Pool, the one sport where you can be ranked No 1 and be at the top of your game and not be a millionaire. I could have been good at tennis, football or even snooker but no I'm good at pool. I've been playing pool for over 30 years, starting off in the local pub, standing on a beer crate. I have been fortunate to be based in areas over my pool career where there has been some excellent players. When based in West Midlands I had Mick Hill, Rob Chilton, Hiten Patel, Sean Eaton Lees to practice with to help improve my game. Now I am based in Staffordshire I have Gareth Potts, Adam Davies, Lee Kendall, Jimmy Croxton and Andy Blurton to help me maintain my level of play. I think it’s very important who you practice with in order to stay competitive and maintain a high standard.
At a young age I started to play in tournaments, beating people I shouldn't have and leading to them snapping their cue. The trophies came thick and fast then but people who have followed my career will know that an IPA title eluded me for many years. I started to lose count of the amount of finals I'd lost in, hoping each time I’d be able to get across the line. I didn't want to continue to be consistent, I wanted to win a title. My breakthrough came in 2011 where after scrapping a first round win (whilst suffering with heat stroke after deciding it would be a great idea to walk from Blackpool's north to south pier and back in 30 degree heat) I beat several top players to secure my first major IPA title, the IPA World Masters and felt like I'd finally achieved my potential. Since then I've gained more titles (10 IPA titles) but still not as many as I'd like. I believe this is in part due to the extremely high standard of players that the IPA tour consists of. You used to be able to go to a tour, know you'd have 1 or 2 rounds to play your arm in. Now you draw very good players from the very first round. You cant be complacent, if you're not playing well you will be beaten. There are many tough opponents on the tour but a few that spring to mind are Marc Farnsworth, Liam Dunster and Mark Boyle because they are all very solid players and very rarely make any mistakes in open play. You have to be at the top of your game to beat them. Liam in particular has achieved a lot in a short space of time and sometimes doesnt get the admiration he deserves.
I believe my consistency is what has got me to being ranked No1. I've been there or there about for quite a while now and to me it's a great achievement with the amount of quality players there are. Consistency doesn’t come easy though. I try to practice every day in the run up to large tournaments and having a table at home helps immensely with this. My son, Harry, is 2 and having to go out to a pool club every night just wouldn't be something I'd want to do. Being able to integrate my family life with pool is hugely important and allows me to enjoy playing which I take into tournaments. My wife Sam is also a huge support to me, she covers at home when I am away and is always the one pushing me back on to the practice table. She 100% likes to see me succeed and focuses a lot of effort in ensuring I am able to do my best in everything I do.
All this being said I don’t always enjoy matches. Frustration, annoyance and irritation are just some of the things I can feel in a match. I get annoyed with myself if I am 6-0 up (race to 7) and I miss a straight black. My wife would say, why are you annoyed when you are 6 in front, but I've seen so many times where matches can turn! Some dry breaks, a kick and its 6-6. Then there's my game face. The face that doesn't give away whether I am playing well, fluking balls or couldn't pot a plant. There's some big characters on the IPA tour that make great tv, leaving viewers on the edge of their seats as to whether they'll smash a straight black, missing it by miles or swing their cue round, narrowly missing their opponent but that's not my style. I try to play the right shots 100% of the time and play them well, keeping my game face as I go along.
The IPA itself has gone through a massive change over recent years and I am pleased to be a part of that. Not only has the IPA opened doors to the BBC and Freesports for the tour as a whole but they have also created opportunities for us as individual players as well, with me most recently being interviewed by BBC regional news and being approached by members of the public for selfies, which is a massive change to how pool players were seen only a couple of years ago. As well as this, over the past 6 years I've been able to participate in (and sometimes win :)) a number of large events including world series events in Cyprus, Morocco and Holland as well as the premier league live on freesports. The presence of live tv coverage in IPA calendar gives me a reason to put in that bit of extra practice and I feel that I perform at my best in that environment. Having my son watch me live on tv, shouting to anyone that will listen "that's my daddy" and beaming with happiness is what makes it all worthwhile. Maybe I'd win more titles if every match was on tv.......