I'm a massive Stevens fan, I've got to admit. No player comes close for me. I will never forget my delight when he put away the crucial pink in the 2003 UK Final. Nor will I forget how agonising it was to watch him lose against Murphy in the 2005 World Final. It never even crossed my mind that he would lose to a qualifier, and at 10-6 I went to bed that night a happy kid. But I still wince at the thought of that second day. As Murphy came back, I felt physically sick. One Murphy went in front, I knew in my heart Matthew was gone, even when he pulled it back to 16-16.
Two years later, I watched as he cooly controlled his quarter-final with the same man, playing some excellent snooker to lead 11-5. I stayed home from school the following day, to watch him cap it off. I don't think I need to tell you anymore, we all know what happened.
Matthew's career ended that day, it pains me to say. He has only shown flashes of what he's truly capable of.
I got to meet Matthew a few years back, and I was immediately struck by how nice a guy he was. Some players wouldn't give you the time of day, but for Matthew, signing autographs and talking to fans seemed no problem. Along with Higgins (sorry Witz), Ebdon (much to my surprise) & the late Paul Hunter, Stevens was one of the lads who came across exceptionally well to me.
I'll never stop my support for Matthew, and if he did win the World Championship, I'd be the happiest man in Ireland. But there's a few reasons why this will never happen.
1) Matthew does not have the bottle in comparison to other top players. This has been proven time and time again.
2) Matthew has never looked the same player since Paul Hunter died. I know losing his Dad was tough, but it happens most people at some stage. Losing your best friend as young as he did would have been tougher I reckon, although it's not for me to say.
3) Matthew has too many demons at the Crucible.
4) Matthew is too lazy to be a World Champion. He refuses to learn how to play with the rest, opting to play left-handed instead. Let's just say he's no Ronnie.
5) Matthew doesn't care enough about snooker. He's been through a lot in his private life, and I think that he'll be devoting himself to his wife and kids rather than a snooker table. And I would commend him for that.
6) He had his chances. He didn't take them.
Matthew was an excellent player at his best, particularly over longer formats. He always started slowly, which is why he could never do it over shorter formats, but was a bit of a comeback specialist.
But in recent years, he has looked a shadow of his former self, with last year's loss to Martin Gould being the nadir. Too many battle scars on and off the table. I'd like to praise the other article, but it's wishful thinking that he'll be World Champion at this stage.
Not that it blights my opinion of the man in any way. He's a top guy, and will always be my favourite player.
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