Post a reply

History&stories from Blackpool

Postby MarcoStaiano

I decided to open this topic with the precise idea to mix (literally) history with stories.
Looking back at how snooker worked in the 90s, when the game was opened and it was easy buy your ticket to play, a place became the emblema of qualifiers: the Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool.
I recently listened to the David Hendon podcast, where he visited the place with Alan McManus. As someone born in 1995, it was fascinating discovery how someone had to win match after match to join the top-class players. The system in my opinion was fair but really complicated and a bit tortuous. The environment was pretty fascinating, so I spotted comments and articles in which it was described how it worked down in Blackpool, where players of dubious talent met world champions.
I'll post here what I found and I hope that people will add something more or add more details to the stories:
- It was at the nearby Marriner’s pub, a focal point for those celebrating victory, consoling themselves in defeat or merely marking time, where Alex Higgins emerged 6-3 down after the first session to Tony Knowles in the final qualifying round of the 1994 World Championship. Higgins, who rarely favoured a soft drink, fell returning to the venue and cut his arm. Blood seeped on the table as he gamely battled back to win 10-9, a vignette symbolic of his chaotic life and steadfast will to win. It was also at the Norbreck where the Hurricane told a referee to move because “you’re standing in my line of thought.” When he made his highest ever break in the World Championship against Tai Pichit of Thailand, he unaccountably began to cry as he set about clearing the colours. One day he turned up with a gun, carrying it as if it were merely a cue extension.
- One player won a match, went to their room because they were feeling ill and passed away.
- The officials entertained themselves by emptying furniture out of one another’s rooms and, in one case, shaving an eyebrow off a member of the WPBSA team.
- One player had overslept and was due to play at 10am. He was in a panic as his guest house was a 15 minute walk away and it was 9.40am and lashing down with rain.
The guest house owner didn't have a car available so he got a lift (and some shelter) in a steamroller which was in operation along the promenade. The player was asked to wear a high visibility jacket over his dress suit in case the foreman was watching. He arrived safely at The Norbreck Castle at 9.57am and was then promptly "steamrollered" 5-0 by Ronnie O'Sullivan in under an hour and was back in bed by midday to sleep off the Mariners related hangover from the night before.
- Jon "Giro" Wright once break the pack in the opening shot, make a 90 break and turn a 0-3 to a 4-3 win. Legendary referee Paddy Comerfoth was there.
- An Icelandic player once, after the referee's refusal to tell the difference, took a chance and cleared up with a brown after last
red. It was not enough, he lost the frame and stormed into the bar. He sunk a triple scotch and then continued the match.

Hope to read more!