It's a very "genuine" interview that does give a good insight on the person behind the player. At first I didn't want to put it here as I don't want to spam the place with ROS stuff. But after getting advice from Sonny ... here it is.
I've left out the footie part ... but if you're interested just follow the link.
The World Championships is obviously the big tournament of the year.
Does this have any influence on how you prepare and what is your normal approach to the tournament?
ROS. Not really. Once the nights get lighter you remember the Worlds are around the corner! My approach generally is fairly consistent whatever the competition but obviously some days you feel much fresher to get on the table to practice than others. The important thing about the World Championships is to remember that it’s just another tournament and why should it affect how you play? The rewards and the prestige are greater but the minute you change your mental approach or consider any small error as being of greater significance I think you can come unstuck. I’ve seen plenty of players with the breaks and technique just fall apart when the TV cameras and media get involved. I know it sounds a bit clichéd, but it’s just a snooker table and you go out and do your best. Sometimes, the championships can be an anti-climax because it really is just another tournament.
Can you tell us about your first championships? Going to them after a great start as a pro. Can you remember how you felt, expectations etc?
ROS. Well I wasn’t nervous. Excited yes, but not really nervous. My memory of my first championships is just being disappointed with my game (O’Sullivan lost in the first round). The start I had as a pro was terrific. I mean I don’t analyse these things. I just went out and played, I couldn’t have told you ‘oh I expect to win everything’. It just happened and that led up to the Worlds but that year it just didn’t happen for me on the day. That’s snooker, that’s sport. You have to learn to live with it. Like I said before, for young players you can only take responsibility for yourself, you know? Nobody else can play the game for you. Expectations then and now haven’t changed for me. I still want to play the game to the best of my ability.
The first title in ’01 – was it the best? How did it compare to other two?
ROS. It’s tough to pinpoint your emotions looking back at events but I guess the first title was about finally putting down that marker. These days I honestly couldn’t care less about proving anything to anybody else but myself. Before that title, everyone had been banging on about me being the youngest world champion so these things tend to stick in your mind especially when it doesn’t happen! I know it was a thrill to win the championship but I remember just being fairly desperate to get over the line and put the match to bed. Beating John Higgins is always a challenge and you know there’s a point where it’s just a snooker match. Then come the applause and the trophy. The day after it feels much better and you realise you’ve pulled it off. All three titles have been great obviously but the first time will always be the best.
At what point did you consider yourself to have been playing at your peak and can you describe any matches where it all came together?
ROS. Being totally honest I would have to say between 12 and 16 is when I felt I was totally happy with my game and producing the snooker to match. Maybe its part of working your way up and the whole thing being new, but equally I think it was the thrill of the pro-ams, the whole sudden death process of those evenings and just being on a charge, beating some big names, building a reputation, whatever. I think at that age its just a game, there’s no baggage that comes with being a pro with the profile, interviews etc. But for me at that point I felt totally confident in my game and nothing and nobody held any fears for me.
2010. Pressure on or pressure off? Is it time to put the titles and reputation to one side and just go and play some great snooker or is it pressure on and confound some critics who feel you should have won the title more times?
ROS. You know what, I left all that business of proving myself behind me about five years ago. I did feel kind of responsible to win things, make history or whatever, but then you strip it down and you realise its all a load of rubbish. What I know is that I love playing snooker. If there were no tournaments or I wasn’t pro, it wouldn’t make any difference, I know I’d still be playing snooker because I love the game. Some people might find that difficult to believe because of things I’ve said in the past, but it’s the difference between the game in its pure sense and that means you, a cue and snooker table and then you’ve got the snooker scene, where people are looking for quotes and sometimes you’re on the treadmill of tournaments. I understand the need for the media and definitely the need to promote the game and it is important but it’s not something I welcome because it’s detached from the game itself. It’s like all sports there are plenty who can talk a good game but what use is that when you get down to the nitty gritty of a game and a match? Fate decides what’s going to happen, it’s not just all about me because I’ve got opponents who also want to win. History and records aren’t relevant to me right now. It doesn’t matter how many titles I’ve won to me here and now because it proves nothing. Afterwards, when you’ve knocked the pro game on the head then of course I’d like to see my name on a few lists of winners, but these things still matter more to other people. Me, I just get my cue and play some snooker. Some times it’s a joy, some times it can be frustrating. I know I can play some great snooker and still lose a match. If you ask me whether I want to play crap and win or great and lose, then I’ll take the latter.
You’ve got to pay for a ticket to the world championships. Who would you go and watch and why?
ROS. As it stands I’ll go for two players. Judd Trump is good to watch. He’s an attacking player and a risk taker and generally his all round game is strong. The other would be Stephen Hendry. He’s a legend a total pro. He’s always known his way round the table and for the lads coming through or wanting to be a pro he’s still the player to watch and learn from.
Fantasy World Championships – pick your four semi-finalists from all eras and who would go on to win the ultimate title.
