the bar?


doesnt sound too bad to me rofl

Re: Life on the tour ....

Postby JohnFromLondonTown

Witz78 wrote:

late nights?
bad meals?
one drink too many in the bar?


doesnt sound too bad to me rofl[/quote]
Witz, This is genuine. As part of my money supplements when I was playing, I worked for a fella of Kiss FM who ran the raves & DJ'd at some of them too & I helped set up all the rigs & when the gigs were over, break them down. I still entered the Amateur comps, as well as practicing, to keep my eye in.

Anyway, we worked through Wednesday to Tuesday, full on, sleeping approx. 4 hours a day & when it finished, I had a league match on the Wednesday for the Team (Deerfield, in Hendon) which I captained. I turned up, sorted the lads, started to play & I took the first red on I seen, it flew in. Bang on the black, I absolutely hammered the black in & as you do, your eyes automatically switch from the object ball to the cue ball when you've hit it to see what the cue ball is doing. Next thing 'Whoosh' genuine, the black ball had hit the back of the pocket, bounced out & flew past my face, literally just missing it! I looked at the black ball which was under the table beside the one I was playing on, I looked at the ref, who called 'Foul' & I asked what happened there? I was shaken.

I started to shake thru fear of the black ball nearly knocking me out. I had genuinely never experienced that B4 & I've hit thousands upon thousands of balls. I got beat 2-0, gutted & I had a driver at the time, (Stevie) & on the way home, because of all the shakes I had after the black ball incident, I said to him in the car on the way home, "I don't know if I'm a Snooker player, an alcoholic, or a drug addict?" He replied" Count yourself Lucky" <laugh>

Genuine. <ok>