Pool, the one sport where you can be ranked Number 1, 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, it had to be 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 since then to be based in areas where there have been some excellent players. When I was based in the West Midlands, I had Mick Hill, Hitan Patel and Sean Eaton-Lees to practice with. Now I am based in Staffordshire, I have the likes of Gareth Potts, Lee Kendall, Adam Davies and Andy Blurton to help maintain my levels. I think its 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 players I wasn’t meant to – some even snapped their cue as a result! The trophies came thick and fast, but, as those who have followed my career will know, the IPA titles remained elusive for many years. I started to lose count of the number of finals I had lost, hoping each time I would be able to get over the line. I didn’t want to be consistent – I wanted the titles! My breakthrough finally came in 2011 where, after scraping a first round win (whilst suffering heat stroke after deciding it would be a good idea to walk from Blackpool’s North to South pier in 30 degree heat), I found some great form, beat some top players and secured my first major IPA title – the World Masters, and felt I had finally achieved my potential. Since then I have won another 10 IPA titles – although its not as many as I would have liked – this is partly due to the high standard of players that the IPA Tour consists of. You used to be able to go to the Tour, know you would have 1 0r 2 rounds to get your arm in. Now you draw very good players from the first round – you cant be complacent – if you don’t play well you will get beaten. The toughest players on the Tour at present I would say are Marc Farnsworth, Liam Dunster and Mark Boyle because they are very solid players and very rarely make any mistakes in open play. You certainly 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 doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
My consistency over a long period of time has got me to be world ranked number 1. I have been there for a while now and its 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 the big tournaments and having a table at home helps immensely. My son Harry is 2 and going to pool clubs every night would not be something I would want to do. Being able to integrate 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 whilst I am away and is always the one pushing me back to the practice table. She 100% wants me to succeed and focuses a lot of effort in ensuring I am able to do my best in anything 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 even if I am 6-0 (race to 7) up in a match and I miss an easy black. Sam would ask me why I am annoyed when so far ahead, but I have seen many times matches can turn. Couple of dry breaks, a kick in off and before you know it, it is 6-6. Then there’s my game face. The face that doesn’t give anything away, whether I am playing well, fluking balls or couldn’t pot a plant. There are some great characters on the IPA that make great tv, leaving viewers on the edge of their seats to see if they will smash a straight black, miss it by miles, or swing their cue around etc but thats not my style. I simply try to play the right shot 100% of the time and play them well, whilst keeping the game face in tact of course.
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, but they have also created opportunities for the players as well. I was recently interviewed by the local BBC Regional news at home and even been approached by people in the street for selfies, which is a massive change as to how pool was years ago. As well as this I have been able to participate in (and sometimes win :-)) a number of big events including World Series events, in Morocco, Cyprus and the Netherlands.
The presence of live tv coverage on the IPA calendar gives me a reason to put in that extra bit of practice and I feel I thrive on that type of 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 would win more matches if they were all on tv…………