ROS. Hendry, Davis, Higgins and White. Four terrific players all with their own strengths. These are the four players I rate the most and across all the eras I’ve watched or been involved with. As for a winner, I guess when it comes to strengths and the fewest weaknesses I would have to go for Hendry. He’s still got what it takes and I would never rule him out of any tournament. I loved Alex and Jimmy because they’re attacking players but that applies to Stephen as well which another reason why I would happily pay to watch him play. Higgins was snooker for a few years, he galvanised the sport, because everyone could see how much it mattered to him and you always felt there was no shot beyond him. I guess Jimmy took over that mantle and he was loved because people love to see those shots that they could never play in a million years. Everyone’s got a good pot in them or a nice bit of safety but Jimmy’s cue and ball work was beyond what virtually any player or pro could achieve. Steve Davis was the man for me as a kid. He lived local to me and was a man totally dominant in his era. Very different to me again, but the admiration was for his ability and he was cool customer as well.
Who are the four players with the right pedigree to win the title this year?
ROS. As it stands John Higgins is playing very well and is going to be a difficult opponent for anyone. He’s very consistent and his form this year has been good. Ding Junhui is another player improving all the time and he will definitely be a serious threat. Sean Murphy and Mark Selby would also be players I’ll be expecting to do well.
It’s great to see a player of Mark Williams’ class getting back to the top. He’s a great player and you need players like him on the big stage, he’s entertaining.
Which other sportsman do you see yourself in most and why?
ROS. Probably John McEnroe. I think we share the same passion for our respective sports but I also think for him the battle in his game wasn’t really with officials or other players but more with himself, setting high standards and sometimes falling short or just looking for that winner that other players wouldn’t go for and not pulling it off. I know that people can perceive me as moody, aggressive or a bad sport and obviously you don’t want to promote that but I can honestly say that for me it’s all about me and what my expectations are of my game. Sometimes you get so much in the zone you can almost be oblivious to what your outward demeanour is giving out. If you know what you are capable of and for whatever reason it doesn’t come off it can be painful, even embarrassing for me. It’s not about who I am losing to, thinking I should be beating this mug, it’s just about the standards you set yourself. I think McEnroe had massive expectations of himself. He lived every shot.
FUTURE STARS OF SNOOKER
You obviously have fond memories of the pro-ams and going all over the country to compete. There’s a great piece in your book about beating Gavreau and your reference to the whole of your game coming together. This tournament (snooker stars) isn’t the same but it does focus on skill sets. At the very beginning how did you build on those skills?
ROS. Future Stars of Snooker is something I am really excited about because part of it takes me back to when I was starting out and secondly it’s great to be able to have Rileys backing me on this. Building on skill sets is all part of the game and you know that if you’re weak in an area you’ll struggle ultimately, so our winner will need to be totally confident in all facets. The important thing is to take time to watch players, by which I mean the pros. Just watch their technique and approach. It’s the basics that will improve the player but without practice it won’t happen for them. At 9 you just couldn’t keep me off the table.
Assuming potting is a given what is the core skill set that a young player needs, something on which other skills can be developed?
ROS. Like I said, practice. Believe me, if you love the game, the practice will be easy. Obviously when I was younger I would set myself little tests and scenarios to help with potting and break building and there’s an element of this in the tests for Future Stars of Snooker. Sometimes you do have to break the game down and consider those shots or positions you don’t like or are not confident with and just practice until the confidence grows. When it comes to this tournament we’ve got to look at all these elements. I could tell you whether someone’s got enough class just from the way they hold their cue so apart from the actual tests I’ll just be looking for people with that little bit extra and a big part of that is that inner confidence, when you can look at someone and think, hello, they look a bit special. That’s what we want because the commitment we will show to the winner will be genuine. We want to take responsibility for finding a real talent that will in trophies and make a name for them.
This programme will be about toughing it out and it will be a stern test of bottle. Simple question, can you build that into a player?
ROS. Yeah, I think to some extent you can. These young players have got to feel like they belong on the big stage and that confidence comes with the ability so it’s all about development across a number of levels. Some players have got, some haven’t. I’ve seen some amazing talent growing up and even now as a pro there’s an environment where these guys are mustard, but then it gets to a new level, like I said the cameras roll up and wham, they get knotted up and they’re a different animal. These lads are going to be looking to prove themselves with ability, but I’ll also be looking for any tell tale signs that they can put everything other than their game, out of their heads and be totally focussed on the game. The bottle has to come young, that’s why we’re doing this for under 16s.
The tests are quite focussed on the individual rather than actual match play. When you play, are you simply focussed on your own game and how the balls lie for you or if you see a weakness, e.g. someone is off their safety play do you look to exploit that?
ROS. Let people worry about you. That’s the battle. If a guy’s struggling with his safety he’ll know it and it will niggle. If they’re worried about playing Ronnie O’Sullivan then it’s their problem not mine. Sometimes, it’s a very simple game – get on the table, build the break and be in control, decide when it’s time to leave a break and make sure that next shot for your opponent is as awkward as possible.
