News From the QualifyingPaul Hunter, last year's best rookie has continued to show why so many people believe him to be the new kid on the block. With strong qualifying results he has guaranteed himself a place in the top 64 this year, and who knows, he may even be able to finish in the top 32!
Matthew Stevens, the young Welshman with the very sweet cue action, has had mixed fortunes and needs a good second qualification session to reach the main tour. If he does not make it I for one will be sorry for I have not seen anyone cue the ball as well as him since the year John Higgins won his first tournament. Young Scottish hopeful Graham Dott has done ok this time, but can this tartan terror compete with his fellow scots Hendry and Higgins? For me I say no. He is very solid and a good competitor but world beater? No not for me.
As for the overseas players, this year they do not seem to have done too well. Finlands Robin Hull has showed a bit more of the form we know he is capable of and has won through to the final stages of some tournaments. For me Robin is one of the best new overseas prospects and should he make the main tour next year I feel he will shine. The Thai players are improving all the time and there were good results for Noppadom Noppachorn and Tai Pitchit. These two are capable of beating anyone on their day and often do! Thailands contribution to the world of snooker seems to grow stronger every year and with two ranking tournaments there is no doubt they will be a major force in a few years.
As for the rest of the overseas players there was very little success. This is a shame as the game could do with more stars from around the globe. One young man who has lots of ability but lacks direction and dedication is Australia's Quentin Hann. Having started last season so well he got bogged down in qualifying and seemed to lose his head. So much so that he failed to turn up for the world championships. Well this year he is back and has shown a bit of improvement in his mental attitude. Although in one of the early rounds he was down 4-0 at the interval, at which point he shook his opponents hand and told the referee he would not be coming back and he conceded. Now rightly or wrongly the ref told him if he did not show after the interval he would be in trouble. So after the break he came back and promptly wiped the floor with his opponent to win 5-4! This young man has a rare talent and I hope he does not waste it. He has managed to qualify for the final stages of the United Kingdom championship where he faces Anthony Hamilton. Now Anthony is a good player but if Mr Hann is in form then I think an upset will happen.
As for the older players Tony Knowles, now outside of the top 32, did not win a match. Doug Mountjoy who sadly is following Terry Griffiths in to retirement only managed to reach the final stages of the Regal Welsh tournament. I think he wants to say a fond farewell to his home fans. Doug is a great player and will be sorely missed, but from what I hear he has accepted a coaching job in Dubai.
As for the rest of the older players they all seem to be going in the same direction .... down. As each year passes it is becoming more and more a young mans game. As you may know I manage Mark King (who incidently qualified for three out of five main venues) Well we were standing in the players lounge when another player asked Mark how old he was. "22", he replied. After a short silence the other player said: "My god you are only 22? It seems as if you have been around forever!" I keep forgeting Mark is such an oldtimer!
As for my favourite subject the future of snooker I am increasingly concerned about the lack of effort to bring back the crowds to the tournaments, the WPBSA snookers ruling body have no interest in putting bums on seats. All they seem to want to do is make the money from the TV rights and ignore possible gate money. Snooker needs more than just armchair fans and I feel if more was done to promote the game in the clubs then more people would play and so more would go to watch. For instance if you look at bowls how many people would bother to go to a bowls tounament? I would bet that most who do probably play the game themselves or used to.
What should be happening right now in the UK is that the WPBSA should have a register of clubs who have been inspected and have approved playing facilities. These clubs could carry the sign of being a WPBSA approved club, this would tell people that this was a good place to learn and play snooker. Then the clubs should be able to have resident coaches or professional players again approved by the WPBSA to give tuition to those who want it. In return for their efforts these clubs would hold secondary tour tournaments for the WPBSA to promote business. I have no doubt then more people would start to play the game so more people would watch the game. Then the same could happen overseas each snooker association could approve their own clubs and so on. These steps must be introduced if snooker wishes to keep up the momentum of the 1980's.
Do you know that Blackpool has hosted the qualification play offs for four years, and during that time the WPBSA has not spent one penny in promoting the game there, not one penny toward advertising the fact that the stars of tomorrow who are almost at the top of the tree in a worldwide sport were playing in Blackpool. Why? I really do not know the answer, do you know that they do not even put a sign up in the hotel where the play offs are held to let the hundreds of guests know what is happening. At one of the twice yearly meetings I asked Nigel Oldfield who works for the WPBSA why this was, he said "it was because they could not control the crowds should they come"! Well that is not good enough, if crowds want to come then they should damn well get some staff in who can control them, and then some of these players would have the benefit of playing in front of a crowd and the worldwide sport of snooker would get the promotion it deserves.
Anyway enough of my ramblings, if you e-mailed me recently and got no reply I am sorry as I
wiped my system and lost my mail!!, so please
The Fountain is a column written by Richard Fountain from England. He is the manager
of Mark King, a new and promising player who was provisionally 37 in the
new rankings for 95-96. He will be writing to you
throughout the snooker year and will try to give you all the inside info on this great game.
Please feel free to write him
<firstname.lastname@example.org> with any questions you may have.