How does that compare to other players. Are they any different?
ROS. Well I think the more durable players might see it differently. Funnily enough these are the players that are the best to play to get into your game. They are a test, so if you come through that then you’ll feel better about your game. For the world’s you would ideally want to be pushed in the early rounds so you can get into your game. Higgins, Selby, Dott and Ebdon are all a challenge, because they’ll make you fight for every frame. That’s what is good about the game, having different styles and different characters.
Who is the best young talent you have come across and can you describe what it is that’s setting them apart?
ROS. For me it’s Judd Trump. I like his game, he’s a nice clean potter and he just has a nice free and easy style to his game, which is something we’ll be looking for in the competition. Mind you Judd’s got to now move out of the prospect category and start lifting some trophies. At some point you’ve got to prove your credentials and back up the hype.
The recent UK Championships saw a few walk-ons with a difference (!). So if you were walking out at the PDC World Championships to play Phil, what would be your walk-on music?
ROS. I’ll choose two just in case! 8 Mile by Eminem and Stellify by Ian Brown. Both amazing. I think that would suit me. Not sure how I’d walk on though, perhaps a bit of the old Ian Brown monkey moves!
Where does the Rocket go from here? What would you most like to do when and if, you leave the game?
ROS. Well I guess what we’re doing now with Future Stars of Snooker is a bit of practice for being involved with the game which I would genuinely like to do. I’d like to media work either with snooker or other sports. I love sport in general and have enjoyed the sessions I’ve had with TalkSPORT. I think I could carry that off. I think if you’ve been involved in sport at the highest level it does qualify you to observe and have opinions on what’s going on with players and teams in sport so I would definitely be up for some media work. I’ll always play snooker whether as a pro or not. It’s what I love doing.
What sports event would you most want to see and why?
ROS. I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of major sports. Seeing Federer in the flesh on the court is amazing. The one event I would really like to see live is the Masters at Augusta with Tiger Woods ripping it off the tee. I think the combination of the event itself and seeing Tiger would be the best.
From an early age there would have been people and sportsmen you looked up to. Who have you met that you idolised and most lived up to your expectation?
ROS. I think as far as sporting idols go they don’t come much better than Phil Taylor. He’s got to be the best sportsman we’ve produced in the last 15 years and I know there’s been a lot. But his consistency, sheer brilliance at his sport and his attitude is a fantastic combination. He’s a top bloke and we’ve met quite a few times and we’ll swap texts to wish each other luck before tournaments. He’s just a great straight talking, down to earth bloke. I love the way he plays opponents. Look at that last PDC final, 20,000 at the Alexandra Palace. A tough, tough opponent in Simon Whitlock who put in some amazing shot outs and yet Phil just takes it all in his stride. He’s always there with applause or acknowledgement for an opponent and he’s always ready to have a laugh, but you look at him on the oche and its focus, focus. He’s a man with not only the talent but he’s also a massive personality on that stage. When a darter takes on Phil Taylor they’re taking on the player and his aura. Yet he’s just this normal bloke with a smile and handshake. He’s a good man.
It seems to me that you approach your running with a similar sense of intensity that you have to snooker? Would you say that’s true and is it about personal pride. If you’re going to do a job do it well? Thus – what would you most like to give a go?
ROS. Well, if you’re going to do it, then do it as well as you can. Running, like snooker, is something I just love doing. It’s more painful though! I suppose if I had more time on my hand then I would love to give the motor racing a go. They’re all a buzz really, snooker, running and motor racing, but obviously in different ways, but I definitely get that same feeling from the racing you know, that I can do well with it.
Are you intending to enter the Volkswagen racing Cup this year? If you are, then what are the training, the car and what events are you looking to enter?
ROS. Hopefully yes, I really enjoyed last year. Like I said it’s just fitting it in but the Volkswagen Cup allows you to enter individual races, not just the season as a whole so having that option is perfect for me.
Do you have any favourite cooking programmes, if so which and why?
ROS. Well as you know I am the wizard with the wok! My cooking’s come on no end and I’ve got a mate whose decided enough’s enough, my kitchen can’t take it anymore and he’s planning a whole new layout and ensure I’ve got the right set up and tools for the job! I enjoy Saturday kitchen with James Martin, I like the format and little bits with guys like Rick Stein, so if I’m free I’ll tune into that but I’ll try and catch anything providing I can learn from it. Market kitchen’s another favourite.
My favourite cooking Book is Sophie Grigson’s ‘First Time Cook’, it teaches you how to do the basics really well, all the standards but with the right mixes to give the standards the best flavour It’s like a bible for me and I’ve learned loads from it. The more I cook the more I enjoy it and it’s nice having my mates come round and rely on me to serve up the nosh!
What else is in the Ronnie pipeline?
ROS. You know, the Ronnie mantra at the moment is ‘keep it simple’. For me, my kids are everything to me and I aim to spend as much time with them as possible. They are my motivation both in terms of my game but of most importance the responsibilities I have as a father to them. So for me, everything works around them.
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